I played at a fundraiser in the Southport Railwaymen's Club in Sussex Road recently. They had two cask beers on: Tetley Bitter and Bombardier. I didn't try the Tetley, but the Bombardier was fine. It's good that a social club is stocking real ale - my grouse when I used to go to the Labour Club was that it only had Federation keg beers on - but it's interesting how it came about. I was having a chat with the steward and she told me that they'd begun to serve real ale solely because of demand by their members. Tetley's was first on, but then they began to stock a changing guest as well. They found by trial and error that their members prefer brown, nutty beers - the kind of beer that 'discerning' real ale drinkers tend to turn up their noses at nowadays. Apparently golden beers haven't gone down so well, not even those from our local Southport Brewery, and the two real ales now outsell the other beers.
The preferences of these drinkers may cut across what's innovative or fashionable, but they definitely know what they want, and good luck to them. It's worth remembering that most real ale drinkers aren't much interested in experimenting, and even when they do, they often prefer to have a familiar ale to fall back on. Not everyone wants to be slapped in the face by their drink, to pinch Meer For Beer's lively metaphor. The reason why the brown beers are still brewed in such quantities is simply because plenty of people still like drinking them.
People who don't want innovation and experimentation are no less real ale drinkers than people who rejoice over the latest golden brew made with a carefully selected blend of hops from several different countries, with who-knows-what size of carbon footprint (dray print?).
This is a nice example of customer power at work in the beer world and, for a change, succeeding.