CAMRA calls on Carlsberg Marston's beer concept to be investigated for regulations breach

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

CAMRA has written to trading bodies calling for an investigation into CMBC practices. Credit: Getty / STasker
CAMRA has written to trading bodies calling for an investigation into CMBC practices. Credit: Getty / STasker

Related tags Beverages

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has called for an investigation to be launched into Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company’s (CMBC) ‘Fresh Ale’ concept.

CAMRA has written to National Trading Standards and Trading Standards Scotland to determine whether ‘Fresh Ale’ products breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

The campaign group believes that CMBC ‘Fresh Ale’, which is kegged rather than cask conditioned but then served using a cask handpump, is misleading consumers.

As a result, CAMRA has launched its new ‘Handpump Hijack’ campaign to raise awareness and ensure that “the handpump remains a signifier of cask-conditioned beer”.

‘Misleading dispense is detrimental to beer drinkers’

In a letter to the trading bodies, national director and chair of CAMRA’s Real Ale, Cider and Perry Campaigns Committee Gillian Hough said: “CAMRA believes that these practices come under the scope of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, as the average consumer may choose to buy the product on the basis that they believe it to be cask conditioned beer, which in this case it is not.  

“We believe that this falls foul of the Order’s provisions in Section 2 to protect consumers from presentation which is likely to deceive the average consumer or cause the average consumers to take a transactional decision he would not have taken otherwise.”

Meanwhile, CAMRA national chair Nik Antona commented that misleading dispense was detrimental to beer drinks as it “removes a genuine cask product from the bar”​ and thereby reduces choice.

“Unfortunately, CMBC has a track record on potentially misleading marketing, having already badged Wainwright as ‘A Lake District Original’, despite it being brewed over 100 miles away in Wolverhampton,”​ Antona added.

“We hope that Trading Standards bodies across Great Britain will take swiftly coordinated national action to address misleading beer dispense and safeguard the handpump as an indicator of cask beer.”

CMBC responds

In response, a CMBC spokesperson told Food Manufacture that the brewer welcomed the “opportunity to engage with CAMRA in a constructive discussion”​ about the ways in which “industry innovation”​ can help deliver a more sustainable future for the cask ale category in the UK.

“The [cask ale] market has been significantly impacted in recent years, both by the decline in the On Trade, and by changing consumer preferences, with COVID further exacerbating the issue,” ​the spokesperson said.

“Over the past four years, cask has declined by 31%, but we are strongly committed to reinvigorating the category and supporting it to succeed for many generations to come.”

As a result, CMBC said that its ‘Fresh Ale’ was part of a strategy aimed at “supplementing, not supplanting, traditional cask ale”.

“It has been developed to make offering a wide range of great-tasting ales more accessible for publicans who either aren't able to offer cask at all, or who don't have sufficient throughput to have more than one or two cask options on the bar, but who want to offer consumers a greater choice of ales,”​ the CMBC spokesperson continued.

"However, we agree it is important to make the distinction between brewery conditioned ale and cask conditioned ale, and for that reason, we are clearly signposting the difference, at point of purchase, with a pump clip attachment, which states ‘Brewery Conditioned for Freshness’ and includes a QR code leading consumers to a microsite, to learn more about Fresh Ale.”

In other news, vegan protesters were arrested at a Cranswick facility in Watton on 3 April 2024, Norfolk Police has confirmed.

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