Ale’s well in pubs


Chris Houlton, MD brewing and brands, Greene King

• How would you assess the performance of the ale category in the Scottish on-trade?
“CGA data shows total beer sales across GB in a slow decline of -3.4%. The picture for ales in Scotland is a little better than this: -1.9% for the MAT (moving annual total) to the end of August. Cask ales are in modest growth, while keg ales are down slightly.”

• What are your top tips for publicans to help them boost ale sales this winter?
“The tremendous increase in interest in beer varieties, driven by the rise of craft beers, means that now is the perfect time to engage your customers in your range of ales. Offering a suggested beer to match each dish on your food menu is a great place to start. Ale flights, where customers can buy three one-third pints to taste, create conversations around your beer range and help make a memorable night out for your customers. Providing simple tasting notes for each beer and always offering try-before-you-buy will also enhance your reputation as a venue catering to beer lovers.

“Your brewer should be delighted to support you with advice and information on food matching, tasting notes and successful promotional mechanics and may even be able to offer staff to visit your pub and run a tutored tasting of its range.”



Brian Calder, chief executive, Tennent Caledonian Breweries

• To what extent does the weather impact on the styles of ale that are popular? What are the big ale trends this winter?

“Ale tends to see a spike in popularity over the winter year by year as consumers move away from lighter, hoppier brews that are popular during the warmer months. Craft ale has enjoyed impressive growth recently and the past twelve weeks are no exception. With this, there is an incredible amount of choice available to consumers at the moment which is fantastic and really lends itself well to those who regularly feature guest ales.

“We’d always encourage licensees to be mindful of their customer base when ranging at any time, not just over the winter months. Guest ales will always be popular but these should be rotated around a core offering of top selling brands.”

• What are your top tips for publicans to help them boost ale sales this winter?
“For ale drinkers, quality is absolutely central to their overall experience and there are a number of simple factors that licensees need to get right to make sure they are delivering in this area, such as offering the perfect pour with every pint. Lines should of course always be clean and in good working order and glassware should be sparkling. Simple things like maximising the POS materials brewers supply with the stock to really advertise their range to the customer are an easy win too – with ales it’s a case of nailing the basics.”


Andrew Turner, on-trade marketing director, Heineken

20b_2711_R• What are the current trends in the ale category?
“As well as an increase in the number of urban bars stocking cask ales, we have also seen an increase in circuit bars in town centres, demonstrating a growing appeal amongst younger drinkers. In fact of the 53% of British drinkers who have now tried real ale, over half of these were first introduced to the segment when they were aged between 18 and 24. However, we have seen the number of younger and female drinkers entering the category begin to level out and in terms of the wider market, this is predominantly male and ‘upmarket’.”

• What are your top tips for publicans to help them boost ale sales this winter?
“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. It’s therefore important bars tailor their offering to suit their audience and satisfy their preferred types of drinking occasions. Take the time to engage with your customers and find out which brands they prefer.”