The bitter truth about UK beer

Ales and bitters are growing in popularity across the UK, with demand attributed to the ongoing craft beer boom.
A new report from market intelligence firm Mintel has stated that British consumers drank 913 million litres of ale and bitter in 2015, up from 895 million litres in 2014.

• Ale and bitter are on the rise, driven by the popularity of craft beer, according to Mintel.
• Ale and bitter are on the rise, driven by the popularity of craft beer, according to Mintel.

The company claims more than one quarter (27%) of Brits drink ale or bitter, while one in five (20%) drink any type of craft beer.
Overall, beer volumes in 2015 were said to have dipped, from 4.27 billion litres in 2014 to 4.25 billion litres by the end of last year.
But the value of the category increased, from £16.61 billion in 2014 to £16.68 billion.
Last year was said to have been less positive for lager sales, however.
According to Mintel, lager volumes dipped in 2015, from 3.18 billion litres to 3.15 billion litres.
Overall, sales of lager are said to have dropped 8% in the past five years, from 3.44 billion litres in 2010.
“Lager sales have plateaued in recent years, however it could enhance its chances of growth by tapping into the craft beer movement more effectively,” said Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel.
“With the majority of craft beers available in both the on and off-trade falling into the ale and bitter segment, these beers have garnered considerable coverage in recent years.
“Many craft brewers have prioritised ales, brewing variants such as pale ale, for example IPA and golden ale, in turn driving the popularity of premium bottled ales.”
The type of beer wasn’t the only factor in purchasing decisions.
Mintel’s research also showed cost had an impact on customers’ choice of beer, with as many as one fifth (20%) of UK beer drinkers unwilling to pay more than £2.99 for a pint.
Wisson said: “The steady rise in price over the past decade has given rise to notable consumer resistance in having to spend more on beer, particularly when it comes to breaking the £4, and even £5 barriers.”
And glassware was also said to be important to many beer drinkers.
The top three glasses for on-trade consumers were revealed as the nonic (27%), the tulip (16%) and the tankard (14%) style of beer glasses.
Traditionally favoured by older male drinkers, the tankard was the preferred choice of younger men in 2015, with 26% of 18 to 24 year olds stating it was their favourite glassware.
The half pint glass, meanwhile, was preferred by women, with one fifth (19%) saying they enjoyed drinking beer from a half pint glass compared to just 6% of men.
“There are signs that the tankard is seeing a return in popularity as the favourite of younger male drinkers, most of whom were not drinking during the tankard’s previous period in the spotlight, buoyed by the craft ale movement,” said Wisson.