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

3. Not suitable for millennials

Cask drinkers, to be blunt, aren’t cool, according to not only the report, but also some independent research pub group Brewhouse & Kitchen carried out at its own sites in the run-up to the conference. There are now 2,500 breweries in Britain, between them producing over 10,000 different cask beers a year.

But two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed by haven’t tried a single cask beer.

“Cask ale is perceived to be a drink enjoyed mainly by old men,” the report said, meaning it “lacks aspirational intrigue and appears a little stuck in the past.”

“It doesn’t make people look good if they order it. That needs to change.”

There are a few reasons for this. First, drinkers tastes have changed over the years (while bitter ales are in decline, golden cask beers are still performing well in terms of both sales and volume).

On top of this, the traditional world of cask ale can still feel exclusionary for half of the pub-going community. Gumbrell said that women should “play a much bigger role in cask” if the category is going to grow, but many breweries are still releasing beers with labels and pump clips which play on sexist humour. “This needs to stop,” Gumbrell said.

The solution

However Pete Brown, author and Chairman of the Guild of British Beer Writers, believes it shouldn’t be difficult to convert keg drinkers, especially those who are already fans of craft beer.

In a blog post from his own website written in April, Brown said craft keg drinkers are “a soft target for cask to convert.”

“They’re half way there already.”

He also cites a word association study funded by Wiltshire-based Box Steam Brewing, which identified a number of similarities between the descriptions drinkers attribute to both cask and keg-conditioned craft beer (“handmade, “diverse”, and “local” to name a few).

Speaking at the report launch on Thursday, Gumbell also urged brewers to “collaborate with young upstarts”; breweries such as Yeastie Boys based in Wellington, New Zealand, for example, on new brews with hop-focused flavour profiles more appealing to millennials to show that the category can suit young drinkers as well as older locals.

But it looks like change is already in the air. After axing cask from its production at the start of 2017 Cloudwater, a Manchester-based brewery with a cult following in the UK, announced on 2 October that it would start brewing a small batch of cask-conditioned beers over Autumn and Winter.

“Cask beer is an important part of our cultural and brewing heritage, and we are excited to once again make a direct contribution.”

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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