Saturday, 20 June 2015

DRINKING HABITS ARE A CHANGING.


For my latest beery ramblings, I felt it quite appropriate, to highlight some good news for the UK beer industry. Latest figures from Cask Matters, having identified a continuing growth of cask ale sales in the first quarter of 2015.

However, taking a closer look at the figures, revealed that it was the increased growth of premium cask ale sales( ales over 4.1%), that played a major role in the beery glad tidings. Compared to 2014, these stronger ales had increased in popularity, by almost 3%. As opposed to standard and premium combined increasing by only 0.8%.

Now, I am sure you will concur, that is quite a sizeable margin. A margin that demonstrates to me, there is most certainly a move from lower strength, session type beers, to ales that have a bit more oomph.

Okay, you could argue that these figures may not be representative from region to region. That sales of stronger beers, may just be surging in the larger towns and cities, throughout the UK. However, I have noticed across my area in East Lancashire, that the preference for a stronger slurp is in the ascendency - and I will tell you why.

I visit many pubs on my beery travels, in both a reporting and leisurely capacity. I chat to many landlords, brewers and pub patrons alike, about identifying the ideal selection, type and strength, to suit the widest range of tastes. It's a fine balancing act for our local publicans. Who are always going to have a few regulars moaning about not enough traditional bitters. Or a serving counter devoid of dark ales.

It's all down to demand. The fact is, more cask ale drinkers, particularly the younger generation, now have a liking for the stronger IPA style beers for example. You will see this brand in almost every pub you walk in. Along with the popular stouts and porters, that are virtually all above 4% ABV.

I will give you three examples, a stout, an IPA and a porter, that goes some way to proving that our tastes are migrating to a more robust style of beer.
Firstly, an imperial stout, that was brewed by the Big Clock Brewery, in Accrington.
Their Ghost brand at an eye watering 7.5%, flew out. It went down a storm, when it was rolled out recently - belting beverage - straight down to your boots!

Secondly, we have the porter style of beers. Two that spring to mind are: Titanic, Plum Porter and Elland, 1872 Porter. The former is so popular, the Stoke-on-Trent brewer can't make enough of this tasty tipple, at 4.9%. The latter, at a whopping 6.5%, is from West Yorkshire, and is a multi-award winning beer. Currently it's the Champion Winter Beer of Britain - enough said.

Finally, IPA's, in my opinion, are leading the way in changing our taste buds. This flavoursome beverage is ever growing in popularity - and strength. Their plethora of styles and fruity flavours, seem a million miles away from the days when the only choice was a bitter, a mild and a fizzy, bland tasting lager.

Possibly, the most demanded, is Thornbridge, Jaipur IPA. At 5.9%, it's bursting with tropical fruit flavours. And has a lemony, refreshing crispiness. The Derby brewer has certainly played a major role, in higher strength beers becoming a popular bar call.

One noticeable downside to these beers, is that you will find a traditional bitter or mild, may have been shunted into the sidings on occasion. They haven't quite hit the buffers yet. However, many of the seasoned ale drinkers, will tell you that a traditional bitter or mild, is becoming more of a rare species on the bar.

So, there you have it, on the style of beers, and maybe the reason why it appears drinking habits are leaning towards a more robust brand of beverage. A 3% increase in the first three months of 2015, for higher strength, premium ales, suggests that we are.