by VR Sreeraman on  August 6, 2009 at 3:50 PM Lifestyle News
 Drinkers Drown Out Downturn at Beer Festival
Fancy getting your tastebuds round Dishy Debbie, a Blond Witch or some Top Totty? They're all on offer at the Great British Beer Festival, which opened up the bar Tuesday.

While the country is in the grip of a recession and its world-famous pubs are closing at an estimated rate of 52 per week, the traditional beer industry is celebrating its annual bash in a cheery mood.

Despite a poor year for the pub and brewing industries, cask ale sales performed comparatively well, dipping by 1.3 percent, compared to eight percent for the total beer market.

Meanwhile The Society of Independent Brewers, the umbrella body for craft brewers, estimates its members' sales are growing by 10-11 percent per year.

Some 350,000 pints of more than 450 different ales were due to be served up at the five-day festival, held at the cavernous Earls Court exhibition centre in west London, temporarily the biggest pub in the world.

Among the more curiously-named brews on offer were Mad Goose, Screech Owl, Stone the Crows, Armageddon, Fever Pitch, Oscar Wilde Mild, Cockchafer, Headcracker, Berserker Export, Hertfordshire Hedgehog and Pickled Santa.

Laid-off city traders snared by the recession could drown their sorrows with a pint of Stockbroker Blues.

Some 60,000 beer lovers were expected to attend the event organised by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, which was founded in 1971 and has just passed the 100,000-member mark.

"Real ale is the only sector of the brewing industry showing signs of growth, and it's increasingly popular with young drinkers of both sexes," Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide, wrote in The Independent newspaper.

"One reason pubs close is they don't offer the range of beers most modern consumers want," he added.

Real ale is fresh beer brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask from which it is served.

Its supporters contrast its qualities with higher-selling super-chilled fizzy lagers.

As well as defending real ale from the incoming tide of lager, CAMRA is fighting high pub prices, pub closures, beer taxes and the dominance of global brands.

Besides British pints at the festival, there were also beers from the booming US craft brewing scene, Australia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Ireland, Denmark, Jamaica, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy, four beers from Belarus and a cask ale from Spain.

Source: AFP

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