Thirst for real ale means more craft beers than at any time since 1945

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Some conjure up images of magic, such as Merlin, or Pendle Witches Brew, named after the 17th-century Lancashire witchcraft trials. Others, such as Boadicea Chariot Ale, ackknowledge historic figures, or the local landscape, such as Hawkshead's Lakeland Gold or Exmoor Dar. Some poke fun at their alcoholic properties: Comfortably Numb, anyone?

But whatever they're called, according to a new a guide, Britain now has more craft beers than at any time since the Second World War. More than 70 new small brewers have opened in the past year, according to 2009 Camra Good Beer Guide published today. Such is the proliferation that the UK now has 550 breweries – more than at any point since 1945. And while lager sales are falling, with a 10 per cent plunge for the leading lager Stella Artois, bitter brewed by members of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) rose 11 per cent in 2007.

Among the successes, Camra singled out Wye Valley in Herefordshire, which started life as a brew-pub and is now producing close to 20,000 barrels a year. Among its beers are Hereford Pale Ale and Dorothy Goodbody's Wholesome Stout.

Moorhouse's of Burnley – brewer of Witches Brew – is building a new brewery capable of producing 40,000 barrels a year by 2010. Bill Parkinson has invested £3m in the brewery since he rescued it from closure in 1987, after sampling a pint at a business lunch.

Camra also pointed to the continued success of Timothy Taylor of Keighley, West Yorkshire, which brews Madonna's favourite beer, Landlord, and in which a total of £10m has been invested in new brewing capacity in the past decade.

"These success stories show that drinkers are moving in droves to full-flavoured beers in preference to bland global lagers," said Roger Protz, editor of The Good Beer Guide. "In particular, more and more consumers are concerned with how beers are made and the ingredients used. They prefer beers made and sold locally rather than driven thousands of miles.

"The success of craft brewing really fits the green, carbon-conscious attitudes of modern consumers."

Meanwhile, Camra has called on the Government to prevent supermarkets undercutting pubs with cut-price offers on lager and bitter. Last week the British Beer and Pub Association warned that pub closures were at a record level, after rising to 36 a week.

Since 2002 the price of shop-bought beer has fallen by 7 per cent while pub prices were up 24 per cent.