The number of breweries is at a 70-year high, showing the popularity of cask ale, which campaigners hope will reverse the decline in pubs / PA

Cask ale is undergoing a renaissance

Almost 19,000 different cask ales are now brewed in Britain as a surge in demand for the beers has led to three new breweries opening every week, according to a new report.

Once the preserve of bearded middle-aged men with beer bellies, the popularity of real ale among women and younger drinkers has seen sales increase by 23 per cent since 2010 in a market now worth £1.72bn. Around 634m pints of cask ale are sold annually.

Despite pubs still closing at a rate of around 30 a week, there are now 1,472 breweries in the UK – a 70-year high – most of which produce cask ale according to the website Cask Matters, launched to mark the annual Cask Report giving information to licensees on how to look after and sell cask ale successfully. It claimed Britain is in the midst of a “beer revolution”.

The report also said the availability of cask ale “significantly” increased the number of customers visiting a pub and argued that pubs were undervaluing cask and could be selling it for more.

“Cask ale is recruiting new drinkers,” it said. “In most parts of the country and most styles of outlet, old stereotypes are fading. Women and younger drinkers continue to convert to cask – though some licensees are failing to recognise the evolving profile of drinkers, and the opportunities this presents.”

As Cask Ale Week begins tomorrow, pubs across the UK are giving away free pints and holding beer festivals and brewery tours to capitalise on the drink’s popularity.

The report’s author Pete Brown said: “There’s a beer revolution going on in Britain – and cask ale is right at its heart. Sales of cask beer, the number of people who drink it, breweries who make it, and festivals that celebrate it, are all increasing as good quality, flavoursome beer continues to gather mainstream interest and popularity.

“People may be going to the pub less often, but when they do go, in increasing numbers they’re looking for something special, something different from discounted supermarket lager brands. And that’s why more of them are drinking cask ale. There are more brands, in a wider variety of style and flavours, than there has ever been before.”

The Good Beer Guide 2015, published earlier this month by the Campaign for Real Ale said the UK now boasts more breweries per head of the population than any other country in the world – at one brewery for around every 50,000 people it is the largest number of breweries open since the 1940s.

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