Guinness, one of the world's biggest brewers and best known for its stout, is launching a new cask-conditioned ale, called Harwood's Porter - the first such ale to be produced in the 60-year history of the Park Royal Brewery in West London.
According to What's Brewing, the newspaper for the Campaign for real ale pressure group, Harwood's Porter will be 5.2 per cent alcohol and will go on sale in March.
The beer will be sold as a Tapster's Choice guest ale by Carlsberg-Tetley, the joint brewing group owned by Allied Domecq and Carlsberg of Denmark.
The new brew is named after Ralph Harwood, a publican in the Shoreditch area of London, who invented it in 1722 and saw it catch on with porters in the local markets, hence the name.
Traditional Guinness still accounts for most of the output of Park Royal, but it also brews Harp lager, Enigma premium lager, alcohol-free Kaliber and Guinness bitter in a can.
Roger Protz, the head of the real ale campaigners, has endorsed the new product and predicts that unlike many test launches it will stay the course and Guinness will market it nationwide.
Guinness killed off its bottle-conditioned Original Stout four years ago just as taste was turning in favour of dark beers like Beamish, brewed in Cork, and Murphy's, which is produced by Whitbread, and is unlikely to make the same mistake again, Mr Protz claims.
Whitbread meanwhile is test-marketing Hurley's Irish-style keg beer in 25 of its pubs. It will be brewed at the Castle Eden brewery in Durham, and is intended to compete with the highly successful Caffrey's ale launched this year by Bass, and with Kilkenny, which Guinness brews in Ireland. Greene King is testing Wexford Irish Ale which will be brewed at Bury St Edmunds.
The new ales will help offset a gradual decline in low-volume niche brands available to the consumer.
Losses include specialist ales from local brewers and experimental ales which fail to pass marketing tests. Bass for example is discontinuing a number of premium brands including Bass Distinction and the Black Dove bottled ale, which failed to find sufficient acceptance.
Whitbread is to discontinue seven beers aimed at the take-home trade including Newquay Steam Bitter, Whitbread Light Ale in cans, Whitbread Pale Ale in large cans and bottles, and Mackeson's Stout in returnable pint bottles.
On the plus side the latest Good Beer Guide lists 347 micro-breweries including 57 new ones in the previous 12 months alone.