Tuesday, 12 February 2008

S&N Close Reading

In a move that surprises no-one, the S&N keg only plant at Reading is to close with a loss of 360 jobs. Is this the start of the fallout from the Carlsberg/Heineken takeover? No is the answer. The writing has been on the wall for Reading since the packaging plant was closed last year and much production (anyone know of what?)*was contracted to Coors last year. The takeover consortium has been aware of this as part of "due diligence".

S&N produces mainly Fosters and Kronenbourg there. Both brands, Fosters in particular, seem to be in terminal decline. Interestingly, overcapacity is cited as a main reason for closure. The production will be moved to Tadcaster, Manchester and Dunston.

This underlines that brewery closure and consolidation has a way to go yet. The overcapacity for production of "standard" lager and the sharp decline in tired old "brands" has yet to fully play out. With Coors bringing in a 4% Dutch brewed Grolsch and Becks Vier already established, previously sacred cows will go. No-one in their right minds will miss them.

The Reading Brewery is the last of the "old" Courage breweries to close. It was opened in 1979.

* Seems it was 3 million hectolitres of Fosters and Kronenbourg!!


MicMac said...

Hi Pete. A couple of things about Courage Reading . . . (aka Berkshire Brewery or the Woodley Whiff depending on who you ask) - they may have seemed to have given little to the craft-beer world, but they once had a development plant that IIRC under the watchful eyes of former Brakspear's headbrewer, Peter Scholey (& involving many other skilled brewers/brewsters) they brewed some weird & wonderful test brews, that I guess never never saw the light of day.

This test-brewery was very well built & quite sizeable in microbrewing terms, & rumour has it that in the fallout of the S&N/Courage merger/takeover it was decided to sell the test plant. Several bidders went for it, but after realising they had to physically dismantle parts of the building, all dropped out apart from the lucky winners, Rebellion (Marlowe Bottom) - still using the beautifully engineered lauter-tun plant to brew damnably good beer today.

On a brewers' guild visit to a talk at Courage Reading, I was shown a beautiful scale model in a glass case - of a typical Victorian copper tower brewery. The Courage staff nicknamed the model "Brakspear's" due to its diminutive size (this seemed very odd to me, as at that time Brakspear's was by far the largest brewery I'd ever worked at, brewing up to about 1000 barrels a week - c.288,000pints!)

Tandleman said...

Interesting stuff Mike. I think more breweries should have pilot plants. I know Giles Dennis at Lees would like one but hasn't been able to persuade the board yet!

MicMac said...

Re Pilot Plants, Shep's have just installed one & Cameron's really went to town on one a while back including a small techie bottling plant (though there was rumours they were going to sell the brewery - not as yet AFAIK). I think St.Austell have had one for a while - IIRC their Clouded Yellow was trialled on it.

BTW in my prev post, that should have been the Whitley Whiff (not Woodley).