I've quite a lot of time for Thwaites - nowadays that is. It wasn't always so, as almost all they ever offered was smooth beer in various forms, but a concious decision several years ago to return to cask has seen the brewery profile multiply by a huge factor and with beers like Wainwrights becoming a runaway success, they had the confidence to build within the main brewery, the Crafty Dan Brewery, producing specialist craft beers in cask, keg and bottle, which I visited and wrote about here. The beers have been good too, with several winning awards and some of their seasonal beers have been spectacularly good - and different.
Underlying all this, for several years the bigger plan has been to vacate the cramped central Blackburn premises which houses the Star Brewery, sell it to Sainsbury's for yet another supermarket and build a new, smaller, state of the art brewery on a greenfield site on the outskirts of Blackburn by the motorway. Seems like a good plan, so what could possibly go wrong? Well everything it seems. The local council has offered several sites but none has been followed up and it now seems for reasons unknown, that the proposed Sainsbury redevelopment will not take place either. It is hard to ascertain why and although the local Lancashire Telegraph has a good go at it here, I'm none the wiser really.
But one thing is clear. Thwaites are to sack most of the brewery workforce, close the main brewery which they describe as "obsolete", keep Crafty Dan going, outsource the brewing to Marstons of all their main brands (some may also be brewed at Burtonwood I am told) until such time as they can find a new brewery site. Yes the same brewery site they have been unsuccessfully seeking for years. Thwaites it seems are more or less up shit creek without a paddle. Their main brands brewed by rivals, their brewery more or less closed, their workforce sacked and the new brewery no nearer than ever. Some cynics from rival breweries in the North West that I have spoken to, believe that Thwaites will never open a new brewery.
Only one way to prove them wrong I suppose, but time is running out.
The workers didn't take being given the heave ho lying down. The Thwaites sign on the brewery tower was altered to reflect their feelings.
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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