'It's hard to keep the gobby hobbits happy'

By Stephen Oliver

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cask ale, Beer

Oliver: normal people can enjoy cask ale too
Oliver: normal people can enjoy cask ale too
Marston's Beer Company managing director takes a controversial swipe at Camra members.

Search hard enough amongst the gloom of what's happening in the pub and beer market right now, you'll find the odd shaft of light. cask ale is enjoying a renaissance, outperforming every other sector.

This is especially welcome since as yet Tesco et al haven't worked out how to give their shoppers the true "beer at home experience".

So cask ale is still a real reason to visit the pub. Cause to celebrate perhaps?

You'd think that the beardy weirdies of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) would be happy that their favourite brew is seemingly coming to the rescue of at least part of the British pub scene.

But no! Apparently, according to the malcontents of Camra's sandal-clad, whisker-stroking stormtroopers a guest ale's not a guest ale unless it comes from some oddball brewery down a country lane and is served with bits in it under a name like Knackered Old Cripplecock.

At Marston's we have five proper breweries, six brand families, 88 beers brewed in total, 35 ales available permanently, 53 guest beers on throughout the course of the year.

You'd think that by any measures that was a pretty wide choice.

Bizarrely, though, some licensees seem to think that they should have an even wider choice, egged on of course by the itinerant Camra bunch that go promiscuously from pub to pub, looking for their next eclectic pint brewed in a cupboard with the dubious benefit of progressive beer duty. They're a gobby lot, the beardies.

Holding up the glass, opining on the beer before them, more often than not talking rubbish about ingredients and how it's brewed. Licensees should be aware of kowtowing to them.

The bigger part of the cask ale audience — and the growing part — is normal people, who recognise a good drink, part of our national heritage, when they see it.

Amazingly, 65% of grown-up drinkers have never even had real ale past their lips, yet 40% of those that do give it a go become converts. They see cask ale in a new and refreshing light.

With Cask Ale Week fast approaching on 6 April it would be a tragedy if the hobbits took over the show.

It's a golden opportunity for serious brewers — Siba chose not to fork out for it — to show that to enjoy cask ale you don't have to have mislaid your razor, wear socks with your sandals or to have a beer gut the size of Rotherham.

Stephen Oliver is managing director of Marston's Beer Company

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