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British real ale fest organizers seek sexier image for the cask-conditioned Dint.

AP--Pot bellies, beards and sandals were out in force at the Great British Beer Festival on Thursday as middle-aged men eagerly quaffed pint after pint of "White Dwarf," "Old Bushy Tail," and "Fox's Nob."

These are the hardcore fans of the great British pint, connoisseurs who can discourse at length about fermentation, serving temperatures, cloudiness and head. But according to organizers of the weeklong drinking fest _ who want to make real ale more attractive to younger drinkers--they just aren't sexy enough.

So forget the bearded oldies and welcome the new face of the traditional British beer drinker--a blonde sprawled provocatively on a bed of barley, naked but for a few strands of hops. The 60-foot-high poster greeting visitors to the Olympia festival hall in London is an attempt to boost the popularity of ale and safeguard the future of hundreds of small breweries in Britain.

"The traditional image of the beer drinker is an elderly, beer- bellied man wearing sandals," said Bob Jones, director of the Campaign For Real Ale, or CAMRA.

"We're just trying to break some of the stereotypes and attract younger drinkers and women to ale. Real ale is a key cornerstone of British culture and we want to protect that."

There are about 400 small breweries scattered around Britain, which use traditional techniques to brew high-quality, distinctive cask beers for local markets and local tastes.

According to campaigners, 85 percent of Britain's beer market is controlled by the four largest companies, who back their brands with millions in advertising and buy pubs dedicated to selling them. Real ale advocates see this as a threat to local economies reliant on brewing and the diversity of the British pint.

"It's time to play big buck global lager brewers at their own game," said Mike Benner, CAMRA's head of campaigns, as he justified the sexy new posters--which also feature a semi-naked muscular male, minus the beer belly.

"Real ale is almost unique to the U.K., but has too long been associated with old men and smoky local pubs," Benner said.

"This campaign will attract younger drinkers, both men and women, who don't currently relate to real ale and encourage them to give it a try."

Unlike keg beer, which is chilled, filtered, pasteurized and sealed in a metal container before it leaves the brewery to give it a long shelf life, real ale undergoes a second natural fermentation in the cask. No carbon dioxide or nitrogen is needed to fizz up real ale, as it is still "alive" in the cask.

More than 2,000 real ales are brewed in Britain, 700 of which are featured at the festival, Many have strange and eccentric names, such as "Piddle in the Sun," "Pendle Witches Brew," "Whapweasel" and "Gravedigger's Mild."

"It is an absolute haven for ale lovers," said Rob Morten, 26, who traveled from Leicester, 125 miles north of London, for the festival. "Real ales can be difficult to find in many pubs as they just serve mass-produced beers. I'm spoiled for choice here though."
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Title Annotation:Great British Beer Festival
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 27, 2001
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Next Article:Pabst will close Stroh Lehigh in September.

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