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Beer cheer as experts hail ale

PUBLISHED: 09:46 30 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:56 03 March 2010

BEER experts praised Suffolk brewery Adnams for "keeping our brewery traditions alive", as they exercised their drinking arms in its Southwold cellars.

BEER experts praised Suffolk brewery Adnams for "keeping our brewery traditions alive", as they exercised their drinking arms in its Southwold cellars.

Ten members of the British Guild of Beer Writers were on an overnight tour of Adnams country, taking in the Low House at Laxfield and the White Hart of Blythburgh before being shown round the brewery.

The authors came from all over the country, including Hull, Berkshire, St Albans and Burton on Trent, as well as Montreal in Canada.

Later they were taken on a tasting tour by Adnams head brewer Mike Powell Evans and top beer writer Roger Protz, the editor of the Good Beer Guide.

They were joined by members of the Campaign for Real Ale as they tried out a range of the brewery's beers, including Broadside, Fisherman's Bitter and Regatta before moving on to its bottled range.

The writers were enthusiastic in their appraisal of the brews, but some expressed fears that younger drinkers were being sucked in by the clever marketing of drinks giants offering everything from designer bottled lagers to flavoured vodkas.

"It's people like Adnams who are keeping our brewery traditions alive. Otherwise we end up drinking European style lager," said Mr Protz.

There were just 34 family style breweries in Britain, and a further 400 "micro breweries", he pointed out.

Adnams had successfully captured part of a niche market for quality beers.

"The market which Adnams is in is a small one – maybe 10 per cent of the market," he explained.

Dave Wickett, who runs the Fat Cat Kelham Island Brewery, was formerly a university academic who published books about the economics of British brewing, before deciding it would be fun to do it for real.

He felt real ale's "beer and sandals" image was a "massive problem".

He was dismayed at the fact that while locals at one of his Sheffield pubs would drink real ales, students would not.

He decided to find out their views, and recently offered them a free beer tasting in order to carry out a survey of their thoughts.

"The comment that came out most is 'this is the sort of beer my dad used to drink, so I'm not drinking it", he said. They also told him it was "so old-fashioned", they won't drink it.

Having tried Adnams, 80 per cent loved it, and many, although not a majority, would drink it again. Those who would not claimed their friends would laugh at them.

"It was really depressing," he said. "It was all about image. I think the only way you could change it is to educate them."

Unlike their East Anglian counterparts, they did not see television advertisements about Adnams, and were unaware of its "romantic attachments" to Southwold, he said.

"They want to see someone in trendy clothes drinking it. They want somebody listening to their kind of music," he said.

"It's the curse of peer group drinking," he added. "That's the worry we face. There's always been a problem of will the next generation drink real ale. If that's not the case we are all doomed really."

Writer Jeff Evans said: "Trouble is, you are up against these national breweries. It's always a battle trying to get over the mass marketing."

Adnams had a "nice image" and advertising which would appeal to young people, he felt.

"The history of real ale is one of peaks and troughs anyway," he added. "Really what these breweries have got to compete with is the quality."

The Southwold brewery was in a good position, he felt.

"Their beer is held in very high esteem," he said. "Adnams is a world famous brewery amongst people who know about beer."

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