Beery good

The traditional pint is being given a run for its money by continental-style beers with a dash of fruit or spirits. Strawberry, raspberry and even cherry beers have become so popular that they are now the fastest-growing area of the UK beer market. According to market research group AC Nielsen, in the last year sales of flavoured beers have grown by 80 per cent.

According to Marston's Premium Bottled Ale Report, flavoured beers account for only 12 per cent of the traditional PBA market, which is worth about `A3 470 million. In the UK, the market has traditionally been a niche one, dominated by imports from the continent. Classic Belgian Kriek beers known as lambics and fermented with wild yeast and cherries for extra flavour have been made since the early 20th century and are renowned for their distinctive "sour" taste.

But UK brewers are recognising its potential, helping supermarkets to increase their ranges for drinking at home. Edinburgh-based Innis and Gunn turned the beer world on its head when it launched the world's first oak-aged beer in 2003 and has since added its Melville range of strawberry and raspberry beers.Melville's is based on a brewed lager made of 100 per cent malted barley, hops, yeast and water, which is blended with cold-pressed juice made from berries grown in Perthshire, Fife and Angus. Oxfordshire-based Wychwood also recently introduced Snake's Bite (made with cider apples) and Forest Fruits (made with mixed berries), following growing customer demand for fruit-flavoured and thirst-quenching drinks.

Two years ago Tesco stocked just four flavoured beers but now it sells 16 with sales trebling during that period. ANI