Newcastle Brown Ale to move out of Toon
LONDON - In the same year that Newcastle United FC lost its top flight status, the Geordie Nation has suffered another blow with the announcement that the production of Newcastle Brown Ale is moving away from Tyneside after 82 years.
Heineken, the Dutch brewer and owner of the iconic brew -- affectionately nicknamed Dog -- is shifting operations from Gateshead to the John Smith's brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, as part of a cost-cutting exercise that will save between £13-£14m.
While the brand is synonymous with Tyneside, sales in the US now eclipse those in the UK. Exports of the distinctive 550ml bottles with the blue star logo account for about 105m pints a year, while around 55m pints are sold in the UK.
A spokesman for the Scottish & Newcastle brand said the company would not make any labelling or marketing changes to the brand for the time being, as the move will not take place for another six months.
During the 1980s and 1990s the Newscastle United home strip featured the logo of Newcastle Brown Ale, and at one point just the blue star logo as part of a sponsorship agreement with previous owner S&N.
A European Protected Geographical Indication order, in place since 1996, meant Newcastle Brown Ale could only be made in the city, however, previous owner S&N got the order revoked when they switched brewing sites in 2005, shifting production to nearby Dunston.
The group acquired the brand as part of the S&N takeover last year. The transfer to North Yorkshire will affect 63 jobs. The change is due to take place by the middle of next year.
S&N UK, which will shortly be changing its name to Heineken UK, said the decision was based on a decline in sales, which has led to overcapacity.
It said the Newcastle site was operating at about 60% of its maximum capacity of 1.4m hectolitres, while Tadcaster was running at about 80% of its 4m hectolitre capacity.
Paul Hoffman, S&N operations director, said: "Falling beer sales have created general overcapacity in the UK brewing sector and rising input costs have put unprecedented pressure on our business.
"These proposals we are announcing today are designed to address these challenges and to ensure that we remain competitive in the future.
"We will do all we can to mitigate the effects of the closure on the people affected."
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