Beer sales have continued to plummet in the UK, falling in both pubs and retailers during the third quarter of 2008, a new report shows.

Sales of beer sank 7.2% in the third quarter, continuing the slide from a 4% drop in the same quarter of 2007, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has said. Sales were down 4.4% in the year to September.

It blamed the slump, which has affected both on- and off-trade in the last three months, on a fall in consumer confidence, caused by the economic downturn.

Pubs have taken the biggest hit, with sales down 8% in the third quarter, BBPA figures showed. Retailers saw sales down 6%, the first decline in the off-trade since the second quarter of 2007.

Beer sales hit their lowest levels since the 1930s, the BBPA announced in September this year, adding that five pubs were closing down every day on average.

BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward called on the government to show more support for the sector: "This sales trend is symptomatic of the problems infecting the broader economy.

"But any prudent diagnosis would also identify the specific impact of the Budget's 9% beer tax increase and the constant stream of costly regulatory burdens flowing from the Government's alcohol strategy. These policies are making a bad situation worse."

Some premium and imported beer brands have continued to perform well in the UK this year, such as SABMiller's Peroni Nastro Azzurro.

Marston's, the UK ale brewer and pub operator, this month echoed the BBPA's bleak picture of the on-trade, but added that premium ale volumes rose 17% in the 12 months ended 4 October.