Do People Realise Breweries Have Gone?

Heavitree Pale Ale label.

In Exeter the other week we got talking to a bloke leaning on the bar in the pub.

He told us that he goes to the pub most days because, being single and in his fifties, the alternative is an empty flat: ‘The pub is like Facebook for me.’ He told us an excellent story about being in a Glasgow pub while Shane McGowan of the Pogues held court.

Eventually, though, we got on to the subject of beer and we trotted out our usual line: that Devon’s a bit of a weird case because it doesn’t have a big trad-family-regional brewer like Adnams or Wadworth.

‘Well, there’s Heavitree,’ he replied.

Heavitree does have pubs across the city and the region, often branded ‘Heavitree Brewery’ — we saw one in Teignmouth, for example — but the firm hasn’t actually produced any beer of its own since 1970. The brewhouse was demolished ten years after that.

How could he not know this?

Which made us wonder how many people don’t realise their own ‘local’ brewery no longer exists, or is now a subsidiary of another firm (Ringwood), or a ‘zombie brand’ (Mann’s, Gale’s), or is a completely new brewery using an old one’s trademarks (Truman).

Hardcore beer geeks like us obsess over details of ownership and history but, barring the odd scandal, most people (generalisation klaxon) don’t, just as we don’t keep tabs on who owns which car firms these days, or which chocolate bar brands.

4 thoughts on “Do People Realise Breweries Have Gone?”

  1. Your basic point is, of course, entirely correct – most consumers don’t obsess or even care much about the ownership or origin of brands they buy.

    But I’d say that particular anecdote comes into the broad category of “pub bore talks bollocks”. I remember a few years ago in Winchester someone telling me how they remembered the Winchester Brewery still in operation in the 1960s, although I knew for a fact that Marston’s closed it down in the 1920s. Generally best just to nod rather than arguing the toss.

  2. I prefer to use micro breweries who produce much nice beer than the giants that churn out generally tasteless stuff that the un educated flock to in supermarkets.
    Suppose you have to be in the know

  3. The link doesn’t say why Heavitree decided to stop brewing but, as in all things, there must be a reason. For example, and looking back at the early days of CAMRA, Grays of Chelmsford ceased brewing in 1974, when crippling death duties forced them to sell the brewery site for redevelopment. The company still operates pubs in the Chelmsford area.

    Melbourn Bros of Stamford had to stop brewing around the same time, because much of the equipment had worn out. (Sam Smiths later bought the pubs and have restored the brewery, which now produces Belgian-style fruit beers.

    Going back to the 1950’s, Beard & Co of Lewes, closed their rather cramped brewery at the top of the town (much of the brewery buildings still remain), ostensibly because of a yeast infection. They subsequently bought beers from Harvey’s, selling them under their own name.

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