Roger Protz on the sacking of Michael Hardman from Young's

By Roger Protz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Young Good beer guide John young Public house Ken livingstone Beer

Roger Protz on the sacking of Michael Hardman from Young's
Shame on Young's Michael Hardman has been a special friend of mine for a long time. Without Michael as a mentor, I wouldn't be earning a living as a...

Shame on Young's

Michael Hardman has been a special friend of mine for a long time. Without Michael as a mentor, I wouldn't be earning a living as a beer writer.

He was the person who taught me about beer and brewing and I have built on his foundations.

One of the great figures of the modern brewing industry, Michael is a founding father of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), Good Beer Guide editor, a prolific writer and raconteur, a passionate flag-bearer for cask beer and - for the past 27 years - public relations consultant for Young's of Wandsworth.

Now Young's has flushed this eminent professional, along with all his knowledge and deep love of the brewery, straight down the toilet.

After 27 years of total commitment, Michael has been made redundant, receiving just three months' wages.

What an outrage.

I find it difficult to believe that Young's, beloved by drinkers for its brewing of great beer and also because it used to be run by decent gentlemen, could behave in such an obscene manner.

Michael had expected to spend a few more years with Young's while he planned his retirement. Now he faces a difficult future, deprived of his regular income. I can only hope that his skills will be picked up by people with better values than those demonstrated by the current Young's crew.

When I went to work for Camra in 1976, I spent a whirlwind 12 months as Michael's deputy on What's Brewing and The Good Beer Guide.

By the time he left, he had taught me about how beer is made and served, its ingredients and - crucially - how to tell the good from the bad and the bubbly.

When Michael became Young's PR man, he forged a remarkable relationship with company chairman John Young. While they came from radically different backgrounds, the two men were united by their love for a remarkable brewery and its history, tradition, dray horses, goats and unspoilt pubs.

Michael is a professional to his fingertips. Unlike too many modern PR folk, who can't tell a good press release from a railway sleeper, he knows what makes good stories and how to make them relevant. On the day of John Young's death last year, when Michael was in deep distress at the loss of his friend and employer, a long, detailed and punctilious obituary arrived in my email inbox within hours of the sad announcement.

Just weeks after John Young's death, things at the brewery began to unravel. It was announced that, because the company had to leave Wandsworth and couldn't find a suitable alternative site in London, the brewing operation would merge with Charles Wells in Bedford.

Despite any private reservations Michael may have had about this deal, he trawled the trade and consumer press to describe the background and future of Young's. And he took time out to visit me to make sure I had all the facts in my notebook.

It was almost solely due to Michael's tireless work that Young's closure created little criticism. But all the thanks he gets for this achievement is the sack.

For the first - and I hope the last - time, I swallowed doubts about Young's out of respect for Michael and wrote nothing detrimental about its merger with Wells. I thought then, and I still think now, that Young's was less than honest.

I can't believe that it wasn't possible to find another London site suitable for brewing. If Mayor Ken Livingstone can identity a new ground for West Ham United at a redundant Royal Mail depot, surely a site could be found for a brewery that requires less space?

But John Young's replacements were determined to leave brewing and run a pub company. They are concerned less with the quality of the beer they sell than with the incessant drive to maximise profits from their real estate.

I have a message for Young's chief

executive Stephen Goodyear, the man who axed Michael: you are not fit to tie his shoelaces. I hope you sleep well at night with a clear conscience, if you know what a conscience is.

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