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4th April 2013

Could Simple Tasting Notes Help to Resurrect Real Ale Sales and Save British Pubs?

  • 40% of 18-24 years olds who have never tried real ale say they would try it if simple tasting notes were available at the bar.
  • 1 in 4 drinkers who have never tried real ale say they would give it a go if simple look, smell and taste descriptions were available.
  • 18 pubs close every week in Britain. Total pub beer sales were down by 4.7% in 2012.

According to industry body Cyclops Beer, ‘simplified real ale tasting notes’ at the bar could be one of the solutions to increasing real ale sales in pubs, according to new independent market research launched today.


With 18 pubs closing every week and total beer sales down in pubs by 4.7% in 2012, the pub industry is crying out for new initiatives that will encourage more customers to try beer. Despite real ale holding its own in a declining beer market, more work needs to be done to return the real ale sector to consistent growth.


Key findings released today:


New research shows that 40% of young adults, aged 18-24, who have never tried real ale before would be willing to try it if simple tasting notes explaining what a beer looked, smelt and tasted like were available at the point of sale.


Nearly one quarter (24%) of all drinkers who have never tried real ale would be encouraged by tasting notes to sample it.


Nearly half (48%) of all young drinkers (25-34 years) who drink real ale now on an occasional basis would be encouraged to choose it more frequently if there were simple tasting notes explaining what a real ale looks, smells and tastes like.


40% of women who occasionally drink real ale would also be persuaded by tasting notes to drink it more often. This shows that women who have enjoyed real ale in the past are potentially very strong supporters of this category if only they could have more information at the bar to help make the selection easier.


What are Cyclops Tasting notes?


The Cyclops Beer scheme was originally launched to the trade in 2006 and 244 breweries have had 1475 real ales accredited by the scheme; these can all be viewed at Cyclops tasting notes are designed to demystify beer and help consumers to find their way around the huge variety of tastes, flavours and beer styles, making it easier for them to choose a beer. The tasting notes can be seen on pump clips, blackboards and beer mats around the UK.goers to drink  pub. Simple tasting notes, such as those provided by Cyclops Beer hat a real ale is going to taste like befo


Cyclops tasting notes use descriptions such as “treacle”, “coffee”, “zesty”, “biscuit”, “toffee” and “liquorice” which, at a glance, convey to potential drinkers some of the tastes which they can enjoy from a glass of British ale.

Cyclops Beer is now calling on the industry to push their Cyclops tasting notes to the forefront of their consumer marketing campaigns to encourage more new people to try real ale.


Tony Jerome, Head of Marketing for CAMRA and a founding member of Cyclops Beer said:


“This market research shows a clear opportunity for breweries and pubs to sell more real ale by using Cyclops tasting notes. Choosing a beer can be difficult if you only have the name and ABV to go on, but Cyclops shows you what each real ale will look, smell and taste like, its beer style and how bitter or sweet it is.


“Cyclops is calling today for our tasting notes to be more widely adopted and used in pubs around the UK as the research proves that there is a demand for simple beer descriptions at the bar. Real ale is incredibly varied with a whole host of different styles and tastes. That’s what makes it so exciting, but it can be difficult to choose one that’s right for you if you don’t know what it’s going to taste like. More breweries and pubs need to use Cyclops Beer.”


Cyclops Beer tasting notes will feature at the BeerX run by SIBA at Ponds Forge in Sheffield from March 13th-16th. The “Cyclops Beer Taster” is being run by Cyclops at the BeerX on Friday March 15th. Led by beer sommelier Annabel Smith, a group of consumers will test out the descriptors used by Cyclops, consider how useful and easy to understand these are and will add new descriptors if necessary.


Cyclops launched a new website in 2012 which helps consumers search for real ales, including searching by bitterness or sweetness. Users can search for beers, rate them and the Genius function will recommend more beers based on each individual’s taste profile. Cyclops Beer is launching a new leaflet for consumers on Friday March 15th.


Update from the Cyclops Beer Taster on March 15th

Annabel Smith led a tasting on Friday evening for consumers, ‘Cyclops Beer Taster’ to get feedback on Cyclops descriptors and the scheme itself. The volunteers were consumers who like drinking cask ale but did not consider themselves experts.

Annabel tasted four beers (golden ale, best bitter, IPA and stout) with our volunteers and then invited them to write their own Cyclops tasting notes for these beers. They were given prompts after the first beer as most found this quite difficult. There were no negative comments about the terms which Annabel gave the volunteers and some new taste and aroma terms they came up with were: German markets, sweetshop, fruit salad, smoked meat, wet hay, bonfire and bubble gum.

As well as the tasting our 14 volunteers completed anonymous feedback forms following the session to provide their views on how they currently choose cask ale and their views on Cyclops, some of this demonstrates the benefits of well-trained and engaged bar staff.

Feedback from ‘Cyclops Beer Taster’ volunteers:

  • The majority, 9, viewed real ale as their main drink of choice.
  • The biggest influences on their choice of cask ale at the bar were 1. Pump clip. 2. Staff recommendation and strength of beer.  4. Colour.  5. Familiar brand.
  • Bar Staff were widely considered to have only limited knowledge about cask beer.
  • Conversely bar staff recommendations made the volunteers much more likely to choose a particular brand.
  • The majority believed that the Cyclops scheme was helpful to drinkers, with most volunteers giving it 8 out of 10
  • The majority also believed that Cyclops notes in a pub would encourage them to try a beer, the majority giving this 8 or 9 out of 10.




Notes to Editors:


The market research was carried out by TNS between 22ndFebruary 2013 – 26th February 2013


About Cyclops Beer:


  • Cyclops Beer was established in 2006 by a number of industry bodies. It is run by the Cyclops Beer Board and is a not-for-profit company which invests any surplus into extending understanding and usage of Cyclops Beer tasting notes amongst consumers and the trade.
  • The Cyclops Board consists of Everards Brewery, Cask Marque, SIBA and CAMRA, further information available at
  • Cyclops Beer provides breweries with an independent assessment of their beer by running a full laboratory analysis, including its bitterness and sweetness profile, organising a tasting session and then producing tasting notes and artwork for the brewery’s own use and on the Cyclops website.



For further information:


Louise Ashworth, Ashworth PR & Marketing 07740 844 733,