Scots in real ale renaissance as sales rise by third
REAL ALE is throwing off its flat-cap image and drawing in a whole new generation of younger enthusiasts who want an alternative to mass-produced drinks, a report has revealed.
The number of 17 to 24-year-olds drinking real ale increased by 17 per cent this year, according to The Cask Report, published yesterday. While beer sales are declining and pubs closing, real ale is bucking the trend, particularly in Scotland where sales of cask ale were up 31 per cent in the last 12 months.
Writer and author of The Cask Report, Pete Brown, said, "Considering everything else that was happening in the beer market, with continuing pub closures and consumers switching from drinking in pubs to home consumption, it's hard to view this as anything other than a strong performance from cask ale."
Cask ale now accounts for 15.2 per cent of total beer volumes in pubs - around one in every six pints sold. And there has been a huge explosion in the number of microbreweries; a recent report from the Campaign for Real Ale said that 78 new breweries opened last year, including seven in Scotland.
Mr Brown said: "More interesting than the bald figures are the changing market dynamics and patterns of consumer behaviour.
"We might be emerging from recession, but we're not jumping back to conspicuous consumption. Instead, we've become more thoughtful about our purchases and, in our food and drink choices, we're looking for tradition, provenance and wholesomeness - all values that cask ale can provide in spades."
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While beer sales across the board were down two per cent last year, the volume of cask beers sold increased by five per cent across the UK. More than 3,000 pubs around the UK began selling real ale for the first time.
An estimated 121,000 people started drinking cask ale last year, taking the total number of cask drinkers to over 8.6m. And although multinational brewers saw their sales decline by 11.3 per cent, sales from regional and microbreweries increased by between one and five per cent.
Real ale has been championed by people including Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Melanie Sykes and even Madonna who declared herself a fan of Timothy Taylor's Landlord on Jonathan Ross's show.
And just as Britons are becoming more particular about their food, so they are discovering the joy of handcrafted beer.
Mr Brown said: "Real ale is part of the gastro revolution. The same sorts of people who go to farmers' markets to buy home -made bread and artisan cheeses are also the sort of people who want to drink real ale."
Although Scotland traditionally had fewer real-ale drinkers and fewer small breweries than the south of England, the huge growth of the last year has narrowed the gap.
Chief executive of Camra, Mike Benner said: "The massive increase in the numbers of people drinking real ale in Scotland is great news.We are seeing loads of new breweries opening up."
He said the growth was partly fuelled by new breweries like BrewDog of Aberdeenshire, who were encouraging a new generation to enjoy real ale.
"Increasingly younger people are getting more discerning. They want something different from the big-market brands. Real ale is a very regional product - it ticks all the boxes.
"What often happens in times of recession is that people fall back on traditional standards. Community becomes more important than making as much money as possible."
Earlier this month, the latest issue of The Good Beer Guide named the Albert Tavern in Freuchie, Fife, as its pub of the year. There are now 311 Scottish entries in the guide, including 68 which were new this year.
Helen McLoughlin, licensee of the Bow Bar in Edinburgh, who offers a selection of eight cask ales which vary from week to week, said: "There is a massive resurgence of interest in real ale. People want something other than the mass-produced beers.
"People enjoy the quality, and the fact you can try different beers all the time."
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