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Brits lose taste for lager, turn to ale and tankards

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Drinkers in Britain are losing their taste for European-style lager and are turning to the full-bodied taste of bitter and ale instead, according to new research from market intelligence agency Mintel.

Britons are expected to have drunk 913 million liters of ale and bitter in 2015, compared to 895 million liters in 2014, the research estimated.

In the six months to October 2015, 49 percent of British drinkers opted for lager, compared to 54 percent in the six months to September 2014. According to Mintel, overall sales of lager in the U.K. have fallen by 8 percent in the last five years.


"Lager sales have plateaued in recent years, however it could enhance its chances of growth by tapping into the craft beer movement more effectively," Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel, said in a release.

"With the majority of craft beers available in both the on- and off-trade (in stores as well as restaurants and bars) falling into the ale and bitter segment, these beers have garnered considerable coverage in recent years," Wisson added.

Wisson said that ales – such as Indian pale ale (IPA) and golden ale – have been prioritized by craft brewers, helping to drive the popularity of premium bottled ales.

"Overall, the beer market should benefit from greater craft innovation, as well as sales uplifts from events such as the Olympic Games and (Soccer's) European Championships," he said.

The last few years have seen a craft beer revolution take place in Britain, which has in turn attracted interest from some of the world's biggest brewers.

In December 2015, London-based Camden Town Brewery announced that Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) had acquired it in a deal that would "pave the way for further growth and expansion."

The U.K.'s Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) described the report from Mintel as "very positive and pleasing," adding that it showed the beer market was bouncing back into growth.

"There has been a huge surge in the interest in beer in recent years, driven by a move away from mass-produced, mass-marketed global brands to drinkers seeking out beers which are authentic, interesting, flavorsome and local," a spokesman told CNBC via email.

"With such a huge number of breweries in the U.K. producing a massively wide range of beer styles, it's no surprise people are really appreciating having a great choice of interesting beers, rather than a small handful of very similar beers dominating the market," the spokesman added.

CAMRA added that while beer was enjoying a surge in interest, 29 pubs – the bedrock of many communities across the country – were still closing every week.

Meanwhile, another finding from the report showed that 26 percent of young male drinkers aged between 18-24 preferred to drink their pint from a tankard, traditionally seen as the preserve of older, more discerning drinkers.

The lack of appetite for lager was having a broader impact on overall beer sales. Mintel said that Britons were estimated to have drunk 4.25 billion liters of beer in 2015, down from 4.27 billion in 2014.

There were "signs of growth" however, with value sales set to reach £18.1 billion ($26 billion) by 2020, up from an estimated £16.68 billion in 2015.