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ALE Summer 2004 No. 314 : Next section

ALE Summer 2004 No. 314

Scottish & Newcastle, one of the big four brewers, have sold off their pubs (but still run some of them as managers for the new owners); they're closing historic breweries in favour of huge modern production plants. All good for profits presumably but where's the concern for wider issues such as quality & heritage?

[an error occurred while processing this directive] In 2003 they sold off their remaining pubs to the Spirit Group but before that some of their pub sales included management deals, perhaps because the new owners (e.g. banks) just want the revenue and have no interest in running pubs?

Their historic Fountain Brewery at Fountainbridge in the centre of Edinburgh is prematurely coming to the end of its life (it opened in 1856) and is likely to become a mixed housing development (posh + affordable). Production is moving to the Caledonian Brewery, with uncertain implications for Caledonian's beers, such as the award-winning Deuchars IPA (Champion Beer of Britain 2002). McEwans 80/- is the only real ale being transferred from Fountainbridge and that seems unlikely to survive long. They claim they'll preserve & promote Caledonian's beers but big brewers' track record since the 1960s suggests the apparent enthusiasm will die away in a couple of years and a further round of 'rationalisation' (closure) is more likely.

Eight years ago they gained recognition for "Newcastle Brown Ale" as a regional product - in the EU jargon a Protected Geographic Indicator. PGIs protect the likes of Champagne, Parma ham and Rutland bitter and ensure they can't be made elsewhere.

That was a good bit of strategy, enhancing a traditional product without spending a lot of promotional money, which presumably they'd rather devote to cheaply-produced lager (Kronenbourg & Fosters).

Now they're wasting that advantage and 121 years of heritage by closing the Newcastle Brewery and moving production to the Northern Clubs Federation Brewery in Gateshead (built 1979).

Scottish Courage, the UK arm, will then have these breweries:

ScotCo is now trying to revoke the PGI status, which goes against the whole idea of the scheme. It's not a marekting tool for a single manufacturer, to be asked for and then disposed of as it suits them. It's supposed to have real meaning, indicating a product rooted in its community - in a sense owned by that community.

Ian Kitching


ALE Summer 2004 No. 314 : Next section
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