Newcastle Brown Ale set for move to Yorkshire
THE decision to move production of iconic Newcastle Brown Ale from Tyneside to Yorkshire was described last night as "totally unacceptable".
Scottish and Newcastle (S&N) sparked fury yesterday when it announced plans to close its brewery in Dunston, Gateshead next year with the loss of 63 jobs, signaling an end to centuries of large-scale brewing on Tyneside.
Union leaders and politicians vowed to do all they can to make S&N, which is owned by Dutch brewing giant Heineken, reverse the controversial decision.
Under the plans announced to staff yesterday morning, production of Newcastle Brown Ale will move to the firm’s John Smith’s plant in Tadcaster, West Yorkshire. The Ale – nicknamed Dog – has been brewed in Dunston since 2005 when the former Tyne brewery closed.
Following that move, S&N successfully had a European Protected Geographical Indication Order, which meant Brown Ale could only be brewed in Newcastle, revoked. But at the time the firm insisted: "This isn’t the trigger to move abroad. We chose to keep Newcastle Brown in the North East and that will stay."
S&N said yesterday it had hoped the amalgamation of the two sites would provide a "sustainable and long-term future for Dunston" but it blamed a "significant downturn in the economy and the UK beer market" for the U-turn. A spokesman said the site’s future had been subject to review over recent months.
The firm also confirmed it would be dropping the S&N name from its brewing operations in November, renaming the business Heineken UK. S&N will live on only as a pub leasing company.
Paul Hoffman, S&N operations director, said it was a "sad day" but insisted the decision had "not been taken lightly".
"Nor it is a reflection on the employees at the site who have done an excellent job over the past few years in a very challenging market," he added.
"Falling beer sales have created general over capacity in the UK brewing sector and rising input costs have put unprecedented pressure on our business.
"These proposals are designed to address these challenges and to ensure that we remain competitive in the future. The Dunston site is currently running at around 60% capacity and our ability to consolidate beer production on to other sites presents a strong case for closure." He said the firm would discuss the future of the site itself next year.
Jeff Tate, regional officer for the Unite union, said it would fight any compulsory redundancies imposed as a result of the closure.
He said the Dunston site had been gradually downgraded over the past four years, with its bottling, canning and then kegging facilities closing.
"It seemed that each day the staff attended work there was something new that was not good for the wellbeing of the brewery so I can well imagine that many had envisaged the closure," he said. "There has been lots of talk about new plant and machinery but it has never materialised."