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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:-   31 July 2006

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WHAT'S really import-ant to the new breed of Lager Connoisseurs?  The ‘lager lout’ may be the UK’s most infamous export, but this negative image is rapidly losing ground to a new breed of discerning British drinker – the ‘Lager Connoisseur’, accounting for 7% of drinkers in the North West of England, who consciously seeks out stronger, imported beers over those brewed here under licence.

A survey of 2,500 British drinkers conducted by Dutch brewer Bavaria Beer revealed that the Lager Connoisseur does not necessarily fall into the so-called ‘Metrosexual’ stereotype living in London and working in PR or the media.  Indeed, most falling into the new breed are as likely to come from Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester or Newcastle as they are from London. They are also as likely to work in manufacturing and industry as the media. What they do have in common is the fact that they like their beer to be genuinely imported to reflect their changing palates.

The image was helped by the impeccable behaviour of English fans at this summer’s World Cup in Germany with positive TV images of drinkers enjoying the local brews shoulder to shoulder with rival supporters.

The beer survey of men and women identified an emerging group of drinkers who seek out the new lagers and beers, eschewing the mass-market brands for quality, taste and credibility. This group of drinkers is as prevalent as the higher-profile real ale enthusiast with ‘Lager Connoisseurs’ accounting for seven per cent of drinkers in the North West of England, which is equivalent to one group in every 20.  But this figure is expected to grow because the typical Lager Connoisseur is most likely to be aged 18-24, and has been identified as an ‘early-adopter’ and a far more influential member of the wider group of friends, suggesting they could convert more to the cult of the quality imported lager.

They are less likely to be influenced by what their friends are drinking and prefer to sample the exotic taste of imported beer at their local or a country pub rather than a trendy urban night spot.  Almost 60%  of the 18 to 24 year olds in the sample prefer an Italian or Indian meal over a slap up British dish while most of the older Lager Connoisseurs (25 to 34 year olds) would choose Vietnamese, a figure supported by supplementary questioning on their choice of holiday locations.

Most Lager Connoisseurs enjoy an adventurous streak opting for more exotic ‘Rough Guide’ back-packer holidays – the so-called ‘Expedia Jet Setters’ - because they enjoy exploring something new. At the more sedate 55+ end of the market, Lager Connoisseurs prefer the back drop of luxury urban weekend breaks to enjoy their beer.

“The sample looked at a wide range of different types of drinker and their accompanying lifestyles to see what patterns, if any, emerged,” says Sarah Swainson, marketing manager of Bavaria beer.  “We do love our beer, but the real ale enthusiast as depicted by CAMRA, is being joined at the top table by this new generation of connoisseurs who are their own person when it comes to being defined by what they drink. As early adopters, they are more likely to influence their peers who similarly may be growing tired of the same old beers and want to take their tongues on an overseas odyssey. They can tell the difference between the genuine article and what is brewed in the UK under license,” she adds.

Take a dip into the past

THE LORD MAYOR of Liverpool will be guest of honour as Garston swimming pool celebrates an historic landmark.  It is exactly 100 years since the first foundation stone was laid for the baths on 27 July 1906, and a special day of events will make sure everyone can join the party.  There will be free swimming for all from 7.15am - 9am and prizes will be given out, from vouchers to sports gear to kit bags, for every 50th customer.

The Lord Mayor will be joined for the official celebrations by people young and old, who have enjoyed and contributed to the leisure centre over the years, including members of Garston Historical Society and Garston Community Council.  And children from Garston swimming club will give guests a special treat with a centenary celebration swimming exhibition.

Lord Mayor, Councillor Joan Lang, said:- "What a special day this is for the whole Garston community - to celebrate 100 years of a resource that has produced generations of great swimmers as well as providing a focal point for community groups.  The original swimming baths may have made way for the modern leisure centre Garston has today, but many, many wonderful memories remain. I'm delighted to be joining the party and helping members of the local community celebrate this historic landmark."

Garston Swimming Club was formed in 1908, one year after the official opening of the baths in 1907. It produced a number of successful swimmers during the 1920s, many of whom competed at national and Olympic level. In the 1920 Olympic Games, three members of Garston Swimming Club - Grace McKenzie, Charlotte Radcliffe and Hilda James - won silver in the 4x100 metres freestyle relay.

Its most famous former member is the legendary Austin Rawlinson, who joined the club in 1914. Dubbed "The Wonder Man of British Swimming," Austin is remembered for introducing the alternating arm backstroke to Britain and Europe and was champion of England five times from 1921 to 1926.  He came 5th in the final of the 100 metres backstroke at the Paris Olympic Games in 1924, where he swam against the world-famous Johnny Wiessmuller of Tarzan fame. He went on to become a life member of Garston Swimming Club and was its president for over 40 years.  After his years in active competition, Austin held just about every administrative and officiating position in the hallowed Amateur Swiming Association (ASA), and was awarded the OBE in 1961 for his services to swimming.

Facilities Manager Derek Weston said:- "Although the original baths on Speke Road have been replaced by our 21st century Lifestyles Centre, we must never forget the vital role the baths played in shaping a successful swimming tradition and serving the whole community throughout the 20th century.  Our centenary celebrations will make for an unforgettable day at the leisure centre - a chance for us to take a dip into the past, but also to look forward to the next 100 years."

Garston swimming baths were officially opened by the then Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Mr J. Japp, on 23 August 1907. The baths, erected by the Liverpool Corporation, went on to become a valuable community facility for thousands of people.  When the baths came to the end of their useful life 92 years later, the foundation stone was saved to be mounted in the new, 21st century Garston Lifestyles Centre, Long Lane.

Work started on the new £6m leisure centre on 3 November 1999 with Austin Rawlinson, then 96, as guest of honour. The new Garston leisure centre and swimming baths opened in December 2000, with the rededication of the original foundation stone taking place in May 2004.

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