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CAMRA responds to sale of Charles Wells brewery

Written by Ben Wilkinson
The Jolly Sailor in St Albans, one of Charles Wells' South Herts pubs

The Jolly Sailor in St Albans, one of Charles Wells’ South Herts pubs

It has been announced in recent days that real ale producer Charles Wells is to sell off its Bedford brewery to pub operator Marston’s in a £55 million deal.

Because of Charles Wells’ own acquisitions over the years, the Eagle brewery is home to the Youngs, Courage and McEwan’s ale brands as well as original Charles Wells branded products like Bombardier Bitter and Eagle IPA.

The deal with Marston’s also includes UK distribution rights for Kirin Lager, Estrella Damm, Erdinger and Founders.

The sale to Marston’s does not include the chain of more than 200 Charles Wells pubs, many of which are in the CAMRA South Herts area. Wells has also announced that over the next couple of years it plans to create a smaller, local brewery nearby.

Charles Wells has been operating in Bedford since 1876, with the Eagle brewery built in its centenary year. It produces more than 100 million litres of beer every year.

Responding to the news, Tim Page, CAMRA’s Chief Executive said:

“CAMRA is always concerned about any consolidation in the brewing industry as it could result in a reduction in choice, value for money and quality for beer drinkers. We’re also wary of one company increasingly controlling a larger and larger share of the market, which is seldom beneficial for consumers.

“Marston’s has a positive track record of keeping the breweries it acquires open, in situ, and in many cases investing in the sites to increase capacity, and we urge them to continue that policy. We’d also encourage them to protect the brands that they have acquired and increase the range available to beer drinkers, by continuing to supply them alongside the existing beers produced by Marston’s owned breweries.

“It’s reassuring to hear that Charles Wells intends to continue brewing in Bedford, ensuring that whatever Marston’s chooses to do with the brewery and brands it has acquired, local people will continue to be able to enjoy locally brewed beers in the region.”

On the day that the news was announced, CAMRA National Director and South Herts branch member Ben Wilkinson was invited on to BBC Three Counties Radio to discuss the sale. You can hear the interview by using the link below:

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