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Reuters Reuters Logo
Drinkers take on brewery in beer battle
November 1, 2006

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - Devoted drinkers at a quirky pub have locked horns with a national brewery in a classic consumer battle over their favourite tipple.

Regulars at the Lewes Arms are fans of locally brewed Harveys Best Bitter beer, but pub owner and brewer Greene King, which bought the Lewes Arms in 1998, wants to call time on the regulars' beloved pint.

Passions are running high in the 220-year-old pub in the town of Lewes, once home to radical propagandist Thomas Paine who wrote "The Rights of Man."

A "Save our Harveys" petition has garnered almost 1,000 signatures in the offbeat pub, whose annual attractions range from hosting the world pea-throwing championships to spaniel racing.

The mayor of the town and the local member of parliament have stepped into the fray to back the pub regulars who also won the support of CAMRA -- The Campaign for Real Ale.

"Although Greene King is a good brewer, we think they should allow local choice," CAMRA spokesman Iain Loe told Reuters.

"Harveys has a strong local following and is a prominent feature of the town. It seems to be ridiculous that they (Lewes Arms regulars) are in sight of the brewery but will be unable to drink its beers".

"It is ridiculous the amount of miles across country its beer has to travel to the consumer. Beer miles are as important as food miles," he added.

The pub campaigners argue there are wider issues at stake, such as the degree of redress consumers should have against corporate decisions.

"It is important to make a stand on this issue," said pub campaigner John May. "We have a petition signed by almost 1,000 people. Harveys is drunk by 80 percent of the people who go into the pub. Everyone will leave if it is taken out.

"This has united the whole town. We are encouraged by the huge level of public support," May said.
But Greene King, the 207-year-old producer of Abbot Ale and Old Speckled Hen beers that is based in Suffolk is adamant.

"We do listen to our customers and are continually adapting our businesses according to their tastes and requirements," the company said.

"Of course it is true that you can't please all of the people all of the time, but by making decisions that are right for the business and for the majority of customers in the long term, we usually get the balance right," it added.

But local MP Norman Baker told a local radio station: "It is a totemic thing ... are we going to have the beer we want in a central pub in Lewes, or is the local brewery going to be pushed out by someone who's coming in from a very long way away?"

This story was subsequently republished in (at least) Australia and Jamaica


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