ALE Autumn 2001 No. 304

Brewery & Pubco News

Local round-up

City of Cambridge Brewery is in the process of moving to Chittering, with production temporarily contracted to nearby breweries.

Oakham Brewery (Peterborough) was hit by fire, possibly an arson attack, but fortunately no-one was hurt and production of the likes of the new Champion Beer Of Britain, JHB, wasn't seriously affected.

Congratulations to B&T (Shefford): Edwin Taylor's Extra Stout was judged Champion Beer of East Anglia 2001 in a blind tasting at Bedford Beer Festival.

St Peters (Bungay) launched King Knut Ale (5%), featuring nettles and juniper but no hops, at Peterborough Beer Festival and it's available in bottles.

Just south of the branch area, off the A10, the Buntingford Brewing Company has begun operating. It's run by Steve Banfield (formerly of Banfield Ales, Leics.) and Andrew Potter using a 2.5-barrel plant in an industrial estate. Andrew recently opened the Woodlands Brewery in Bishops Stortford.

Quids in with JDW

JD Wetherspoon is the star of the brewing & pubs industry, with profits up 23% to 44M before tax from its 530 pubs, with sales up 7.5%. It's new slogan is "the world's grooviest pub company".

Yet it's ignoring the old adage of "no politics or religion" by stocking posters and beermats in support of the "No to the Euro" campaign, a pet topic of Chairman Tim Martin.

One thing didn't go so well for JDW: they were fined 13,500 for a massive lapse in hygiene at the Liberty Bounds pub near the Tower of London: mice and their droppings were found in the basement and bottle store.

No wreaths for Laurel

The Laurel Pub Company has decided to cut drastically the choice of real ale in many outlets, such as the Hogsheads in Cambridge. This has badly hit many microbreweries, such as City of Cambridge and Oldershaw (Lincs.), who used to have significant local supply deals.

Now managers are limited to four beers from the Beer Seller agency: two permanents from a list of 36 and two guests from a changing list of 240.

The corporate excuse for this is to help pubs get Cask Marque, on the theory that less choice must mean higher quality, even for those pubs previously managing high quality with ten or more ales. Naturally this also means a nice cut for the new middlemen. Tellingly, they also plan to improve the training of bar staff.

Greene King on the prowl again

GK has paid 103M to take over Old English Inns, which specialises in classic country inns, often former coaching inns.

Given GK's track record of village pub closures, it's no surprise that "rationalisation" of the enlarged pub estate is under way. It's selling 20 of the pubs, keeping 82 as managed Old English Inns and the remaining 34 will be merged into the GK tenanted estate.

Old English Inns was known as the Old English Pub Company till 1999. Locally, their pubs are: Royal Oak, Barrington; Pheasant, Great Chishill; Cutter Inn, Ely; Old Red Lion, Horseheath; Coach & Horses, Trumpington.

Meanwhile GK is rebranding some pubs as "Appletons" - light, airy traditional pubs for the family market.

Update on Wolverhampton & Dudley

Having survived Pubmaster's hostile bid, W&D have sold off a lot of pubs (mainly managed ones) to concentrate on community freehold pubs.

However the economic climate may hamper the sale of the Mansfield and Cameron Breweries and the historic Burton Union cask system at the Marston Brewery in Burton-Upon-Trent remains under threat.

Interbrew & Bass

After months of wrangling, the Department of Trade and Industry finally agreed that Interbrew could sell parts of Bass Brewers to satisfy competition concerns.

Now the likes of Heineken and Anheuser-Busch are bidding for the parts on offer.

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