Cask ale volumes grew in 2011 for the first time in 20 years, and the category has now overtaken keg as the most popular form of draught ale, according to the Cask Report 2012-13, published today. Cask volumes grew 1.6% last year, equating to around 2.2m barrels or c633m pints of cask. It compares to a 3.5% decline in the overall beer market, the report says. In the past year, cask ale’s share of the total beer market grew from 7% to 8%, and in the on-trade from 14% to 15%. Meanwhile, penetration of cask ale in the UK on-trade increased from 53.6% to 55.9% in the year. The report also points to the rise of cask ale among less traditional venues. While community pubs and traditional wet-led pubs are responsible for 55% of cask ale’s volume, in the past year penetration into café bars has increased 12%. More town centre circuit bars are also stocking cask - 19% now do so. Report author Pete Brown said: “The Cask Report has been analysing the sector for six years now and while cask has been outperforming the beer market for most of them, this is the first full year of actual growth. “Sales growth during a recession is an impressive achievement, doubly so against a background of declining overall beer volumes and a shrinking number of pubs. “This excellent performance speaks volumes for the increasing popularity of cask among consumers, as well as a growing realisation among licensees that cask, as an ‘only in pubs’ drink, can help them drive footfall and sales. Pubs that sell cask are less likely to close than non-cask stockists – as witness cask’s increasing share of the declining pub market.” However, while there are between 7m and 8m cask ale drinkers, for most people it’s an occasional indulgence. For those that have tried cask ale, just 13% say it’s the main beer they drink or drink it often – 71% drink it occasionally or rarely, and 16% never drink it. Other findings of the report include: - 53% of British adults have now tried cask ale. - 58% first tried it aged between 18 and 24, showing its increasing appeal to young adults - 55% drink about the same amount of cask as one year ago; 28% drink more, and 18% less. - The average managed pub stocks 1-2 permanent ales and has 3-4 rotating guest ales. The more permanent fixtures sell better. - Pubs with no major brands on the bar saw sales fall. - 56% of total beer by volume is drunk by people who need to see familiar brands, while 44% is drunk by “explorers”.