3 reasons cask beer is declining in UK pubs, and 3 ways it can change

  1. Pub visits are falling

London pub


Cask’s decline may be out of step with the industry overall, but the impact of the declining pub sector shouldn’t be discounted, according to the report.

Revenue from beer in the on-trade has fallen significantly over the past decade, with an average rate of decline at 3.7% annually, according to the BBPA. Since 2018, the number of pubs in the UK has fallen by 20%, down from 600,000 to 48,350 as of last year.

This has had a knock-on effect on beer sales. While overall beer sales rose by 0.7% in 2017, sales in pubs and bars fell by 2.4%, their highest margin since 2013; the equivalent of Brits drinking 88 million fewer pints than in 2016.

And it’s a particularly sore point for makers of cask beer. The report from Caske Marque points out that demographics that would be more inclined to opt for a flatter pint are visiting the pub less often than others. The body’s OnePulse survey found that, while nearly two thirds of pub-goers between 35 and 44 are likely to order cask beer, only a quarter of them go to the pub as often as once a fortnight.

When people do visit the pub, the report said, its usually either for a meal with family or friends (57%), for a birthday party (29%).

The solution

Both CAMRA and the BBPA continue to lobby the government to alleviate tax pressures on pubs, but consumers still need to be brought back, preferably for a cask ale.

The report suggested adding cask beer to serving suggestions with meals, and promoting festivals dedicated to the traditional serve, a sentiment echoed by Kris Gumbell.

“Look at what’s happened in craft” he said. Craft kegged beer, by contrast, has witnessed a worldwide boom supported by start-up style brewery businesses which actively engage with their customers on social media and collaborate with UK pubs and other brewers, raising their awareness of their brands in the process.

“The industry has been doing a pretty poor job of brewing, marketing, wholesaling, management, and retailing cask beer,” he said.

This, he added, is in spite of support from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)

“We give it such reverence, but we treat it badly, sell it begrugingly, and customers expect it to be the cheapest beer on the bar.”

He added that crucial to this is hiring educated and informed staff, who customers trust to help them make a good decision at the bar. Adding food pairing suggestions, and offering customers masterclasses devotes solely to craft beer — things which Gumbrell practices on his sites — are small changes that could make a big difference in the long-run.

One Response to “3 reasons cask beer is declining in UK pubs, and 3 ways it can change”

  1. David P Woodhead says:

    The 4th reason for the decline, particularly in PubCo owned pubs; Could it be the extremely high cost to the tenant, of a firkin of ale, which in many cases can be twice the price of the same beer, direct from the brewery? SIBA take a percentage the PubCo add their “commission’ then V.A.T.

    If that is NOT the 4th reason, please explain to me why it isn’t

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