Marston’s brewing exit ‘worrying development’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

(image: Getty/Jonathan Knowles)
(image: Getty/Jonathan Knowles)

Related tags Beer

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has raised fears about the future of UK beers, brands and breweries after Marston’s revealed it is selling its remaining brewing assets.

Marston’s said the sale of the remainder of its brewing operations​ would enable its business to entirely focus on running its pub estate.

The former Midlands-based brewer said it was selling the remaining non-core brewing assets with a “binding agreement to sell the whole of its 40% interest Carlsberg Marston’s Limited (CMBC) to a subsidiary of Carlsberg A/S” for £206m in cash.

CAMRA chairman Nik Antona said: “This is a worrying development for Britain’s brewing heritage with Marston’s remaining brewing assets being transferred to a global brewing business, which has already presided over the closure of historic breweries like Jennings in Cumbria​ and Charles Wells Eagle in Bedford​, stopped selling cask ale in Scotland and has introduced an extremely damaging ‘Fresh Ale’ concept, which is misleading to pubgoers and threatens the future of British cask conditioned ale.

“CAMRA fears this announcement could lead to a further erosion of the UK’s rich brewing history for the benefit of conglomerate global brewers and particularly the commitment to brewing cask.

“The consolidation of the brewing industry into just a few large, international players erodes our brewing heritage, consumer choice, the diversity of beer in pubs across the country and the access to market for small independent producers.

“Having Marston’s pubs continuing to be subject to an anti-competitive supply tie by CMBC is also a cause for concern, limiting choice for customers of great locally produced beer and cider from independent producers nationwide.”

Cask future

The announcement came after CMBC introduced its ‘Fresh Ale’ concept​ – a product that allows licensees to serve cask-style beer in keg format – in March, which CAMRA lambasted​.

The group also took its fight against the beer to the Government​ in a bid to prevent the kegged ale being dispensed through handpumps and reported it to Trading Standards​.

Antona added: “Marston’s and CMBC bosses must commit to the future of brewing cask, improving consumer choice at the bar, protecting Britain’s brewing heritage and scrapping their damaging Fresh Ale concept once and for all.”

Elsewhere, the consumer organisation has also called on the Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to ask for urgent action on the payment of grants from the Community Ownership Fund.

In the run up to the general election earlier this month (July), unfinalised Grant Funding Agreements from the Community Ownership Fund have meant payments to community groups have not been made, despite the funding having already been agreed by the previous Government, according to CAMRA.

This has impacted community projects across the country with bids to turn their local pubs into community-owned assets now in significant danger, it said.

CAMRA has urged the Government to make this a top priority in their first weeks of power.

Urgent action

Pub & club campaigns director Gary Timmins said: “We are supremely disappointed by this mix up.

“Community groups with plans to improve their communities and rescue their local have been left in limbo and are now unsure what the future holds for their campaigns.

“Groups up and down the country have been working tirelessly, sometimes for years, to secure funding from various sources to save their local pubs.

“Securing Community Ownership Fund grants gave groups hopes of achieving their campaigns, this has currently been cruelly snatched away from them.

“Community groups are now unsure if they will be able to buy their local pubs, with years of work potentially wasted.

“I urged the secretary of state to ensure agreed funds are followed through and acted on urgently.”

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