Brewers of traditional British ales served by handpump or straight from the barrel are saying "Cheers" in ever greater numbers as more and more people acquire a taste for their malty and hoppy brews.The number of drinkers sampling real ale has soared 40% in five years, according to a survey published in conjunction with the start of the Great British Beer Festival.Research released by Camra, the campaign for Real Ale, also shows that the number of real ale breweries has surged by 200 to 800 in the same period and the total market for real ale has jumped 25 percent.Camra membership has swollen to a record 125,000 and the campaign group expects 65,000 people to attend its annual beer festival, Britain's biggest.It says the situation is a stark contrast to when Camra was formed in 1971 and a handful of global brewers dominated the market."It's strange to think that at the turn of the 21st century, the real ale market was in decline, and many predicted a further downturn in fortunes," Colin Valentine, Camra National Chairman, said."Yet in the present day, real ale brewing is recognised as one of the most vibrant areas of the small business sector, and we now enjoy more brewers than at any time since the end of the Second World War. "There are promising times ahead for the industry when a new era of discerning consumers are demanding quality products that are locally produced and represent good value for money. The fact many brewers in the current climate are reporting record like for like sales increases shows this renewed interest is not about to end, and the Great British Beer Festival is the showcase for the present growth of the industry."The festival, being staged at London's Earls Court exhibition centre for the fifth and last time, expects to serve up 1,000 British real ales and foreign beers by the time the last barrel is drained on Saturday night. Camra also said London is leading the charge as one of UK's fastest growing brewing scenes, as the number of breweries operating in the capital has doubled from seven to 14 in the past ten years."While 150 years ago London was the brewing capital of the world - with the city's brewers pioneering industrial brewing, inventing the first two global beer styles and sending their products to every inhabited continent on the planet - the city was anything but a brewing superpower in October 2006 when Young's (then of Battersea) merged with Wells of Bedford, leaving only two breweries of any significant size.""Although London's groundswell of exciting new brewers may not yet reach the production levels of the post-Victorian era when in 1905 the capital's brewers produced almost a billion pints, the city's brewing industry is once again revered for its innovation and craft," said Des de Moor, author of a new Camra guide, London's Best Beer, Pubs & Bars.Duncan Sambrook, co-owner of new London brewery Sambrook's said: "It was at the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court back in 2006 myself and friends hatched a plan to bring brewing back to the centre of London, and when we first started up, there were more outlets crying out for quality local beer than we originally thought."In fact, the London pub market's so big it has the potential to support another boom in the next 5 years, so long as London's beers retain a high quality and continue to push the boundaries."Lasr week the British Beer and Pub Association reported that total beer sales have slumped by almost 10 percent in the past few months, including a 15 percent fall in supermarkets.
Pub sales were down by 4.5 percent in the three months to June as beer tax and VAT rises wiped out the positive impact of the warm weather and royal wedding, the BBPA said in a study.In the year to June, beer sales were down by 7.1 percent as the cumulative impact of tax rises added 10 pence to the price of a pint in pubs, according to the association's study.