Trips to coffee shops or restaurant chains are one thing.
But visits to the pub for a glass of real ale are quite another in terms of helping boost the local and national economy.
Every pint ordered gives a lift to the nation’s booming brewing industry and helps to create jobs and keep local pubs open, according to the newly-published Cask Report released last week during Cask Ale Week – a celebration of Britain’s national drink.
The report shows each job in brewing generates 18 jobs in pubs, one in agriculture, one in the supply chain and one in shops.
At least three new breweries are opening every week, taking the number in the UK to more than 1,700 – including 103 in Wales and 56 in Merseyside and Cheshire.
Between them, they are producing more than 10,000 different cask ales a year.
With the increasing adventurousness of brewers and growing experimentation with beer styles, choice has never been better.
Nearly half of Britons and 70 per cent of real ale drinkers recognise the vital role cask ale plays in supporting the economy.
Awareness of its artisan production using British ingredients is growing.
“Virtually all cask ale brewers use barley grown and malted in Britain,” says Paul Nunny, responsible for creating the report.
“They create a fresh product with live yeast, no added gas and limited shelf life.
“A second fermentation in the pub cellar is needed to complete the brewing process.
“That’s why cask ale is unique to the pub and can’t be bought at the supermarket.”
The research shows that real ale drinkers are the most frequent users of pubs – and spend more there than anyone else.
“Their £1,030 a year on food and drink is 30 per cent more than the average adult spend in pubs – £770 a year – and is 6.5 per cent up on two years ago. Two in five real ale drinkers visit the pub once a week or more,” the report reveals.
The top reason given by ale drinkers for visiting the pub is to go for a drink or meal with family or friends at 79 per cent.
Others include work social
event (38 per cent), dinner deals and pub quizzes (both 30 per cent), live music (28 per cent),
TV big games (23 per cent),
dates (20 per cent) and work meetings (13 per cent).
The message the Cask Report sends to licensees is to make sure they do a great job for customers, for whatever kind of occasion they are visiting the pub.
“This includes getting the quality of their beer right,” says Paul. “Pubs are still closing at the rate of about 21 a week, many simply because the offer or the quality is not good enough.
“The report shows pubs with a focus on quality beer are performing well. Most are increasing sales of real ale – and sales of other food and drink on the back of that.”
He urges pubs to pay heed to the opportunities associated with a great cask ale offer. “It is real, natural, flavoursome beer served from a hand pump that differentiates pubs from all the other food and drink venues springing up on high streets up and down the country.
“If they can get their beer right and train their staff properly, they stand a good chance of bringing in the very people who will make the pub viable.”
To underline the contribution brewing makes to the British economy, the Cask Report points to capital investment being
made to expand beer production, modernise equipment and enlarge premises.
SIBA, the organisation representing independent breweries, says 12 per cent of its 840 members are investing more than £50,000, while a further 10 per cent are investing more than £100,000 this year.
This represents a minimum of £13 million on capital projects alone.
“The report shows that this entrepreneurial sector of the British economy is creating value across the supply chain, including manufacturing and engineering, creating jobs and supporting crucial social networks and local pubs.”
For Phill Blanchard, owner and head brewer at Mold’s Hafod Brewing Company, the importance of creating a local network of like-minded businesses and suppliers is one of the keys to his business.
“We are dedicated to producing the best real ale possible from real home grown ingredients,” says Phill.
“Be it British malt or British hops, to more bespoke ingredients, such as local grain from Cilcain and the surrounding areas and hops picked by ourselves in Mold, we are proud to support local producers.
“Other breweries may well use extracts or processed products from abroad, sterile, filtered and artificially carbonated with gas, but we feel this goes against what makes real ale special.”
Hafod is a small family-run brewery based on two sites in Mold. The original one barrel brewery operates as a test bed for new brews and makes small batch beers such as Dubbel, Hammer and Moel Fenlli Honey Ale.
At its Gas Lane premises, a newer 15 barrel brewhouse sees Phill and his colleagues make their core range of beers and ever-changing seasonal brews with the resulting cask, bottled and canned beers available in pubs, hotels, cafes and shops around the North-West and Wales.
“We have proven the traditional approach works as our sales have been increasing year on year since the company was founded,” adds Phill. “While the fact that pubs
are closing at an alarming rate
in general, there is a buck to this trend with smaller micropubs opening throughout the UK.
“We even have one on our doorstep, Mold’s own Alehouse which has just been crowned as North Wales Pub of the Year 2017.
“It is places such as these that are breathing life into the industry and we are very proud to support them as much as we can.”