Handpump Hijack will confuse consumers says CAMRA

Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company (CMBC) risks confusing drinkers about cask conditioned beers, warns the Campaign for Real Ale, in reaction to a new beer launch which plans to hijack the iconic handpump.

CMBC has announced its plans to start serving keg beer through handpumps, which beer drinkers widely understand as usually being exclusively used for cask conditioned beer.

Keg beer is not a “live” beer, in that once it leaves the brewery it contains no viable yeast, and does not undergo further conditioning, unlike cask-conditioned beers which continue to develop flavour and carbonation in the pub cellar. 

While CMBC has indicated that, following feedback from CAMRA, it will label so-called “fresh ale” served through handpumps as “brewery conditioned beer”, the Campaign fears this will still confuse customers and erode their long-held understanding that only cask beer is served in this way. 

The Campaign is also concerned that CMBC’s plan will reduce choice to consumers and by taking up handpump space elbows out genuine cask beers produced by smaller, independent brewers. 

Beer handpumps on bars have long been the easily recognisable sign of the freshness and quality of cask beer – and CAMRA fully intends to enforce its long-standing policy that beer drinkers should not be misled at the point of dispense through the sale of non-live, non-cask beer through handpumps. 

CAMRA National Director and Chair of the Real Ale, Cider and Perry Campaigns Committee, Gillian Hough said: “It’s baffling why CMBC feels the need to serve a keg beer through cask ale handpumps in the first place, when it would seem to be simpler and more honest to simply serve it through  kegtaps, as with all other keg products. 

“It would be even better if this company, despite claiming to be incredibly proud to be a leading brewer of cask ale, actually invested in producing new cask ales and supporting its existing beers. It’s particularly ironic that instead it has spent time closing the historic breweries in their portfolio and now wants to cash in on that cask heritage with a keg product which hijacks the handpump. 

“Even with additional labelling, our fear is customers – especially those who perhaps don’t understand a term like “brewery conditioned” or don’t notice the small print- will be confused. It also seems likely that over time this potentially misleading approach will erode the image of the iconic beer handpump as a clear symbol of cask conditioned beer. 

“We believe that beer drinkers should be fully informed at the point of dispense and we will continue to condemn dispense practices that seek to mislead the consumer, particularly by selling non-live, non-cask beers through cask beer handpumps.  

“CAMRA calls on CMBC to either provide a genuinely live and fresh beer to be served through handpumps, to give the drinker what they expect and want, or to be honest and serve this so-called “fresh beer” through keg taps. 

“If consumers are interested in learning more about live beer, CAMRA’s award winning Learn and Discover platform features content on this and the whole brewing process.” 

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