Beer production relocates

Heineken to close historic Caledonian Brewery

Former LibDem leader Vince Cable at the Caledonian Brewery in 2018 (Pic: Terry Murden)

Heineken, the Dutch beer giant, is to close the historic Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh, one of the oldest in the UK.

The decision will looks end more than 150 years of brewing tradition at the Slateford Road site following a decade of falling output.

The company said it would not be financially viable to make the investment needed to upgrade its ageing facilities.

A deal has been reached with Greene King for the beers currently made at Caledonian to be produced at the Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar.

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Heineken, whose UK headquarters is in Edinburgh, has owned Caledonian since it teamed up with Carlsberg to acquire Scottish & Newcastle in 2008. S&N had acquired Caledonian Brewery earlier that year.

The Caledonian, which was established by George Lorimer and Robert Clark in 1869, brews Deuchars IPA and Edinburgh Castle and is one of the few remaining breweries in a city that was once home to more than 40.  The red-brick Victorian building was saved from demolition in the early 1980s after being listed as a site of historical significance.

The brewery opened in 1869

A number of smaller craft brewers have sprung up in recent years, though not on the same scale. they include Stewart Brewing and the Edinburgh Beer Factory. Innis & Gunn is building a large brewery on the Heriot-Watt university campus.

Trade union Unite declared this evening that “all options should be on the table” to save production at the Slateford Road site. It is scheduled to have talks with Heineken next week to discuss the potential impact that the proposed closure will have on the 30 remaining workers.

Joe Clarke, Unite national officer for the food and drink sector, said: “This is devastating news for the Caledonian Brewery which has a 150-year long tradition and history in Edinburgh.

“Unite will enter into immediate discussions with Heineken and we have arranged meetings next week in order to find out further information and facts relating to the proposed closure.

“Unite will leave no stone unturned in an effort to keep production and jobs in Edinburgh, and all options should be on the table including government support.”

Matt Callan, supply chain director for Heineken UK said: “We’ve not taken this decision lightly. We’re acutely aware of what the brewery represents in Edinburgh, and its role in the history and heritage of brewing in Scotland – this is something we’re incredibly proud of. Our primary focus is the 30 colleagues based there and we’ll now enter into a period of consultation.

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“The sad fact is, its Victorian infrastructure means significant inefficiencies and costs, particularly as it is operating below capacity. To modernise the brewery, and to meet our own sustainability commitments, would require considerable ongoing investment, which would make operating the brewery economically unviable.”

Mr Callan added: “We’re also aware that the beers produced at Caledonian Brewery are enjoyed by many people across Edinburgh, Scotland and beyond.

“That’s why we’re working hard to make sure the Caledonian brands will continue to be produced in Scotland if the proposed closure goes ahead.

“We’ve an agreement in principle to licence the brands to Greene King who will brew Deuchars, Coast to Coast and Maltsmiths IPA and Lager at its Belhaven brewery in Dunbar.”

Matt Starbuck, Greene King brewing and brands managing director, said: “These brands are long loved in both Scotland and beyond and we are proud to be able to continue to brew them so they can be enjoyed by consumers and customers alike.”

“This agreement underlines our commitment to Belhaven Brewery as Scotland’s oldest working brewery, and boosts our portfolio of already award-winning beers.”

History

The brewery opened in 1869 and was named the Lorimer and Clark Caledonian Brewery, after its founders George Lorimer and Robert Clark.

On George Lorimer’s death in 1939, it was acquired by  Sunderland-based Vaux Breweries, which developed Lorimer’s Best Scotch brand into one of the most popular beers in the North East of England. In 1986 the company stopped brewing in Edinburgh and transferred the operation to its base in Sunderland.

A lack of investment in the Caledonian meant it faced the threat of closure and demolition but in 1987, it was saved through a management buy-out led by head brewer Russell Sharp.

In 2004, the brewery site and production facilities were bought by Scottish & Newcastle (S&N), following their closure of its McEwan’s Brewery in Fountainbridge. Production of McEwan’s ales was switched to the Caledonian.

Heineken took control when it acquired S&N in 2008.



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