Total beer sales dropped by 8.3% in the final quarter of 2008, the highest fourth quarter fall since records began in 1997, new figures show.

The UK Quarterly Beer Barometer, a guide to beer trends in published by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), showed that pub beer sales were down 9.9%, equating to 1.4m fewer pints every day.

In total, 130m fewer pints were sold in the on-trade during October to December 2008, compared with the same period in 2007, the BBPA said today (27 January).

Beer sales are at their lowest since the Great Depression of the 1930s, while 39 pubs are closing down every week as the industry suffers from tax rises and recession.

Fourth quarter beer sales were also down 6.5% in supermarkets and off-licences.

"These figures highlight the extreme economic pressures hitting Britain's beer and pub sector," said BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward.

He added: "Unfortunately, government tax policy is only making a difficult situation worse. Due to the government's tax escalator and VAT policy, we are facing two further tax increases this year alone. By the 2012 budget, the tax on your pint of beer will have increased by up to 40% from February 2008."

The BBPA argues that the government is losing revenue as a result of falling sales. It said that estimated tax income from duty and VAT is down GBP181m since the March 2008 Budget, compared with the same period in 2007.

The BBPA has joined forces with other alcohol industry associations to lobby against further tax rises for the sector this year.