CAMRA takes ‘Fresh Ale’ fight to Government

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Talks offered: CMBC said it has not received a response from CAMRA after offering to hold face-to-face talks weeks ago
Talks offered: CMBC said it has not received a response from CAMRA after offering to hold face-to-face talks weeks ago

Related tags Camra Cask ale Fresh Ale CMBC

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has taken its fight against ‘Fresh Ale’ to the Government in a bid to prevent kegged ale from brewer Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company (CMBC) being dispensing through handpumps.

CAMRA has labelled CMBC’s Fresh Ale dispense method as a ‘handpump hijack’ because cask ale is famed for its use of gravity drawn handpumps while kegged ale is traditionally poured through a gas-powered tap.

The group has written to business secretary Kemi Badenoch to allow National Trading Standards (NTS) to investigate the matter as part of its campaign to “raise awareness of misleading consumer practices”.

In the letter, CAMRA explained NTS has said it does not the power to investigate ‘Fresh Ale’, which was launched by CMBC in March​, which involves serving filtered and kegged beer through handpumps that are usually used exclusively for cask-conditioned beer.

According to CAMRA, NTS said it was unable to investigate despite its predecessor agency – the Local Authority Co-ordinating Body on Trading Standards (LACOTS) – carrying out a similar investigation in the 1980s.

‘Misleading to consumers’

It added the investigation, carried out about 40 years ago, found using handpumps to dispense kegged beer was misleading to consumers and issued advice to Trading Standards officers.

In response, CMBC said: “Some weeks ago we offered to meet face to face with CAMRA to listen to their concerns around Fresh Ale and discuss any potential solutions they may have to the ongoing challenges the UK cask industry faces. Unfortunately we have not received any response to our request to talk.”

Meanwhile, CAMRA has also submitted a formal complaint to West Northamptonshire Trading Standards, which it claimed has a ‘primary authority’ agreement in place with Carlsberg Ltd, the global brewer, forming just over half of the CMBC joint venture.

In the letter to the Business Secretary, CAMRA Real Ale, Cider and Perry campaigns director Gillian Hough said: “The impact of this perniciously misleading form of dispense will affect the reputation and availability of cask-conditioned beer in all pubs and social clubs – an integral part of British heritage and pub culture.

“It is a self-evident fact that consumers should be as fully informed as possible about the product they are buying at the point of dispense. CAMRA is deeply concerned because, for beer drinkers, the use of a handpump to dispense beer is an indication that the beer is cask-conditioned, which these products are not.”

Proud and clear

CAMRA chairman Nik Antona added: “We are now asking the business secretary to step in and allow NTS to investigate CMBC’s misleading ‘Fresh Ale’ dispense method at a national level.

“Of course, if CMBC were interested in being transparent, they could simply serve their ‘Fresh Ales’ from keg fonts, and be proud and clear about the characteristics of the beers.”

Tim Dewey of cask beer brewer Timothy Taylor’s believes Fresh Ale could help improve sales of cask ale​.

Chief executive of the Keighley-based business, Dewey​, said recently: “We understand CAMRA’s concern but, at the end of the day, we’re more concerned about [CMBC] misrepresenting what it is to the consumer rather than the fact that they’re putting it through cask dispense equipment.

“Younger drinking-age consumers – 25 to 35-year-olds – almost don’t see the hand-pulls as something for them so I suppose if CMBC are putting a beer through those hand-pulls and promoting it, and it gets those consumers, maybe the next time they have a beer, they’ll choose one of the other beers on the hand-pull instead.”

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