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. or is a com­plete­ly new brew­ery using an old one’s trade­marks, (Tru­man)

    Or, indeed, Shippo’s.

  3. 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

  4. 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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