BEER drinkers are key to the survival of the pub, but often they appear to be forgotten by the big brewers and pub companies.

That is why pressure groups such as the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) were formed.

Like many towns across the country, Bolton has an active CAMRA group, with about 400 members.

Bolton CAMRA secretary Graham Walsh said: “It is estimated that nationally, 25 pubs close every week.

“On-trade beer volumes declined by 7.8 per cent in 2010. Beer is the national drink and served at its best in pubs, so there is certainly a link between the loss of pubs and the decline in beer sales.

“Supermarkets offer cheap deals and loss-leaders on beer and many people now ‘front-load’ with this cheap alcohol at home before going on a night out.

“And much of the increasing cost for beer drinkers has come from the 35 per cent increase in beer duty over the past three years.

“Pub companies are a major factor in accelerating the loss of pubs. A number of reports over the past seven years have shown that their licensees are forced to pay inflated wholesale prices for a limited range of beers and that they are often tied into long-term excessive rents.

“The limited commercial freedoms of tied pubs results in them being twice as likely to close as those free-of-tie.

“This leads, in large part, to the constantly changing landlords in some pubs, resulting in a downward spiral of low level of commitment and service, a poor product and declining custom.”

Mr Walsh said continuing campaigning by groups such as CAMRA culminated in a recent report by the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee, which recommended that a statutory code of conduct should be put in place to ensure pub companies reform their practices and offer free-of-tie options and rent reviews.

CAMRA is lobbying to ensure that the recommendations of the committee are put in place by the Government — although the pub companies are opposed to the idea, and suggest it could lead to more closures.

They also agree that high taxes have played a large part in the industry’s decline.

CAMRA’s view is that pubs are a community resource that can provide both a responsible drinking environment and a place for social cohesion.

A good pub can help to revive an area and attract other businesses, while a run-down or closed pub could detract investment.

Mr Walsh said: “Cask ale has certainly helped to revive parts of the pub trade when combined with the passion and commitment to quality service by a secure landlord or pub manager.

“There are approximately 7.8 million cask ale drinkers in the UK and, compared to other drinkers, they are more likely to go to the pub.

“Bolton CAMRA Pub of the Year, the Bank Top Brewery Tap, has shown that a range of quality cask ales served to a high standard in a comfortable setting can be the basis of a successful pub business.

“The key is to have a pub business which is in touch with its regular custom and is part of the community.”