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Have spent most of the day in a radio studio doing syndicated interviews about the Cask Report, which we’re launching today. This means the Report, which I was hoping to put up here as an exclusive here earlier today, has already been picked up by several bloggers which, along with some favourable national media coverage, is great stuff.

Regular readers of this report will know I’m hardly a cask ale purist. I regularly criticize people who are. But cask ale is the most misunderstood of beers. And it was cask ale brewers who got together and decided we needed an industry report on their part of the beer market. I’m proud to write the report each year, and to be a spokesperson for cask ale when the report comes out.

This year’s report contains great news for cask ale brewers and pubs that sell it. In fact, it’s the best news we’ve had in the four years I’ve been doing the report:
  • 5% value growth versus 2% value decline for beer overall.

  • Volume steady versus 4% volume decline for beer overall – the first time since 1994 that cask volume hasn’t fallen.

  • 120,000 new drinkers taking total cask drinkers to 8.6 million

  • 4% increase in distribution, with 3000 new pubs stocking cask

  • Average age of the cask drinker is getting younger – 17% increase in 18-24 year-old drinkers.

This in an amazing performance given the general state of pubs and the collapse of volume in the beer market as a whole.

But despite the fact that many people simplify this good news into “cask is growing”, actually it's not. Cask's fantastic performance is great news for drinkers, but good as it is, it's still only static in volume terms. That's because most cask ale drinkers only drink it infrequently, and average throughput of cask ale (in line with beer generally) is down 5 per cent.

I have a tiny worry that in spreading the good news about cask, we might make drinkers, brewers and pubs complacent, that all you need to do is stick a few handpulls on the bar and everything will be sorted.

It doesn't work like that.

In the beer world, we spend time with other like-minded people. The brewers and publicans I speak to are all doing really well, but that's because they work hard developing beers, keeping them in great condition, and telling people how good they are. It doesn't happen automatically. 46% of the UK population have still never tried cask ale. Only 18% of drinkers claim to drink it on a regular basis. People still don't know that much about it.

It's important that anyone who loves cask ale who reads the report (downloadable here in full) reads the warnings as well as the fantastic news on cask's resurgence.

Look, I just do as I'm told.