For 189 years, Tetley’s Bitter has been brewed just outside Leeds city centre, however on 17th June, the brewery will fail to make it to 190 years and close forever, with all its production being moved to Northampton, Tadcaster or Wolverhampton.   The site will then no doubt be flattened and sold to developers for an estimated total of £20-25 million with current market values. This seems a lot of money, but is major drop from the £65 million valuation on the land when the decision to close the Hunslet site was originally made in 2008.

You do wonder if that £65,000,000 number was sitting at the front of their mind when they made this choice.  The Northampton plant, for example, is situated between housing estates on the A45 bypass, 1.7 miles outside of the town centre, so the land is nowhere near a valuable as a site sitting on the very edge of one of Northern Englands’ major cities.  The financial politics within Carlsberg Tetley were definitely leading the discussions back in 2008 over its brewing concerns.

However more important is the loss of up to 170 jobs and that a cask ale which is known as being a Yorkshire beer will be made 100 miles to the south, 60 miles outside of the historical Yorkshire county boundaries.   This is important as water is the main constituent of our beer and the subtle change in the constituent minerals in the water will affect the taste as well as the differences in water type, a change that lifelong Tetley drinkers will notice.  The hops and barley you can ship to the new site, the water you cannot.

The Cask Ale will be produced in Wolverhampton, while the Smoothflow is staying within our borders at Tadcaster near York.  The lager production is being moved to the Northampton site.  So sadly we get to keep the least desirable variation of the ale brewed at the Leeds site.

Other brands tied inexplicably to a particular location, such as the Boddingtons link to Strangeways Brewery on the outskirts of Manchester city centre have suffered a demise in their popularity after moving from their spiritual home.  I worked in Manchester when Strangeways Brewery closed, and it was a very big thing then, dominating the news for the week running up the closing date.  All that is left of the site now is the Boddingtons liveried chimney. The rest of the site is a car park for commuters, a sad sight after its former glories.

I suspect that with the glut of apartment complexes in Leeds and a major retail park within spitting distance of the site, car parking is what will become of at least some of this historic brewing site.  The gatehouse, main reception building and war memorial will be retained as a working area, but no announcement has been made regarding the rest of the site, although some areas need to be decommissioned before demolition can start.

The winners from all this will be Carlsberg Tetley who will have a massive land bank on their books and the three other sites who will get the extra jobs.  However the other winner is Leeds Brewery who will become the largest brewer in Leeds on 18th June and they well deserve the title.  Formed only 4 years ago by two university friends, they now brew 3 “house beers” along with a regular rotation of seasonal beers.  They also have 3 pubs within the Leeds city centre area, The Brewery Tap, The Midnight Bell and Pin.  Their first, The Midnight Bell, opened in 2009 won a runner up medal from CAMRA in the National Pub Design Awards for their conversion of the premises to a pub.

I have sampled a couple of their beers in our local pubs, Leeds Best (bitter, 4.3%) and Leeds Pale, both are good beers, but I prefer the Leeds Pale at 3.8% as per my usual bias towards the paler beers.  I’m looking forward to getting a chance to visit one of their own pubs in Leeds when I get the chance.

In a last hurrah to the Tetley site, the people at Leeds Brewery are brewing a commemorative beer to the last 189 years.  The difference is that anybody who registers on a special website will be able to have their say on the name, design and taste.  Good luck to them on this venture, the larger the committee, the harder it is to get a consensus in my experience.

Until next week, happy supping.