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Must Read: Britons reeling from crisis, but few crying into their beer

LONDON - Britons may be reeling from the international financial crisis, but few are crying into their beer.

Beer sales are falling as the economy worsens, defying predictions in some quarters that consumers would buy their brew at supermarkets to escape higher prices at pubs.

The British Beer and Pub Association reported Monday that total beer sales fell about 7 percent in the third quarter - the equivalent of 161 million fewer pints compared with the same period in 2007.

Sales of the iconic British pint in pubs have been in decline for years, leading to the closure of thousands of hostelries around the country.

Now the association's Quarterly Beer Barometer reveals that the downturn has broadened to supermarket sales.

'The accelerating decline in beer sales is a clear sign of a worsening economy, worried households and weakening spending,' said Rob Hayward, the association's chief executive.

Supermarket and liquor store sales fell 6 percent between July and September compared with the same period last year, slightly behind the 8.1 percent drop recorded for pubs, bars and restaurants.

From the sidewalk cafes of Paris to the beer cellars of Berlin, there are signs Europeans are drinking less.

Sales of French champagne dipped 2.6 percent in the first eight months of the year, according to figures from champagne winegrowers' committee CIVC.

Gerard Laloi, who heads a group that represents France's bar owners, said beer sales have been falling since January, with bar beer sales down 12 percent in the first nine months of 2008, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Laloi blamed the decline on a smoking ban that took effect in bars and restaurants on Jan. 1, as well as on the economic downturn.

Germany's brewers sold just under 11 billion pints of beer in the first six months of this year - before the crisis took hold, but amid growing economic concern in the wake of the U.S. subprime meltdown. That was a decline of 1.7 percent from the first half of 2007.