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McEwan's is a few shillings short of the full 80/-.

THE strength of a favourite heavy beer is being reduced - but most publicans and drinkers know nothing about it.

Scottish Brewers plan to keep the name McEwan's 80/- but its alcohol by volume is going down from 4.5 to 4.2 per cent.

The trade only discovered about the planned change when a batch of the new lower strength beer was sent out by mistake.

Yesterday, letters advising hotels and pubs of the change had still not been posted.

The trade suspects the brewers wanted to introduce their new heavy with as little publicity as possible. The present McEwan's 80/- beer fonts advertise that it's 4.5 per cent alcohol by volume but new fonts carry no indication of the strength.

Yesterday, a spokesman for CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, said: "Clearly it will change the taste of the beer, there is no doubt about that.

"Scottish Brewers will pay a lower level of excise duty on the beer, but the question is whether any of the cost savings will be passed on. The company will tell you the change is down to market research but I find it difficult to believe that people want weaker beer.

"You usually find consumer research is confined to their own tied houses."

Scottish License Trade Association spokesman Paul Waterson said: "If profitability of a product drops, then they will withdraw it right away.

"And the last person to know about these things are their customers, we have to pass the word on to their customers."

He said that Scottish Courage now had to take more account of the beers that do well in English markets and this was now affecting what Scotland gets to drink.

He added: "This is not good in terms of customer choice and value."

Jim Brownlee, president of the Dundee License Trade Association, said: "There are pubs in this town where 80/- is a public institution. We are going to be facing some angry customers."

But a spokeswoman for Scottish Brewers insisted the change was taking place as a result of consumer preference testing in Dundee and Edinburgh.

She said the price of a pint of 80/- should come down but was unable to say, because of "trade confidentiality", by how much.

She added: "Our salesman have been notifying licensees since March 20 and we had letters ready to go out.

"They weren't posted because of the Budget and the possibility that there would be an alteration in beer prices.

"These letters would have gone out in time but a delivery was sent out three days early from one of our depots."

She added that the trials of the lower strength beer had involved customers in five different pubs.
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Author:McCARTNEY, BRIAN
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 28, 2000
Words:452
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