Strong demand for bottled ale has helped Marston's, the UK brewer and pub group, to outperform a shrinking beer market.

Bottled ale sales rose by 16% in volume for the 16 weeks to 23 January, said Marston's in a trading udpate today (29 January).

The rise helped Marston's to report beer volumes flat against the same period a year earlier, despite a 6% decline in the UK ale market as a whole. The group also reported a 1% rise in premium cask ale volumes.

Marston's figures make it the second pub group inside a week to report beer volume sales ahead of the market.

UK beer volumes slipped by 3.6% in the final quarter of 2009 and were down 4% for the year, the British Beer & Pub Association said yesterday.

Marston's said that it is "encouraged" by its trading in the year so far, but warned that consumer confidence and the UK economy remain fragile.

Like-for-like sales across the group's 497 managed pubs rose by 1.5%, although sales at its 1,680 tenanted pubs fell by 5% for the 16-week period.