If there’s one thing to bring on a desk-banging spittle-flecked rant it’s the closure of a brewery. A text from Ten Inch Wheels Senior this morning told me the news. The men in bri-nylon suits at Carlsberg have decided than in 2011 the historic Leeds brewery of Joshua Tetley will close. 170 people will be out of work. But it’s not just the jobs. Tetley is a Yorkshire icon – their neon sign red against the night sky, seen from the 18.03 from Kings Cross means that I’m almost home, and I’m not the only one to feel this way. Although their famous ‘huntsman’ logo was dropped in 2000, you still see his monocled countenance smiling at you from old signs and beer pumps wherever you go in West Yorkshire. In the middle of the 1800s, my Great-great-great-grandfather ran a pub in the area where the Corn Exchange now stands. He undoubtedly sold Tetley.
The brewery was built in 1822, with a lot of subsequent additions. It’s a solid industrial site, a mixture of original and recent. It’s not beautiful, and it doesn’t have to be. It was built for a purpose that it has performed very well for 186 years. Carlsberg cite a ‘drop in demand’ to justify the closure. I’m sure that the fact that this former industrial backwater is now prime real estate (property crash apart – got to think of the long term profits haven’t we?) had absolutely no bearing on the decision. Does it matter where beer is brewed? You can replicate the water at a molecular level at a different plant and produce the ‘same’ taste (although that is frankly, cobblers – do a taste test on Leuven-made Stella Artois and the British manufactured wifebeater). But that’s not the point. If Tetley production is shifted to Northampton it absolutely will not be the same. And if you only know their beers from their ghastly smoothflow “beer”, get yourself to Leeds and try a pint of Tetley Cask while you can.