Brewers to close sites and cut jobs

THREE brewers took further steps to counter the over-supply in Britain's beer market yesterday when they announced plans to close or sell three breweries with the loss of more than 200 jobs.

Whitbread confirmed plans to close two breweries in Cheltenham and Castle Eden, County Durham at the beginning of October if no buyer can be found. The two sites employ 111 workers between them.

Morland, the Old Speckled Hen brewer which bought the Ruddles brands from Grolsch last year, is closing its Langham brewery near Oakham, Rutland later this year, affecting 38 jobs. It plans to shift production of Ruddles to its Abingdon brewery, in which it is investing pounds 1.5m

Separately Newcastle Breweries, part of Scottish & Newcastle, has announced 71 job cuts at a plant in Newcastle. The company blamed the redundancies on the rising popularity of lager, which is affecting sales of Newcastle Brown Ale.

Morland's decision provoked a stinging attack from Camra, the real ale campaign group. Mike Benner, the group's head of campaigns, said: "Morland has betrayed Britain's beer drinkers. Brewing Ruddles outside its Rutland homeland will ruin the beer. A different team of brewers and different ingredients will see to that."

Camra has called for an urgent meeting with Morland's management and is inviting beer drinkers to write and complain to the company.

Morland's decision to close the Langham brewery, which it acquired as part of the Ruddles deal last September, was not a surprise. It had mainly been interested in the beer brands rather than the production facilities.

Whitbread's plans to close two of its five breweries had also been widely expected. The Cheltenham site brews Flowers cask ale while the Castle Eden plant produces Castle Eden ale and Trophy Bitter.

Miles Templeman, managing director of the Whitbread Brewing Company, said that although the group had recently achieved its highest ever market share it was operating in a highly competitive and changing market

"These changes will help us achieve leading standards of cost-efficiency and productivity whilst providing an even more effective service to our customers," he said. The brands brewed at Castle Eden and Cheltenham will be transferred to other Whitbread breweries.

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