Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Greene King swallows Hardy & Hanson

CAMRA is up in arms about the Greene King's decision to close the Hardy & Hanson brewery in Kimberley, Nottinghamshire which it bought in June 2006. CAMRA's press release is copied below.

CAMRA's entirely predictable response is outrage and (misdirected) righteous indignation.

Greene King bought Hardy and Hanson, not for its brewery, but for its pub estate. It may well rather have not bought the brewery and left well alone, but they came as a package.

GK operates as a pubco - it installs tenants and managers in its ever-expanding pub estate, all of whom are obliged to buy their stock from GK at higher than open market prices, with GK pocketing the difference. (The fact that GK actually do brew real ale should not be regarded as anything other than a shop window and marketing exercise for their pub chain).

The underlying problem is that pub chains, such as GK, profit by centralised purchasing and economies of scale - in doing so, squeeze the pips out of their pubs and deny those pubs the opportunity (or rather, the right) to buy and sell whatever they want at whatever prices they choose.

Here we go again - the individual pubs are "tied" to Greene King. The "tie" is illegal in the US and under the Treaty of Rome (which, due to short-sighted "special case" pleading in the 1970s, exempts the UK). The US and our fellow EU states wisely recognise that tied systems reduce customer choice, enterprise, competition and lead to dominance by big companies, if not outright cartels and monopolies.

An entirely neutral observer (from Mars, perhaps, as the cliche goes) may jump to the conclusion that CAMRA would oppose the tie system as it leads to expansion of tedious pub chains, homogenisation of pubs and the closure of cherished breweries.

They would be wrong - CAMRA supports the tie system.


"Date: Tuesday October 3rd 2006
For immediate use
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has today condemned the announcement by Greene King that Hardys & Hansons brewery in Nottinghamshire will be closed by the end of the year.
Despite thousands of Hardys & Hansons drinkers signing a petition to keep the 174 year old brewery in Kimberley, Greene King announced today that brewing will cease by Christmas and be moved to Bury St Edmunds. The Kimberley site will be retained, but as little more than a distribution centre for Greene King in the midlands and the north.
CAMRA members in Nottingham have reacted with anger at the news. Andrew Ludlow, of the Save Hardys & Hansons Brewery Group said, “Only weeks after acquiring this remarkable Victorian brewery, Greene King has ignored calls from beer drinkers across the UK to keep brewing in Kimberley. We have not given up and we will continue our campaign until Greene King reverses its decision.”
CAMRA is calling on beer lovers and its 84,000 members to support its campaign to keep the brewery open by sending postcards which condemn the closure to Greene King, or by signing its petition at
Mike Benner, CAMRA’s Chief Executive said, “We regard this as an unnecessary loss. Despite a history of brewery closures, Greene King has shown with its acquisition of Belhaven that it can integrate other breweries into a growing empire. We urge them to follow this approach with the Kimberley Brewery.
“Britain’s brewing heritage is being slowly eroded by a seemingly endless string of closures through consolidation and drinkers across the UK need to join us in opposing this destruction.”
“We’ll be calling on Greene King to maintain the Hardys & Hansons real ales including the bitter. We don’t want to see Hardys & Hansons beers being replaced by Greene King beers in the pubs of Nottingham because they are no longer available. Loss of consumer choice is almost always the end result of consolidation.”
“Greene King is a major brewer and promoter of real ale, but it has to listen to real ale drinkers, reverse its decision, invest in the Hardys & Hansons brewery and promote genuine Hardys & Hansons beers for future generations.”