In Depth

Follow the bear: Hofmeister brings George out of hibernation

The Bear returns to shelves after a 13-year sleep

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It's been one of the longest hibernations ever, but 13 years after he was put out to grass, George the bear is back – but this time, he's promoting a quality Bavarian Helles lager.

George was the porkpie hat-wearing character who, in the 1980s, promoted Hofmeister, the low-alcohol, low-flavour lager.

UK advertising laws saw him disappear from our TV screens, while the lager itself was withdrawn from the market in 2003, as drinkers turned towards the likes of Stella Artois and Kronenbourg 1664.

But now, both he and Hofmeister have returned with impressive makeovers.

"Everyone remembers the slogan 'Follow the Bear.' They all smile and say it wherever we go," Hofmeister's new co-chief executive Spencer Chambers, tells Portfolio at the exclusive central London launch of the reborn lager. "He's so loved. It felt right to bring back the brand."

Chairman Andrew Marsden said: "People remember George the Bear with great affection. However, times have moved on and so we are bringing back a more grown up brand which resonates with modern craft beer drinkers whilst still retaining the spirit of George."

The original Hofmeister was a UK-brewed, 3.2 per cent ABV lager with a flavour to match - very much the standard of its time. To bring it up-to-date, the team went to the home of brewing – Bavaria.

They tried out several makers – "We had to test a lot," says Spencer, smiling – before finding their perfect match in the family-owned Schweiger brewery, which has been making beer for four generations.

To create a truly premium offering, it is brewed in compliance with the Reinheitsgebot regulations, the German beer purity law that dates back to 1516 and stipulates beer can only be made from only three ingredients: water, barley and hops.

"We wanted to make sure it was brewed according to those rules and put George back into a Bavarian forest," Spencer's co-chief executive, Richard Longhurst, said.

The process is also environmentally friendly - the brewery malts its own locally grown barley in the malthouse, while the hops come from the neighbouring Hallertau region. As for the water, that starts in an underground lake beneath the Ebersberg Forest and is drawn from the brewery well.

"It's an authentic Helles lager," says Spencer.

The result is a slow-brewed easy-to-drink lager with a light carbonation that the team are confident will prove popular with the sophisticated palettes of UK drinkers following the growth of craft beer.

Spencer adds: "People moved away from Hofmeister because they wanted authentic foreign lagers brewed abroad. Now many of those are brewed in the UK – and we're the ones brewing in Bavaria."

Hofmeister is now available in pubs around the UK and will be available to order on Amazon later this month.

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