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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Who puts the ooh-la-la in lager?
Photo by Phil Coomes, BBC News Online
Waiting for the Tube, bombarded with adverts

Another lager is hyping its foreign roots in its efforts to appeal to British drinkers. Yet nine out of 10 pints drunk in the UK is brewed in the UK. Why does lager want to be foreign?
Image-conscious British drinkers are prepared to pay for the pleasure of premium lagers from abroad. But that pint of exotic beer is more than likely to be home brew.

Timed to coincide with Bastille Day, the makers of Kronenbourg 1664 have launched a campaign urging Britons to imagine what could be if England was more like France (such as the whole of August as a holiday - if only).

Kronenbourg advert
Vive la vie Reading is more like it
But this lager which claims to embody the French spirit is in fact brewed somewhat closer to the M25 than Marseilles.

Peer at the posters and the bottles, and the small print reads, "Brewed in the UK". For the nation's biggest brewer, Scottish and Newcastle, makes Kronenbourg 1664 in Reading, where it also produces the Australian bevvie, Fosters.

Less than a tenth of the beer drunk in the UK is imported, says Mark Hastings of the British Beer and Pub Association.

Home brew
85% of premium lager is UK-made
As is 100% of standard lager
Euromonitor figures
"It's important that beer reaches the consumer in as fresh and young a state as possible, so it makes sense to brew it locally."

With 27 million pints sold in the UK a day, shipping the quantities required would put a strain on companies' finances and the environment.

Reassuringly, er, British

Thus Carlsberg Export - tagline "so good the Danes hate to see it leave" - is brewed in Northampton, a far cry from Copenhagen. Japan's Kirin, India's Cobra and Jamaica's Red Stripe are all produced in Bedford.

Stella soldier
Stella Artois: Even the ads are in French
Stella Artois is made in south Wales. The all-American brew Budweiser and the quintessential Irish drop Guinness are both produced in London, in Mortlake and Park Royal respectively.

All are made to exacting standards - sometimes under the watchful eye of a master brewer from the country of origin - to ensure that the finished product is as close to the original as possible. Brewers may import the hops, malt and yeast; and the water, which makes up 95% of beer, is treated to match that in the country of origin.

In some cases, the UK brew is superior, says Iain Lowe of the Campaign for Real Ale.

"The Kingfisher lager you drink here is often better than that in India, because the temperature fluctuations there make it difficult to brew a standardised product."

Branding beer

What with it being the height of summer (yes, really) and lager being an ideal drink for warm weather, the brewers are in the midst of a concerted marketing push.

Helena Christensen holds a bottle of Carlsberg
One of these Danish exports is UK-made
And in a cut-throat market such as this, where the brand heralds from - its country of origin - is the main point of difference.

Kronenbourg's posters feature all the accoutrements of a naughty weekend in St Tropez; Danes try to stop a lorry-load of Carlsberg from leaving the country; a robot dog behaves badly after supping Fosters; and an English footie fan laps up the true-brewed-Brit lager Carling.

"From the very moment that lager was introduced, it was advertised on the basis of its heritage. It's the taste of that country being sold as much as the taste of the beer," says Mr Hastings.

Earlier campaigns featured Viking-helmeted Skol drinkers while Carlsberg used the tagline "brewed by Danes in England". And Becks played up the fact that it was one of the few European lagers to actually be brewed on the continent rather than in the UK.

British beach
Summer seems a long time coming this year
Mr Hastings says well-travelled Britons are returning home with a taste for foreign-branded beer.

"Just as you can recreate the paella you had in Spain on your return to the UK, brewers can recreate the beer you drank while on holiday."

And with British weather the way it is, a frosty glass of a sunshine-coloured lager may be the closest thing to summer this year.

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02 Aug 01 | Business
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