Beer sales are down 40% since pubs reopened and it is threatening to push already-struggling pubs out of business.
Landlords are concerned that drinkers may have gotten used to drinking canned beer at home since the outbreak of coronavirus.
Even though restrictions have been lifted, many people still don’t like the idea of going to their local pub for a pint.
As a result fewer pubs are willing to serve real ale because – as a live product – it has a shorter shelf life and if not drunk quickly it has to be poured down the drain.
Brewers believe that real ale sales are declining is putting pressure on pubs.
The British Beer & Pub Association – aka BBPA – revealed 76 million fewer pints of cask have been sold in the nation’s pubs since the pandemic.
From April to July this year 113 million pints of real ale were supped.
That compares with 189 million during the same period in 2019 before Covid hit, equating to a loss in revenue to pubs and brewers of £243 million in the last four months alone.
Before the pandemic cask sales had already been declining – from 2014 to 2019 they dropped by 17%.
A BBPA spokesman said: “Cask ale is without doubt key to British brewing. It is a form of brewing unique to the UK and has a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages.
“It is an unfiltered, unpasteurised ‘live’ product containing yeast that is served from a cask container where it’s gently matured by secondary fermentation.
“When conditioned and managed correctly, the yeast in the cask settles to the bottom, leaving a clear, often bright, full-flavoured and naturally carbonated beer to be served from a handpump.
“Cask ale is only available for purchase at a pub as it’s a live product. Cask ale is vital to the viability and well-being of the pubs that support the communities they serve.
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“Given the inextricable link between cask ale and pubs the plight of cask ale is a real concern for the nations locals and beer drinkers.
“Pubs have been pushing for a decrease in cask beer stock due to uncertainty over trading and restrictions.”
The association has declared the next seven days Cask Ale Week in a bid to boost sales.
Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Cask beer’s current state is a major concern.
“Pubs are the home of cask beer so if sales of it are declining then it means the viability of our pubs are reducing too.
“During lockdowns, we all missed out on a good pint of cask ale at the pub. We can’t take cask beer as a given anymore.
“With the sector reopen once more it is vital we promote our pubs and the range they have on cask which they so expertly keep and serve.
“Doing so will help our brewers and pubs in their recovery and ensure this uniquely British style of beer can recover to the glory it deserves.”
Kevin Georgel, chief executive of St Austell Brewery which brews cask ales Tribute and Proper Job, said: “Not only did the pandemic force our great British pubs to shut, but it stopped us from being able to serve and enjoy cask beer.
“The impact of this has seen an accelerated decline of this quintessential British beer.
“Because cask beer is a live product with a shorter shelf life, pubs are less likely to serve it due to the uncertainty of Covid lockdowns and restrictions.
“Likewise it has meant the spontaneity of going to the pub for a pint – the core cask ale drinker occasion – has diminished.
“There has never been a better time for pub goers to support their local, by choosing to drink fresh cask beer, that’s been expertly brewed, stored and poured.”