Scottish & Newcastle - owner of Hereford-based cider maker Bulmers - yesterday said phenomenal sales of Foster's lager and Strongbow cider in the UK boosted annual profits by nearly ten per cent last year.
John Smith's bitter and Kronenbourg 1664 lager also performed well as the UK's largest brewer raised pretax profits from £358 million in 2004 to £392 million in the face of a shrinking beer market.
And the company forecast continued growth in 2006 thanks to the football World Cup in Germany, although it warned its operations were not immune to higher energy costs.
It also warned that the unusually cold winter in Russia had hit sales at Baltic Beverages Holding (BBH), its joint venture with Carlsberg.
However, Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said the results were unlikely to inspire investors.
"Although the results are broadly in line with analyst expectations, investors will not be pleased to s ee cautious comments regarding trading in Russia - a region seen as a key driver of profits going forward," said Mr Bowman.
S&N said the UK performance was the major highlight of the year after sales and profits fell in Europe, particularly in France and Finland. Meanwhile, BBH saw its market share expand 2.1 per cent to 36.3 per cent in Russia.
Chief executive Tony Frog-gatt said: "In the UK we had an outstanding performance against a beer market that declined by about 2.1 per cent.
"We grew market share by 1.1 per cent and our top four brands grew by seven per cent in terms of volume and nine per cent in terms of value.
"Western Europe was tough but really the two markets that did not perform as well as would have liked were France and Finland.
"The others actually performed very well."
Group sales were up 4.1 per cent to £3.93 billion in 2005 and Mr Froggatt forecast continued growth of between three and five per cent this year.
"I think it's more of the same but hopefully we can do it even better," he said.
S&N said trading so far in 2006 was "in line with recent trends" with the exception of Russia, where sales were lower because of the icy winter.
The company said it would continue to focus on cost savings and producing new beers. It recently introduced Strong-bow Sirrus, Kronenbourg Blanc and Foster's Super Chilled, and said such innovation was vital, particularly with the introduction of a smoking ban in England and Wales.
Mr Froggatt said: "We've got the Irish experience to look at. Since the smoking ban was introduced in Ireland, our business Beamish & Crawford has actually grown in sales dramatically.
"We have been able to introduce new brands and new ideas which would appeal to non-smokers coming into that market."