Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tetley's to Close!

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.


Ale Louse said...

I mourned it's passing a long time before this announcement but have some very special memories from my early days too, when drinking their bitter and dark mild in the Viaduct (Leeds) and Market House (Dewsbury) was a heavenly experience.

Neville Grundy said...

To me, Tetley vies with John Smiths cask for the title of most boring real ale in the UK. I was even booed two years ago at the CAMRA AGM for expressing this opinion. Tetley today is a seriously bastardised version of what it once was, as often happens when regional beers become national brands.

However, I take no pleasure in the closure of a real ale brewery, as I'm sure they are capable of brewing good beer. Pity they haven't done so for years.

NAM said...

Sad. The received wisdom in the North-West used to be that Walker's bitter was the best, followed by Leeds Tetley's then Warrington Tetley's, but I hear opinions over the Pennines differed.

Anonymous said...

My introduction to Mild was in a Tetley pub just outside Leeds in the 1970s. As a spotty youth used to GK bitter, mild was a revelation, and the fact that most people in the pub were drinking mild. I loved what I tasted.

Tandleman said...


I can't agree. It can't be compared to John Smiths even now. On the recent times I've had it, the beer is still pretty decent, though finding it in decent condition is another matter!

TIW said...

This is a tragedy. I'm not much of Tetley drinker, but it can be a very fine pint. Leeds without Tetley? Incredible.