I worked in Leeds for over 10 years. Every morning I would drive past the Joshua Tetley Brewery before heading the short distance to work. I could see the brewery, with steam rising from it, from one of the offices I used to occupy. I would watch the comings and goings as I drove past. There used to be Ind Coope wagons bringing up supplies from Burton on Trent to their sister brewery. Tetley-Walker drays from Warrington would be picking up this and that. I'd see them on the Pennines. The Burton Brewery is now part of Coors giant site, sold off years ago. Dallam Brewery in Warrington, the home of Peter Walker who merged with Tetley in the late sixties has long gone, with its beers being transferred over the Pennines.
In the dog days of my Leeds career the brewery had its Joshua Tetley 1822 signs taken down and replaced by a watered down version by Carlsberg who became owners. Carlsberg signs abounded and big tankers in Carlsberg colours, rather than drays laden with casks became the normal sight. Now it is all to end. Carlsberg have announced the site will close by 2011. The company said it needed to maximise efficiency to remain competitive in the face of increasingly challenging market conditions, adding: "Unfortunately, in this environment we can no longer justify running two major breweries in the UK." The spokesman said the company would continue brewing Tetley beer, preferably elsewhere in Yorkshire, if not somewhere in the north of England, but "definitely" in the UK.
There are those who will not mourn the loss of this major brewery. I am not one of them. I still enjoy the odd tart pint of Tetley's and spent a lot of time drinking it, albeit Warrington brewed, when I lived in Liverpool. I don't doubt the commercial case for closure by a brewer whose influence in the UK beer market in the UK beer market has been one of slow decline (some might say incompetence) since they came into it, but to see Leeds without Tets in it will sadden me on a personal level.In its day - and that day has gone - it was a legendary beer.
The closure has been inevitable for some time as the UK beer market shrinks, but as has been said by many, beer drinking is more than just supping the best beer. It is about friends and memories and happy days. I had a lot of happy days with Tetley Bitter. I for one will miss it.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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