Real ale lovers in Scotland have voiced concerns over the future of Edinburgh’s Caledonian Brewery, most famous for its production of the much-loved Deuchars IPA, after its recent buy-out by Scottish & Newcastle and are particularly worried that it will soon run the risk of failing to life up to its slogan “brewed by men not machines”.
Scottish & Newcastle, who bought the ‘bricks and mortar’ of the Caledonian brewery in 2004, are soon to complete the purchase of the Caledonian Brewing Company, thus owning all aspects of the brewery in its entirety.
Many real ale drinkers, including famed Scottish novelist Ian Rankin, have expressed major concerns that the process of brewing Caledonian ales will become mechanised once the deal is complete, especially as the company is set to fall into Dutch hands when Scottish & Newcastle’s UK operations are taken over by Heineken.
Last week, Rankin, creator of the fictional Deuchars-loving Inspector Rebus, stated: “What IPA drinkers will be worried about is that it keeps on coming and they keep brewing the beer. It's a very successful product and hopefully they will keep it going.
“They would be foolish to change a system that works. They're award-winning beers and they are much loved in Scotland.”
However, chiefs at Caledonian Breweries and Scottish & Newcastle have dispelled rumours that any changes will be made to the beer-making process.
Speaking exclusively to The Journal, Caledonian Breweries Managing Director Stephen Crawley made it clear that there was no intention to change the method of beer production for any of the ales in the Caledonian range, which includes 80/-, Golden Promise and XPA.
“It’s going to very much be business as usual,” said Mr. Crawley, “Scottish & Newcastle have owned the Caledonian Brewery for the last four years and it is a world class ale. The beer has never tasted so good and consistent, and that’s the biggest challenge – consistency.
“Investment from Scottish & Newcastle has made the brewery a safer place, but the traditional brewing methods will always be maintained. Men will continue to brew the ale and we will also preserve the various other qualities that make the brewery unique, such as our use of whole hop flowers and the last direct-fired open coppers in the UK.”
“Caledonian is a niche brewery and is the only remaining brewery in Edinburgh of the 40 that were built in the 19th century. Some things survive, whilst others fall by the wayside; Caledonian Brewery is a survivor.
“I have no worries whatsoever; we’ve got a great set of guys working on the ale and the best way to run the brewery is to keep producing the same high quality products which will maximise the availability of Deuchars and our other beers.”
“There is no way that the acquiring of shares will change the process of brewing our ales. The production of Caledonian ales is not about pushing a button.”
Mr. Crawley went on to highlight further companies in the food and drink industry which have benefitted since being taken over by multi-nationals.
He said: “Green and blacks chocolate has maintained the quality of its products [since its purchase by Cadbury-Schweppes in 2005], and Pret A Manger has done very well out of its involvement with McDonalds. Both are still run as separate companies by their respective owners.”
Mr. Crawley’s comments were echoed by Robert Ballantyne, head of corporate communications for Scottish and Newcastle. Speaking to The Journal, Mr. Ballantyne explained how the current ownership of Caledonian breweries came to be:
“Since the closure of the McEwan’s brewery in 2004, Scottish and Newcastle has invested heavily in the Caledonian Brewery, which it co-owns with a number of private shareholders. Over the last few weeks, these private shareholders have wanted out, paving the way for a whole-sale takeover.
“Deuchars has always been marketed separately and we have no intention of changing this. Likewise, there is no intention to change the way that Caledonian ales are brewed.”
Mr. Ballantyne added: “We all like the beer and it’s a 150-year-old gem of a brewery. The quality is fabulous.”
Caledonian has won a number of awards for its products since the brewery was founded in 1869, and produces various popular seasonal ales such as Six Nations, Nectar Summer Ale and Santa’s Little Helper.