Monday 4 August 2008

CAMRA crowns real ale as ‘Drink of Britain'

Beer Consumer Group calls for pride in our national drink

The Great British Beer Festival, Tuesday 5th-Saturday 9th August, London's Earls Court

On the eve of this week's Great British Beer Festival, beer consumer group the Campaign for Real Ale is responding to recent reports that beer sales in pubs are declining by crowning real ale, our traditional pub drink, as the ‘Drink of Britain'. CAMRA is calling on adults to try real ale this week and show their support for British brewers, British pubs and a unique British product.

Research results issued today show that only 35% of British adults who drink alcohol have tried real ale, whereas 61% of the Irish, including those that do not usually drink alcohol, have tried their national drink, stout, while 84% of all French adults have tried wine.

Mike Benner, CAMRA's Chief Executive, said, “ Research shows only one in three British drinkers have tried real ale, which is a real growth opportunity for British pubs facing unprecedented pressures from the credit crunch, falling consumer confidence, high tax rates and increasing utility and raw material costs. Now is the time for campaigners and the beer industry to work together to get British people to try and to appreciate real ale. Our culture and heritage is intrinsically linked with ale, as a great British product brewed and enjoyed sociably in community pubs for generations, yet most people haven't even tried it.”

CAMRA says there is now more ale choice than ever before with around 700 independent breweries brewing approximately 2,500 different real ales, 450 of which are featured at the Great British Beer Festival, the biggest of its kind in the World. In the last twelve months over seventy new breweries have started up, despite the credit crunch, as consumers move towards products with taste and genuine provenance.

Mr Benner added, “Times are tough for lager brewers and many pubs as lager and keg beer sales are in freefall. Latest industry results suggest a 10.6% decline in pub beer sales, but real ale is growing its share of the on-trade beer market as consumers abandon global brands and search out natural, often locally brewed ales with real provenance. I think people increasingly care about what's in their glass, where it comes from and what it brings to the community and local economy. It's a wake-up call for pub bosses to recognise this trend and realise that real ale is the USP of the British pub.”

According to AC Nielsen real ale sales declined by 1.3% last year against a decline in the total beer market of 4.5%. There is a clear trend towards growth; SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, has reported record year on year growth amongst its 420 members of nearly 11%.

Mr Benner said, “Clearly real ale brewers are generally bucking the trend of decline and many are reporting record sales increases with the market still attracting new entrants, despite the economic downturn and credit crunch. While real ale has been in decline since the mid-nineties, its time has come once again and a return to growth is on the cards. 5.4 million people drink real ale and if each of them drunk just one pint a day that would treble the market to over 6 million barrels.”

Julian Grocock, Chief Executive of SIBA said, “There is little doubt that our members are doing well by concentrating on quality local beers which offer cash-strapped drinkers something new and exciting to try as people turn away from standard quaffing lagers to quality real ales.”

Promoting Real Ale

CAMRA has joined forces with the real ale industry on a number of initiatives to help overcome myths associated with real ale and to encourage consumer trial of real ale.

CAMRA, SIBA, Cask Marque, the Independent Family Brewers of Britain, Britain's key real ale brewers and the major pub companies will hold Cask Ale Week over Easter in 2009. It will be the biggest ever event to promote real ale in pubs across Britain. A key feature of the event will be to encourage pub-goers to ‘try before you buy' with sampling glasses for real ales.

At this week's Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court 65,000 visitors will be able to try real ales using third pint glasses and many will join in beer tastings and even special beer tours for women.

The Cyclops Beer scheme, launched in 2006, aims to demystify real ale, to encourage trial and help people to recognise the beer styles they prefer. Cyclops beer tasting notes appear in the Festival programme.

CAMRA is launching a ‘LocAle' scheme across the country to celebrate local beers in local pubs, telling consumers where they can find them.

Mr Benner said, “There is much doom and gloom about the beer and pub sector at present and no one should under-estimate the significance of the threats faced by brewers and pubs, but we have a series of practical campaigns and promotions to make people realise how great British pubs - and British beer - can be.”

The main findings of the research:
1.Whilst only 35% of British drinkers had tried real ale, 78% had tried wine and 69% had tried lager.
2.29% of the Britain's adult drinkers thought that real ale should represent Britain in the same way wine represents France and stout represents Ireland. Lager was the only drink that scored higher with 31%, whilst only 16% opted for smoothflow bitters e.g John Smiths Smooth, 6% whisky, 4% cider, 2% wine and 1% gin.
3.Only 6% knew that there were over 1,000 real ales on the market. 31% thought there were under 200 and 8% thought there were less than 50.
Mike Benner commented, “There is so much choice and a huge range of diverse flavours that I'm convinced that many thousands of people will be converted to real ale. Given the huge marketing spend of the global lager brewers, it's hardly surprising that 31% of drinkers think lager should be our national drink! Our job now is to convince people that real ale meets their needs and is something we should all be proud of as a flagship British product.”

There are thousands of different real ales categorised into a number of beer styles such as golden ales, bitters, milds, porters, stouts, old ales, wheat beers, fruit beers and barley wines.

CAMRA's research also showed some interesting myths about real ale, but did highlight that people would be willing to try real ale if certain initiatives were introduced:
1. The four top reasons given for never trying real ale were (in order)
a. I wouldn't know which real ale to start with
b. I don't know what real ale is
c. I think real ale would be bitter
d. I think it would taste flat
3. 42% of non-real ale drinkers said they would try real ale if they could sample it first
33% of non-real ale drinkers said they would try real ale if a National Real Ale Week promotion/campaign, such as Cask Ale Week, was launched to promote real ale and explain why it's worth trying.
Mike Benner added, “CAMRA's plans for encouraging more people to try real ale all aim to dispel myths highlighted by this new research. Not all styles of real ale are bitter. Some are very sweet, others chocolaty and even fruity. Real ale should never be served flat due to its very natural process of creating its own carbonation. These points alone show that there is a need for more real ale education and there is no better place to try it than at the Great British Beer Festival.”


Notes for editors

Beer Tastings at the Great British Beer Festival
CAMRA will host a number of beer tasting sessions at the Great British Beer Festival. These beer tastings help educate consumers to find out more about real ale and try a variety of different beer styles. The tastings include Champion Beers, Bluffers Guide to Real Ale and a Meet the Brewer where British Brewers describe and taste their beers with the consumers. For more information please visit

Women Beer Tours at the Great British Beer Festival
For the first time ever, top beer writer Melissa Cole will take more than 100 female non-real ale drinkers on an informative beer tour of the Great British Beer Festival. If you would be interested in taking part on one of these tours then please email

Third Pint Glasses at the Great British Beer Festival
Third Pint Glasses will be available at GBBF allowing festival goers to sample more varieties of real ale responsibly.

Partner of the Cyclops Scheme -
CAMRA helped launch the Cyclops Beer Scheme with 14 other breweries in 2006. There are now over 65 breweries that are signed up to this scheme. It helps demystify real ale by using simple terms to describe what a real ale looks, smells and taste like. It also gives each beer a scale out of five for how bitter and sweet the drink is.

The LocAle scheme
CAMRA branches across the UK will promote pubs which serve real ales from local independent breweries with leaflets, posters, point of sale material and websites to inform consumers in which pubs they can find local beers. More information at

Organising more than 150 real ale festivals in the next 12 months
CAMRA will organise more than 150 real ale festivals over the next 12 months around Britain. These events allow consumers to try thousands of different real ales and at a competitive price to that area.

For further information please contact:

CAMRA Press Office (From Monday 4th August- Saturday 9th) - 020 7244 3925
Jon Howard- 07939 425471
Tony Jerome- 07736 948186
Mike Benner- 07971 591224
Julian Grocock- 07887 544748
Iain Loe- 07801 706607

‘Mike Benner and Julian Grocock are available for interview at the Great British Beer Festival, Earls Court

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