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Fancy a pint? It's time to get real!

A REAL ale revolution is sweeping the country, with drinkers turning in droves to bitters, malts, stouts and pale ales. MIKE BLACKBURN visited a local micro-brewery to find out why.

SNECK Lifter, Cocker Hoop, Black Sheep, Greene King IPA - names to get the most discernible beer drinker dribbling into their tankard.

But dispel any images of bearded middle-aged men huddled in the corner of a decaying, smoke-yellowed pub.

Real ale is now a thriving market - one of the few growth areas in the drinks industry.

The choice of beers in the UK alone is staggering, and you are as likely to come across a young woman supping on a pint of pale ale as a crusty old man coddling his cask-conditioned stout.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) coined the term 'real ale' in the 1970s to make it easy for people to differentiate between "bland processed beers being sold by the big brewers" and traditional beers whose very existence was under threat.

They are also called cask beers, cask-conditioned ales or even real beer.

New consumer research has shown how in just five years, the number of drinkers trying real ale for the first time, has risen by a whopping 40%.

The increase comes at a time when the real ale brewing sector has welcomed more than 200 new breweries into the market place, with the market growing by over 25%.

There are now more than 800 breweries across the UK.

Among those is Wainstones Brewery in the shadow of the Cleveland Hills in Stokesley, run by father-and-son team John and Stuart Toovey.

John, a retired chemical engineer, fermented his interest in the real ale industry via a friend who was a brewer.

In less than two years operating from a small industrial unit the micro-brewery can produce up to 270 gallons a week.

Well over 30 pubs in a 25 mile radius of Stokesley serve a selection of Wainstones seven ales, including Amber, Sandstone and Jet.

The brewery has also been commissioned to create a special anniversary beer for the Saltburn 150 celebrations.

"You don't hear about many of the micro-breweries going under - they are expanding the market," said John.

"More and more pubs have real ales on - beautiful beers, gorgeous beers!" John is in no doubt the real ale market is in rude health due to the evolving clientele.

"I think younger people are getting into it," he said.

"It's the choice and different flavours, particularly the blonde beers, the light ones - it looks like lager but doesn't beer you up."

Colin Valentine, CAMRA national chairman, said real ale brewing is recognised as one of the most vibrant areas of the small business sector.

"It''s strange to think that at the turn of the 21st Century, the real ale market was in decline, " he said.

"We now enjoy more brewers than since the end of the Second World War.

"And the fact that many brewers in the current climate are reporting record like-for-like sales increases shows this renewed interest is not about to end."

Growth is real ale deal CAMRA says the real ale industry has grown rapidly over the last five years. * The number of UK drinkers trying real ale has risen by 40% (37% to 52%).

* More than 200 new breweries are now open for business, growing the market by more than 25%.

* There are now more than 800 breweries operational across the UK - more than at any time since the end of the Second World War.

* At the Great British Beer Festival earlier this month, CAMRA showcased more than 300 brewers from across Britain, which in 2006 would have constituted half the brewers in the country.

* The festival goes from strength to strength, reflecting the growth of the industry, with more than 62,000 happy customers sampling more than 1,000 different real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers over the course of the week.


TASTE: John Toovey from Stokesley's Wainstones Brewery Picture by IAN MCINTYRE
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 19, 2011
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