After a review of its brand portfolio, Scottish Courage, the beer division of Scottish & Newcastle, is axing a number of its underperforming lager brands, including Hofmeister, made famous in the UK by its "Follow the bear" advertising.

The cull, initially in the off trade, will also include McEwan's, Kestrel and Courage Light. And although Kestrel Super and McEwan's Export would remain in the line up, Scottish Courage said it would continue to review its portfolio in the next year.

The cuts are being made in the face of falling sales as UK consumers continue to turn their backs on lower end brands in favour of more premium and often foreign lagers.

Scottish Courage said that while Hofmeister sales had plummeted to just 4,000 barrels a year, or just over 1m pints, sales of its Foster's brand had soared 30%. The reduction in the number of brands it handles will also allow it to focus more keenly on its larger products.

A spokesman for Scottish Courage said: "It's a case of falling demand and the rise of premium beers."