Pubs, bars and restaurants are selling 753,000 fewer pints a day
Beer sales fell 8.2% in the first three months of this year compared with the first quarter of 2008, figures show.
The British Beer & Pub Association said the reduction represented the highest first quarter sales fall since 1997.
The BBPA said that on average 1.7 million fewer pints were drunk every day from January to March than during the similar period last year.
The BBPA said falling sales "must raise questions over the government's continued policy of raising beer tax".
Supermarket and off-licence sales fell the most at 11%, while pubs, bars and restaurants recorded a 6.3% drop.
Compared with 10 years ago, 326 million fewer pints were sold across the country in the first quarter of this year, the BBPA said.
Closing pubs means tens of thousands of job losses and the heart taken out of many communities
British Beer & Pub Association
In total, beer sales for the year up to March 2009 fell 7% compared with the year to March 2008.
Supermarkets and off-licences saw sales falling 4.5% over the whole year, while sales in pubs, bars and restaurants were down 8.9%.
David Long, BBPA chief executive, said: "These figures provide more telling evidence of the intense pressure in one of Britain's most important sectors.
"Falling beer sales means more publicans struggling to keep their pub doors open. Closing pubs means tens of thousands of job losses and the heart taken out of many communities.
"With the Budget last week, government tax policy continues to make this situation worse."
The government announced a 2% rise in alcohol taxes in the Budget, putting the price of the average pint up by 1p.
The move angered the BBPA, which is running an "Axe the Beer Tax - Save the Pub" campaign along with the Campaign for Real Ale.
According to the BBPA, tax revenues from beer in January and February were £17m lower than in the same period in 2008, despite an 18% increase in tax.