It’s a trend that’s perhaps a product of the huge choice of ales now available.
And while there’s been lots of noise about craft and cask ales in recent years, it seems keg products are holding their own in Scotland’s pubs.
John Gilligan, managing director at Tennent Caledonian, which launched keg ale Caledonia Best in late 2011, said the resurgence in the cask and craft sectors has had a positive impact on the ale category as a whole.
While loyalists will always exist, the modern drinker is much more flexible.“The increased interest in craft beers is positive for the Scottish beer scene and reflects drinkers’ growing interest in provenance, authenticity and heritage,” said Gilligan.
“These qualities are not exclusive to craft beer, however.
“With our ale Caledonia Best, we have seen our customers and Scottish ale drinkers embrace the integrity, taste and Scottish credentials of the brand in the two years since its launch.”
Ian Risby, divisional manager for Scotland at Wells & Young’s, which owns the McEwan’s ale brand and added McEwan’s Red to the range earlier this year, said consumers’ repertoires have broadened as the choice of ales has grown.
“We are certainly seeing drinkers widening their drinking repertoire to incorporate a range of categories, and switching between these categories depending on the occasion,” he said.
“While loyalists will always exist, the modern drinker is much more flexible and willing to try new products with brand identity, reputation, taste and credibility all factoring into their purchase decision.”
To meet this demand, licensees should ensure they stock a range of ales, according to Risby.
“First and foremost, operators must offer a variety of products to ensure the keg beer range is right for their customers,” he said.
“With the excitement around craft beer, consumers are more than willing to try something new.
“However, trying new beers can be risky and many consumers are also looking to tried and tested brands that they know they can trust.”
The importance of stocking a range of ales to suit what seems to be an increasingly diverse consumer base was underlined by Andrew Turner of Heineken, whose ale brands include John Smith’s. To do this, he advised operators to tailor what they stock to suit their outlet’s clientele.
“It’s important that licensees read the marketplace and take into account their location and customer footprint. For example, a bar positioned on an affluent high-street will have a different audience to that of a working men’s club or village pub,” said Turner.
“It’s therefore important that bars tailor their offer to suit their audience and satisfy their preferred types of drinking occasions.
“Take time to engage with your customers and find out which brands they prefer. By speaking to your customers and monitoring purchases, you can successfully tailor your [ale]range to suit your market.”
Armed with a full understanding of an outlet’s customer base, Turner advised operators to take a proactive approach to promoting the range of keg ales stocked.
Engage with your customers and find out which brands they prefer.“It can also pay to introduce new and exciting ways of highlighting your range to your customers,” he said, “for example, running an offer on a ‘beer of the month’. Promotions can be a great way of driving sales; however it’s important that these are relevant to your own goals and outlet.”
All brewers highlighted quality of serve as key to maximising sales of ale.
Ian Risby of Wells and Young’s said for the pub customer “it is the pint in their hand” which will determine repeat purchase.
Chris Houlton of Greene King, the firm behind Belhaven Best, agreed.
“Well-kept and well-served ale is one area where pubs can offer an experience that simply cannot be replicated at home,” he said.
“Serving a quality pint is the key to getting consumers re-ordering, returning and recommending your bar.”