Sales of ale in the UK are surging, well ahead of the country's beer market as a whole, with both Marston's and Greene King reporting strong results in the last week.

Figures from the BBPA show the beer market is down 5% by volume in the last 12 months.

Yet sales growth in Marston's premium cask ale and premium bottled ale market segments has been "particularly encouraging" with the UK brewer and pub owner reporting a solid year for its beer division, against a declining UK market.

Net sales at Marston's brewing business rose by 13% to GBP101.5m (US$168m), with underlying operating profits up 4% to GBP16m.

Own-brewed beer volumes increased by 8%. Premium ale, which is now 54% of the ale portfolio, increased by 26%, including 13% growth in the on-trade and 50% growth in the off-trade, the firm said.

"Beer consumption in pubs has been in overall decline for many years, but there has been consistent growth in the volume of beer sold in the off-trade," the brewer said in its full-year results statement. "In brewing, 'real ale' has been increasing in popularity as consumers have become more interested in beers with taste and provenance.

"We have been successful in anticipating changes in consumer trends. Our growth in the premium cask ale and premium bottled ale market segments was particularly encouraging."

Marston's products account for approximately 9% of the UK ale market with its share of the premium cask ale market in pubs around 23%. Its share of the premium bottled ale market is approximately 17%.
The strong demand for ale has also boosted results for Greene King, which has continued winning share with own-brewed volumes up 9.8% in its fiscal half-year.

Greene King's beer business, which includes Old Speckled Hen, IPA and Abbot Ale, saw net sales rise by 9.4% for the 24 weeks, to GBP45.3m.

The group said it is selling 6,000 pints per match at Twickenham, the home of the England Rugby Union team.  

The results have led to its market share of the UK ale market doubling to 8.4% in seven years.