ALE Summer 1998 No. 291

Brewery News

The local CAMRA branch recently enjoyed a trip to the country's oldest brewery, Elgoods of Wisbech. As always we were made very welcome at the 200 year-old building on the banks of the Nene, and enjoyed an amusing and instructive tour at the hands of the Head Brewer, Alan Pateman. Traipsing round a brewery is thirsty work, so the generous offerings of Black Dog Mild, Cambridge Bitter and Golden Newt at the end of our trek were not unwelcome.

There was also a chance to explore the glorious four-acre garden which has been restored to its Victorian splendour. The lake is home to a colony of Great Crested Newts from which the latest Elgoods beer takes its name.

Elgoods are now offering brewery tours to the general public - 2.30, Wed. to Friday until 27 Sept. The 4 charge includes a tasting and access to the gardens.

Nethergate's new brew, Augustinian Ale (4.8%) is proving another winner in and around Cambridge. This beer commemorates the first establishment in Britain of the Augustinian Order in Clare 750 years ago. About 30 of these Priories were doing their good work when the Dissolution of the Monastries caused many of the brethren to flee to Ireland. Many of these Irish Priories survive today. Is this a good excuse to export some decent ale to Ireland?

Proud Lion shot by Money-grubbers

Hard on the heels of the news regarding Whitbread's intention to close breweries at Castle Eden and Cheltenham, plus Morland's closure of Ruddles at Oakham, is the disturbing news that Oxford-based Morrells is to sell its estate. The 132 pubs are likely to be sold as a going concern; the city centre Lion Brewery will be closed and the site sold off for development.

After a fierce internal battle, the victorious Board members feel that only heavily invested brand concepts are viable to the future. Since Morrells haven't any, they claim smaller companies such as theirs can no longer compete. This appears to be an accountant/marketing led policy, to the detriment of brewers and beer-drinkers in Oxfordshire, and a great tradegy for a site where brewing has existed for 500 years with the Morrell family in charge since 1782.

Greene King have purchased 43 pubs from Beards of Sussex for over 12 million. A further 40 million will be invested in their estate over the next 12 months claims Chief Executive Tim Bridge. Thankfully not much of this will be into their "Ale Cafe" concept, but community pubs are high on the agenda. So is this divergence from Morrells attitude down to one brand concept (Abbot)?

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Cambridge & District CAMRA