During 2009, the total beer market, including keg beers, declined by 4.1% but real ale volume held steady with its market value increasing by 5% against a 2% drop for all beer. The number of cask drinkers – now 8.6 million – continues to increase and younger drinkers in particular are turning to real ale with 18-24 year old cask drinkers up 17%.

Mr Brown feels that this growth reflects a trend to rejecting conspicuous consumption in favour of tradition, provenance, wholesomeness and quality – all of which real ale can provide. Cask beer also chimes with increased environmental awareness; the carbon footprint of real ale is one third that of a continental lager.

The report finds that cask drinkers are more affluent, 68 per cent being in social grade ABC1. They are “more thoughtful, inquisitive and curious about the world”, also reflected in their attitude to food where they pay attention to where the food comes from, buy quality ingredients and enjoy going to restaurants. Mr Brown sees the benefits of real ale for pubs as being the fact that you can only get it in pubs and more people are demanding it it drives footfall and turnover because the stats show that real ale drinkers visit pubs more often real ale drinkers also influence the choice of non-cask drinkers on which pubs to visit and spend more when they get there. During 2009 3000 more pubs began stocking real ale.

These findings certainly mirror what’s happening in our own area where only four of our 243 pubs don’t serve real ale and additional handpumps are appearing all over the place. In what continues to be a difficult time for the licensed trade, it’s those pubs which make a big feature of real ale that seem to be doing best.

The report warns however against complacency as barriers to cask beer growth remain. 46% of Britons have never tried it – not because of deep-held antipathy but mainly because they haven’t been given a good enough reason to try it. Although more people are drinking cask, overall we’re visiting pubs less and the horrible rate of closures continues – if pubs suffer so does real ale. Many factors lie in favour of cask beer but work is still needed to ensure it delivers its full potential.