A regional brewer is to offer a new dimension in real ale choice to licensees through an innovative beer box package.
The boxes from Smiles of Bristol come in 18-pint and 36-pint sizes and are otherwise similar in design to wine boxes. They contain real cask beer and can be vented and connected straight onto a beer engine in the pub cellar.
Smiles chief executive Martin Loades said that his company was small enough and young enough to be open to a completely new packaging format.
Loades said the main advantage of the new smaller container was that it enabled licensees to give a greater choice to consumers than was possible with existing casks containing at least 72 pints.
"We see consumers wanting choice and licensees wanting to offer choice, but the size of existing containers doesn't help do this," he said, adding that he hoped to prevent the situation in some pubs where beer quality suffered because of the wide range of real ales on sale.
The beer in the boxes can stay fresh for up to three weeks, there is very little wastage and the packaging is simply thrown away or recycled after use."I genuinely believe this breakthrough takes cask ale into the 21st Century," Loades added. "We have heard a great deal in recent years about the decline of real ale. It is time for the brewing industry to respond to the demands of today's market by giving both consumers and licensees what they want."
Loades is confident that beer packaged in boxes will taste the same as from metal casks, and will be challenging industry experts to tell the difference at the official launch later this week.
A choice of three Smiles beers will be available in the new format: Golden, Best and Heritage.