It's almost cliche thought that during a recession consumers move to creature comforts like booze. But in Britain, beer sales have been falling and pubs have been closing at rapid rates as consumers cut back on spending.
But a visit to the Great British Beer festival in London reveals a landscape in the beverage industry that is managing to buck the soft trend seen by global megabrewers. The event, arranged by non-profit, consumer organization CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), is on its way to meeting similar figures to its record-making year in 2006 where it brought in over 66,000 consumers over the 4-day period it was held.
CAMRA was formed by four people in 1971 "who wanted to save the British beer industry at the time," Since then, CAMRA's membership has risen to 100,000 people.
"The simple fact is the whole (beer) industry, including lagers and ales is in decline," Simon Theakston, executive director of T&R Theakston, a traditional brewing company that is 182 years old, said.
But "at the moment we're seeing, for the first time in a generation, a resurgent interest in cask ale," Theakston said.
Cask ale is a traditional English style of beer that has no additional carbon dioxide injected and is served at warmer temperatures than the more mass-market chilled lagers.
For the technical, real ale (phrase coined by CAMRA) or cask ale is "a top fermented beer that, following fermentation, is put into a cask with yeast and some residual fermentable sugars from the malted barley." It undergoes a "slow secondary fermentation in the cask to produce a gentle carbonation in the beer.
"The fact is that cask condition beer can only be served in pubs," Theakston said.