Burton museum to close
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.