Coolest beer drinkers opt for ring-pulls

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The Independent Online
FIRST it was real ale. Then bottles of lager with bits of fruit stuffed in the top. Now the ring-pull has become the essential pub accessory.

Slurping lager and cider straight from the can - usually associated with down-and-outs and other street drinkers - has become the height of fashion in many of Britain's bars.

Brewers are cashing in on the growing can culture by deliberately targeting certain canned drinks, especially lager from Australia and the United States, at youngsters.

The trend in tins has also caught on among businessmen and women.

In northern cities, such as Newcastle, it has become so popular that in some pubs there are separate sections that only sell cans and bottles.

Landlords are delighted with the trend; the drinks cost the same, but they save on washing up and broken glasses. Also, no one has yet been seriously hurt by being smashed over the head with an empty aluminium can.

Among the top tinned drinks are Red Stripe (Jamaican lager), Budweiser (American lager), Woodpecker cider, Foster's and Victoria Bitter (Australian lagers). More exotic lagers from places such as Tasmania and Japan are currently coming on the market.

Steve Philpott, marketing director of Whitbread, said: 'Certain brands have images that are ideal for pubs and bars. Australian and American beers have a rugged, outdoor image. Drinking out of a can is part of that image - a lot of the drinking experience is the idea that you are taking part in someone else's culture.'

Whitbread is currently market-testing a new Australian lager, Toohey's Export, which is being sold in cans in pubs throughout London.

Mr Philpott added that drinking straight from bottles was still far more popular than from cans.

Cans of Victoria Bitter, known as VB, have recently gone on sale, along with Red Stripe, at the Harvey Floorbangers pub in Islington, a fashionable area of north London. Karen Goodhew, the manager, said: 'They're very successful. The majority of people drink them out of cans - it's not cool and trendy to drink out of a glass. Even the girlies drink out of cans now. We ask people whether they want a glass, but it's not the done thing.

'It's most popular with people aged from the early twenties to mid-thirties. We get in quite a large business crowd who all go for the cans and bottles.'

Finishing his fourth can of VB, John, 28, who works for a publishing company in north London, said: 'I've been to Australia and got a taste for this lager. It doesn't quite remind me of the great open plains and wild outback, but it brings back good memories. I think it tastes better from a can as well.'

Shaun, another can consumer, added: 'I'm not sure about bits of lime in your beer, but I like the idea of drinks straight from their container - it's kind of cool and natural.'

His friend, Heather, 24, was not so sure. 'It's bloody stupid coming to a pub and ending up drinking out of a tin. You might just as well go to the off-licence and save yourself some money. I suppose now at least it's trendy to hang around street corners getting pissed.'

At the Pig and Whistle in the centre of Newcastle, the can and bottle counter was doing brisk business as usual on Friday night. Tom Carrick, the manager, said: 'Cans and bottles are a real trend here at the moment - we're doing great business from it.

'The young ones like doing a circuit of the bars and taking their drinks with them. Part of it is obviously the image - it's seen as fairly cool I suppose.'

In Glasgow a canned Mexican beer, Tecate, is being marketed by encouraging drinkers to squeeze lime over the lid of the opened tin before sprinkling salt around the lip.

Oddbins, the wine and beer retailer, is expanding its canned lagers to include Boags from Tasmania and Eagle Blue from Australia.

Katie MacAulay, the company's spokeswoman, said: 'It's not really about the receptacle. It's the image that's important. Australia and America have a young cool image.

'Drinking from a can is seen as casual and in some way worldly.'