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Shock News: Young's Of Wandsworth

Added: Monday, May 1st 2006

A major shake-up in the world of regional brewing was announced today with the shock news that iconic real ale brewer Young's of Wandsworth, south London, will close its historic Ram Brewery in October and move - lock, stock and barrels - to Charles Wells in Bedford.

A new company, Wells & Young's Brewing Co Ltd, has been created to brew both companies beers at the Eagle Brewery, Bedford. The company will be owned 60% by Wells and 40% by Young's. Wells's managing director Paul Wells will chair the new company and his current sales director Nigel McNally will become MD of Wells & Young's.

The closure of Young's Brewery, famous for its stables, dray horses and live ram mascot, will mark the end of Britain's oldest continuous brewing site. Beer has made alongside the River Wandle since 1581 and came under the control of the Young family in the 19th century. Young's holds a special place in the affections of real ale drinkers as the brewery that refused to go over to keg beer production in the 1970s, an attitude that helped kick-start the Campaign for Real Ale. The company has won many awards for its cask and bottle-conditioned beers. Young's Brewery Tap - to be saved Both Wells and Young's will continue as separate companies - Wells is family-owned while Young's is a public company - but Wells & Young's Brewing Co will have a united sales team that plans to expand Wells' Bombardier and Young's Bitter, growing brands in the premium and standard cask sectors respectively. Young's head brewer, Ken Don, and his team will spend the next few months carefully matching their beers at B edford, where they will use natural spring water rather than the public supply in London.

The move has been forced on Young's. Its present site has appalling traffic problems and Wandsworth Council announced some years ago that the brewery site would be part of a programme to redevelop the area. Young's has failed to find a suitable new site south in London and has accepted the opportunity to move to a modern brewery built in the 1970s with the flexibility to make both ale and lager. As well as Eagle Bitter and Bombardier, Wells produces Red Stripe, Cobra and Kirin lagers under licence. As a result of the success of its beers, Young's is brewing at full capacity in London but cannot expand production there.

Wells & Young's will become the third biggest regional brewer in Britain after Wolverhampton & Dudley and Greene King. It will supply a total tied estate of some 500 pubs that will continue to be branded as Wells and Young's and which will be owned by the existing companies.

Young's will not be lost to Wandsworth. The council has agreed that Young's name will remain with the incorporation of some of the existing buildings, including the Brewery Tap pub, working beam engines and other examples of traditional brewing equipment that will be on display to the public in the redeveloped area.