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Kestrel bites back: Lager relaunched with a serious twist

IT enjoyed cult appeal in the 1980s thanks to a series of TV advertisements starring Hugh Laurie and Russ Abbot.

Now after returning to production in Scotland, the lager whose famous catch-phrase was: "It bites" is coming back to our screens.

Drinks industry veteran Nigel McNally wants to capitalise on growing interest in Kestrel Lager with new adverts created by BAFTA-nominated director Tim Harper, which will be seen on TV from Monday.

It is the latest stage in a campaign to revive the brand and introduce it to a new generation begun when Mr McNally's company, Brookfield Drinks, acquired it from Wells and Young's two years ago.

The ads, which cost £1 million-plus, will air on the Comedy Central and MTV channels, between shows such as The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother.

But fans of the Kestrel of old will detect a new direction. Previous campaigns were based on classic beer-ad humour but this one charts the journey of the Kestrel from "loch to brewery", reflecting its ingredients.

Mr McNally said its time for beer to be conveyed more seriously in advertising.

He explained: "A lot of beer advertising tries to use humour. It's about time a premium lager started to talk about how it is brewed and where it is brewed."

Kestrel has not completely abandoned its comedy roots. To promote the brand in golf clubs, Mr McNally has asked golf's governing body The Royal and Ancient (R&A) Golf Club in St Andrews to rename the hole-in-one a Kestrel.

"We've written to the R&A asking them to change their laws," he said. "They're not going to respond very well to that, but it's a long-term campaign, shall we say."

Mr McNally, who is also planning to revive retro cider brands Diamond and Star, acknowledged the role nostalgia has had to play in bringing the brand back.

But he said younger drinkers buying into the craft beer cult are also discovering the brand because of its quality. Kestrel was originally brewed in Scotland, and Mr McNally started making it here again when he bought the brand.

He notes that Kestrel is produced at Tennents Wellpark brewery in Glasgow according to the "holy brewing method": it is fermented for seven days, including the Sabbath, in contrast to the more conventional five.

Only Scottish barley and water is used. "Drinkers these days are very intelligent," Mr McNally said. "They demand to know what's gone into their beer, they demand to know that it's brewed with integrity. They want to know it has got traceability and provenance."

Mr McNally said it was coincidental the advertisements will start in the early stages of the World Cup, a traditional focus for beer promotion, but he says it "certainly helps".

And he refused to rule out bringing back other retro brands: "It's step by-step really," he said.

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