City analysts are sticking to their controversial view that major regional brewers should stop making beer and concentrate on pubs.
A report by leading drinks analysts John Beaumont, Philip Hawkins and Mark Puleikis suggested that Marston's, Vaux and Wolverhampton & Dudley would all be better off quitting beer. The analysts also looked at Greene King but said it should stay as a brewer.
The findings were rudely condemned by real ale lovers — and more politely by the brewers themselves.
But Beaumont says the critics have missed the point.
He said: "We took a good, hard look at these regional brewers, who face a tough time in a competitive market."
He was surprised that the brewers were so taken aback by the report. What sparked particular outrage was the analysts' comment: "Brewing does not really matter to these companies."
Greene King spokeswoman Frances Brace said: "That is the sort of remark which is likely to offend people who have been brewing for hundreds of years and are proud of what they do."
But Beaumont defended himself, saying: "The point is that other areas are more profitable and the specific brewers know that.
"Greene King has bought Magic and closed its brewery at Biggleswade, Marston's has bought Pitcher & Piano, W&D is expanding its managed concepts and Vaux has disposals in the pipeline."
He also pointed to the example of Eldridge Pope, which has quit brewing to concentrate on pubs.
And Bass has predicted that regional brewery production will fall by 50 per cent.
Analysts say brewers must move into profitable areas whatever the cost in terms of brewery closures.
The impasse will continue for many years, as brewers are determined to stick to their core product and take steps to improve product quality in the short term.