The Rise of Real Ale

Back in June I made a few observations about what happens when lager drinkers are introduced to good quality IPA, and noted that big, bold flavours, rather than watery blandness, might be exactly what people want. Put like that it seems obvious, but somehow over the past 40 years the big brewcorps have convinced us that bland is best. Yesterday the Observer newspaper carried an article highlighting the rapid growth of small real ale brewers and the ‘renaissance’ in real ale in the face of a recession. Lager still accounts for over 74 percent of the beer market, so real ale has a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean British drinkers like mainstream lager much, or will stick with it when shown alternatives. Mainstream lager is the Microsoft Windows of the beer world. It is usually the safe choice, even if the overall experience is vaguely disappointing. I am confident that if exposed to lovingly maderefreshing, hoppy alternatives, a lot more people would move away from the bland end of the lager market. After all, “safe, but vaguely disappointing” isn’t really a sensible way to make any kind of decision, is it?

From the article:

Significantly, Siba’s smaller members, who each brew fewer than 350 barrels a week and constitute the vast majority of its membership, saw volume sales rise by 8.5%, an impressive achievement in the jaws of a recession.

“A lot of our members are professional brewers who have worked for the big brewers and have now set up their own business,” said Grocock, whose organisation had only 20 members in 1980. “They are brewing all sorts of beers; we are not just talking about bitter and mild, but stouts and porters, wheat beers, heather beers up in Scotland. There’s now a huge variety out there.” More.