REAL ale is recognised as the only growing market in the struggling pubs and beer industry and drinkers in East Lancashire are blessed with a myriad of brewers.
But sticking out among a wide range of micro-breweries and craft brewers are the long-established Thwaites and Moorhouse’s.
Both have only recently concentrated more efforts into bottling ales, although Burnley-based Moorhouse’s, in Moorhouse Street, has only been able to produce enough beer to enter the market on a large scale in the past 18 months.
The firm, set up in 1865, opened its new £4.2million brewing complex in May last year, enabling it to massively increase its output.
Moorhouse’s now has a bottled range of five ales. They are Black Cat, Blond Witch, Pendle Witches Brew, Premier Bitter and Pride of Pendle.
Managing director David Grant said since the new facility opened, sales had increased by 400 per cent.
He said: “It is great to see sales up, even though 400 per cent of next to nothing is still not a lot. I was approached a few years ago to bottle ales on a large scale but we only recently had the capacity.
“It is growing and what is great is that Asda and Tesco have taken the brand locally.
“As well as that, we also sell in Morrisons and Booths nationally.”
Mr Grant said that in October, 145 pallets were sold to Morrisons, each containing 112 cases of eight bottles.
Those 129,920 bottles sold out within the month.
He said: “It is a constant frustration of mine when I go to Asda or Tesco and they have sold out. I reckon we could do three or four times as many bottles.
Mr Grant said Moorhouse’s also sold bottles to licensed garden centres and delis, as well as one hairdresser in Yorkshire!
He said: “We also export to America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe.
At Blackburn’s Thwaites, the production capacity has always been there, but only recently has the bottled beer market been tapped.
Brewing director Ian Bearpark started working at the Penny Street brewery in 2003, when just three beers were sold in bottles.
Now, there are seven available at supermarkets in bottles. These are Wainwright, Lancaster Bomber, Nutty Black, Original, IPA, Tavern Porter and Old Dan.
Mr Bearpark said the bottled ale industry was growing.
He said: “We weren’t doing a lot when I first came to Thwaites, but it has increased a great deal. It all started with Wainwright.
“Once it goes in somewhere and people try one, they tend to go back and buy more.
“Some people tell me it is because it is a good story and Wainwright was a real person, but I just think it tastes good.”
Mr Bearpark said brewers at the firm were looking at the possibility of increasing the range.
The Dan Clough taste test
Wainwright (4.1 per cent) Originally brewed as a special edition, this golden ale has a citric refreshing flavour. One could very easily lead to another. 5 out of 5
Nutty Black (3.3 per cent) A very dark mild with, as the name would suggest, a slight flavour of nuts. I’m not a lover of dark beers but you can see why this has been crowned the world’s best dark mild. 4 out of 5
IPA (4.6 per cent) Fresh and crisp, this hoppy pale ale is another refreshing delight from Thwaites that provides a slightly stronger alternative to Wainwright. 4 out of 5
Lancaster Bomber (4.4 per cent) What an English ale should be. Light brown with a toffee aroma and a bitter taste. One of the Thwaites mainstays for a number of years and it is obvious why. 4 out of 5
Premier Bitter (3.7 per cent)
A delicious session beer that is light, smooth and creamy. Heralded by my dad as the ‘best’, and he has tried a lot of ales! 5 out of 5
Black Cat (3.4 per cent) A chocolatey, dark speciality ale. A bit malty for me but, as previously stated, dark ales aren’t my favourite. Can see why this is a popular one among connoisseurs, though. 4 out of 5
Pendle Witches Brew (5.1 per cent) A classic golden ale featuring sweet and citrus flavours. Just above five per cent makes it a bit strong. 4 out of 5
Pride of Pendle (4.1 per cent) Another lovely golden ale with a fruity aroma and a dry, satisfying taste. A classic session ale. 5 out of 5