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Handpump hijack

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Big brewers’ plan to mislead consumers

For generations, a handpump on the bar has been a sign of quality. Where cask is well kept, consumers can be sure of a spotless cellar, well-trained bar staff and a commitment to offering the best of UK brewing.

Now, Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company – one of the world’s largest brewery conglomerates – has resorted to misleading consumers by hijacking the handpump to serve its “Fresh Ale” product. CMBC says this is “preserving the beloved hand pull ritual that delivers the traditional theatre of serve that ale is famed for”.  

CAMRA believes consumers deserve better than CMBC play acting at serving cask – a product they claim to champion while closing breweries and removing cask lines from bars. Our handpump hijack campaign calls on brewers to be proud of all their whole range of beers by serving them in a way that won’t mislead their customers.

What is ‘Fresh Ale’?

One of the factors that makes cask unique is that it doesn’t leave the brewery as a finished product. Instead, the conditioning that completes the brewing process is done at the pub, and relies on the skills, timing and experience of the staff and licensee.

On the other hand, most beers, including lagers, some kegged beers, and ‘Fresh Ale’ are ready to drink when they leave the brewery. These beers have a longer shelf life, and can be easier to serve.

Brewers often make both these types of beer, and CAMRA believes they should market them accordingly, so consumers know what they’re getting. ‘Fresh Ale’ is not a cask beer, and hijacking a handpump to sell it as if it was is unfair and misleading to pub-goers.

What has CAMRA done so far?

CAMRA has written to National Trading Standards and Trading Standards Scotland asking for an investigation into the products, and whether the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations have been breached. It’s hoped that Trading Standards bodies across Great Britain will take coordinated national action to address this misleading practice. 

So what’s next?

This is just the start of the campaign. CAMRA will keep the pressure on brewers who are part of this handpump hijack.  

So far, CMBC has three beers in their ‘Fresh Ale’ range. They are Wainwright Gold, Wainwright Amber and Hobgoblin IPA. At least one other brewer that has launched a ‘Fresh Ale’ product designed to look like a cask beer at the bar.  

Consumers can help by:

  1. Let us know if you come across ‘Fresh Ale’ in your local. You can do this by using the ‘Send an email to the CAMRA branch’ button at the bottom of the relevant WhatPub venue page to alert your local branch.
  2. Send us photos of ‘Fresh Ale’ pump clips.  We need to find examples! Email or tag us on social media.
  3. If in doubt, Ask if it’s Cask. We need consumers to make licensees aware of the issue of misleading dispense and explain why you won’t be buying it.


Find out more

Browse the links below to learn more about cask, and how CAMRA campaigns to save it.

If you’re a member, head to our Campaigns Hub to find the campaign toolkit and get involved with calls to end the Handpump Hijack directly.

dandelion pub beer being pulled
Cask beer being dispensed from a handpump. Photo credit Matt Curtis