The move is a significant one for the American brewer’s UK arm, whose previous incarnation, Coors Brewers, all but abandoned the ale market in favour of a lager marketing strategy in the early 2000s.
In February 2004 Molson Coors UK chief executive Mark Hunter, then marketing director of Coors, predicted ale would be 72% smaller than in 1980 and said nine out of 10 beers sold in the off-trade would be lagers by 2008.
Since then, the company has done a U-turn and championed speciality beers in the form of Kasteel Cru and Blue Moon, put investment into ale brands including Worthington White Shield, and led moves to bring women into the beer market through its Bittersweet Partnership.
It also relaunched the Caffreys keg and canned ale brand last year.
Sharp’s was founded in 1994 and has won acclaim for its modern twists on traditional British beer styles, building its Doom Bar into a major force in the cask ale market in the southern half of England.
Hunter said Doom Bar had “the potential to become a truly extraordinary brand”.
Sharp’s managing director Nick Baker added: “It was important to us to know how Molson Coors will manage Sharp’s and its plan to invest in developing the brewery and the Doom Bar brand is spot on.”?Molson Coors rival AB Inbev said it had no plans to invest significantly in the ale market, in which it owns the Boddingtons and Bass brands which receive little marketing support.
Stuart MacFarlane, president of AB Inbev UK, said: “I don’t think the ale category is something we’ll be coming back into in the next 12 months.”