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Suffolk's ale drinkers drive 'revolution'

04 August 2010

Once identified as middle-aged men in cable-knit jumpers with an array of beards, today’s real ale drinkers in Suffolk increasingly find they're having to share bar space with a younger audience who've developed a liking for their beloved brew

According to recent figures released by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the number of real ale drinkers in East Anglia has almost doubled in the past two years. Today, 70% of drinkers interviewed said they'd tried real ale, up from 42% in the past two years.

Home to such celebrated brewers as Adnams and Greene King, Suffolk is leading the charge to widen the appeal of real ale in a region which boasts about 50 breweries, ranging from large-scale brewers with an international profile, to an impressive concentration of microbreweries. Across the sector, the quality of the real ale produced in Suffolk is well-established and gaining a wider following, alongside traditional real ale drinkers.

Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams, said: “Suffolk has an impressive range of brewers and we're increasingly finding our real ale is attracting the attention of younger drinkers and women. Suffolk residents and visitors to the county demonstrate a real passion for the county’s great quality food and, on many occasions, beer can be the ideal accompaniment to a meal.

“The county’s breweries also benefit from being in an area with an enviable reputation for growing high-quality, raw materials that produce some of the best malting barley in the world. We're also fortunate in having a great climate that delivers the ideal conditions for the production of premier products.”

Furthermore, the county’s leading breweries are also working hard to ensure that their products are created using the latest sustainable production methods.

At Adnams, the brewer has installed a state-of-the-art Energy Recovery System (ERS) across its brewing operations, alongside employing sustainable architecture in its distribution centre and, most recently, completing the construction phase of the UK’s first ‘green’ energy anaerobic digestion plant which takes by-products from the brewing process to create a renewable source of gas for injection into the national grid alongside the company’s fleet of delivery lorries.

The company’s long-term ambition to become carbon neutral has led to such innovative products as its East Green beer. Brewed using the ERS that recycles 100% of the steam created during the brewing process, using it to heat 90% of the following brew, the beer is made with highly-yielding barley, grown in Suffolk, which greatly minimises C02 emissions from transportation. Bodicea Hops are also used, which are naturally aphid-resistant and significantly reduce the use of pesticides.

Suffolk’s other large brewer, Greene King, producer of such recognised products as Old Speckled Hen, Abbot Ale and Ruddles County, is also taking its sustainable business practices seriously. The company received its first Carbon Trust survey in 2006, which set the company on a journey to energy efficiency for which it has now been recognised by the Carbon Trust Standard. The company’s work with the Carbon Trust has lead to a cut in C02 emissions of 9% and 15,000 tonnes.

Celia Hodson, Chief Executive of Choose Suffolk, the county’s development agency, commented, “The combination of access to excellent raw materials, fantastic and innovative products and a clear commitment to employing sustainable methods of production is a winning formula for Suffolk’s brewers.

“The county’s many brewers are impressively innovative in their approach and are also part of a long and proud brewing heritage that stretches back centuries. Suffolk is fast gaining an enviable reputation for the high quality of its local food and drink.”

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