Friday, 21 March 2008

Burton museum to close

Coors to axe visitor centre

The giant American brewer Coors will close its visitor centre in Burton-on-Trent in June, leaving Britain without a major museum dedicated to the history of brewing in Britain. The site was first known as the Bass Museum but ownership passed to Coors when Bass left brewing and the American company bought the world-famous breweries.
Coors says the running of the visitor centre costs £1 million a year and, in a declining beer market, it needs to invest that cash into supporting its key brands. It says visitor numbers have declined even though it offers free admission to people who live in the town. But the centre has not been promoted outside Burton.
The museum is a magnificent collection of brewing artefacts. As well as detailing the history of brewing in Burton, famous for its India Pale Ales in the 19th century, the museum also covers the history of brewing world-wide. There is also a collection of old brewing vehicles, including a car shaped like a bottle of Worthington's White Shield, as well as dray horses.
It would be a tragedy if this collection were broken up and lost. The local MP, Janet Dean, will host a meeting in Burton on Wednesday 26 March to discuss ways to save the centre. One idea being floated is to form a trust to run the museum that, unlike Coors, could attract public funds, including Lottery money. When Whitbread left brewing all the material assembled over many years that traced the history of the company from the 18th century was thrown in a skip -- it's vital that this does not happen to the Burton collection.
In the long term, even if the Burton museum can be saved in some form, London is the obvious place to house a major museum dedicated to British brewing and the English pub. The problem is cost. When a group made up of representatives of the London brewers, CAMRA and the trade paper the Morning Advertiser looked at the possibility of opening a museum in London, high rents in the capital made the project impossible. We were offered the basement of the Hop Exchange in Southwark, which would be an ideal site, but the annual rent was £100,000.
The Mayor of London was unable to help but once the Burton issue has been solved -- if it can be solved -- then further attempts will be made to look into the possibility of a museum in London that will celebrate Britain's unique contribution to the world of beer.


Blogger maeib said...

They actually claim the museum loses £1 million a year. I don't think that really adds up, but you never know. It will be a massive shame, and the fact that there will not be a beer museum in the UK is sad. The downhill spiral could have been predicted when they gave it the ridiculous name of "Coors Visitor Centre"

22 March 2008 at 18:17  
Blogger Tom Cannavan said...

This is a real shame. I visited the museum in 2004, and thought it was pretty well done, with an excellent model of the Burton brewery and how it worked 100 years ago, that fascinating collection of vintage vehicles, and some good explanations of the brewing process. Visiting the heavy horses was a highlight of course. It was, however, eerily quiet when I visited, and with half a dozen staff needed to man it and the attached shop, I can imagine that it was not making money. Let's hope the collection finds a new home, where perhaps an independent commercial organisation can put a bit more marketing effort in and make a financially successful museum of beer and brewing.

25 March 2008 at 12:18  
Anonymous Paul Garrard said...

I agree with maeib on the ridiculous name - who associates Coors with quality ale brewing.

I don't understand why a brewing museum needs to be in London - the less new attarctions in London the better IMO

25 March 2008 at 13:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Needing something to do last Saturday, I paid a visit to the museum and found it fascinating; I think I really understand the brewing process much more now and I loved the old machinery. However, the Brewery Tap is a soulless venue, the shop didn't even come close to encouraging me to buy anything, and I agree that the Coors Visitor Centre is a silly name.

Although London may seem an obvious choice to house such a collection, it would be a real shame for the Midlands to lose it, and it would be a serious blow to Burton upon Trent not to have such an attraction. I think Coors have really wasted a good opportunity here. (But who's surprised when their chairman, Pete Coors, is such a reactionary waste of space?)

25 March 2008 at 17:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coors so obviously don't understand the British brewing tradition. The fact that the beer list for the museum's bar leads with five lagers, each with some variant on "extra cold" in the title, speaks volumes. I truly hope the museum can be saved and put into the care of people who appreciate what they have there.

I'm not sure I'd go along with your statements that "London is the obvious place to house a major museum dedicated to British brewing and the English pub" and that "once the Burton issue has been solved... further attempts will be made to look into the possibility of a museum in London". It might seem obvious to drinkers in London and the home counties, but I can't help thinking that relocating the museum to London would be about as popular with the people of Burton as closing it. Burton has a fairly central location and a justifiable claim to being Britain's brewing capital. London has more museums and attractions than most people could visit in a year - this one really should stay in the Midlands.

3 June 2008 at 19:18  

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