folk club, as an alternative to the usual Thwaites Bomber. It proved very popular with most real ale drinkers there, and the Bomber eventually disappeared for good. It's a pleasant golden ale, named after Alfred Wainwright, author of the famous walking guidebooks, and while it's by no means my favourite, it's quite acceptable and rather better than many of the bland pale offerings some regionals produce. Since its launch, I have been increasingly seeing it all over the place, and it was even a guest beer when I went into a pub in London a few weeks ago (and a pound more than I'm used to paying here in Merseyside). According to Thwaites, it is now the fastest growing top 25 cask ale in the UK and a Top 20 premium bottled ale in the off trade. In short, it's becoming very popular.
I was therefore slightly concerned to read that Thwaites intends to make Wainwright a Top 10 ale in the UK over the next three years beginning with a £2 million investment across the on and off trade. Playing on the brand name’s obvious association with walking and the outdoors, a new slogan "A Breath of Fresh Ale" has been devised. A Thwaites Wainwright Pub Walks App has been created to cross Thwaites' list of Wainwright stockists with Cask Marque's 8000 pubs so you can get pub walks straight on your smartphone. Thwaites will also push the beer through sports sponsorships.
Perhaps I'm being too cautious and should welcome a regional brewery investing heavily in a real ale, but I can't help thinking about other local or regional beers that became national and lost much of their character, such as Boddingtons, Ruddles County or Deuchars IPA. Perhaps times have changed and they can increase sales (or should that be "grow the brand"?) without any loss of quality. I hope so, but as the good Doctor once said, "Time will tell - it always does."