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24 December, 2011

Ale will be this year’s surprise drink at the Christmas dinner table

More Brits than ever before will be drinking ale with their Christmas dinner judging by record high street sales this week.

In the last two days, Tesco, which is Britain’s biggest off licence, has sold a record 500,000 bottles of ale, the highest amount it has ever sold just before Christmas. The sales are 65 per cent higher than for the same time last year.

Demand for ale has continued to grow for the last few years as younger Brits switch to a tipple that not long ago was still considered the preserve of older male drinkers. A major factor driving sales is growing interest in the beer as an accompaniment to food. The growing popularity and availability of ale in pubs is another key factor boosting sales at retail level.

Tesco ale buyer Kathryn Clarke said: “More people than ever before now drink ale with their meals and the trend has helped drive sales to their highest level since the pre-lager days of the 1950s.

“Sales of bottled ales have been growing steadily for the last few years but this is by far the highest demand we have ever seen in Christmas week which would indicate that people will be drinking it with their roast turkey. Ale has now become as acceptable to drink along with a good meal as wine and is a particularly popular tipple in gastro pubs along with a good Sunday roast.

“The general quality of ales has improved so much that they offer drinkers with a cultured palate the same degree of sophistication and regional taste they get from a fine wine.”

Tesco beer experts have matched up which type of ale to accompany favourite Christmas dinner table foods:

- - Fish – Drink light ales to bring out delicate fish flavours.  A recommendation is Castle Rock Harvest Pale Ale (CAMRA Champions Beer Of Britain 2010) (3.5%ABV)

- - Turkey and goose – Malty ales work best to add to the fuller flavour of these birds. Suggested matches are Fullers London Pride (4.7% ABV) or Marstons Pedigree (5%ABV)

- - Christmas pudding – Rich porters work well with berry puddings. Recommended is Alice Porter (6.4% ABV)

- - Cheese - Mild cheeses – Light ales accompany y cheeses perfectly. Try Eagle IPA.

- Strong cheeses – Full bodied ales marry up perfectly with strong Cheddars. Recommended is Hobgoblin which has a strong flavour.

- Mature /Blue cheeses – Aged ales have great depth and flavour and are best to cut through the strong mature cheeses. Recommended is Old Tom which was voted the world’s best ale in 2009. However, this is a strong ale at 8.4%ABV and should be sipped like a good port.

Ale has been one of the great success stories in the UK drinks industry recently and in the last five years Tesco has increased its selection from just 20 in 2006 to 350 brews now. Since April the supermarket has sold a staggering 30 million bottles of ale compared with 16 million for the same time period in 2010.

Sales reveal that the ales most likely making it onto Christmas dinner tables this year are Old Speckled Hen, Newcastle Brown Ale, Theakstons Old Peculiar, Fullers London Pride, and Badger Fursty Ferret.