For the smaller breweries that real ale fans tend to prefer, the increases in malt and hop prices are the biggest worry. Sales of well-crafted cask ales have held up well within the massive fall in overall beer sales (which includes keg and lager); the total beer market has fallen by 22% since 1979 with pub beer sales down a huge 49% in the same period, as more people drink at home. Today's pubs are therefore selling 14 million fewer pints per day.

On the materials front, one micro-brewer has produced scary figures to back up the crisis claim. Malt prices have increased for the new season's crop by an average of £135 per tonne, or 23%. The hop position is considerably worse with price rises of up to £10.20 per kg, or 262%; this follows poor harvests and, in America, the destruction of many acres of hop vine to grow bio-fuel crops.

The consequence, our brewer friend says, is that his production cost per firkin has risen by £4.72 which equals 6.94p per pint. Once that's been sold to the pub and the normal operating gross profit of 60% plus VAT has been added, the increase comes to 20.39p at the pump!

So the gloomy outlook is for both a glut of brewery closures and more expensive beer - unless, of course, the Government can be persuaded to act, hence CAMRA's campaign.