Heineken moves Newcastle Brown to...Yorkshire
Heineken plans to close the Dunston brewery in Gateshead next year, claiming it's running at only 60% capacity. The Dunston plant is the former Federation Clubs brewery bought by S&N when it closed its Newcastle brewery and transferred production of all its beer there, including Newcastle Brown.
Newcastle Brown was first brewed in the 1920s and, along with other similar beers in the North-east such as Double Maxim in Sunderland, was the region's answer to Burton pale ales. Drinkers in the North-east engaged in such heavy industrial work as coal mining and shipbuilding wanted a sweeter beer than pale ale to restore lost energy after an 8-hour shift. At first Newcastle Brown was a blend of two beers, pale and dark. The result was an amber beer of 4.7% with a rich nutty and vanilla character. S&N stopped the blending process some years ago.
Until a few years ago, Newcastle Brown was the biggest-selling bottled beer in Britain but it has lost out to Greene King's Old Speckled Hen. If S&N had put more energy into promoting its Tyneside beers, the Dunston brewery might not be brewing at only 60% capacity. And if S&N had not abandoned cask beer, with the exception of John Smith's, it might be able to fill its brewing vessels to capacity.
The move of Newcastle Brown to Yorkshire is an insult to consumers everywhere but in particular to Geordies. Will the label still show the Tyne Bridge? Will there be protests under the Trades Description Act about the nonsense of a Yorkshire beer being labelled Newcastle?
The move shows how little Heineken knows or cares about Britain's beer heritage and culture. The Dutch group is interested only in brewing large amounts of pale industrial lager and doesn't give a hoot if the ale side of the S&N business withers on the hop bine.
But Heineken may face a problem if it moves Newcastle Brown Ale in Tadcaster. The Sam Smith's brewery in the town also brews a strong brown ale and may not be best pleased to have a fake Geordie brew a few hundred yards away.
And if Heineken dumps all its brewing capacity from Dunston at John Smith's plant, this could scupper plans to move Tetley Bitter there when Carlsberg closes the Leeds brewery.
The global brewers have made another fine mess.