>Tetley. Bitter.


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.

About teninchwheels

Designer, photographer and Vespa-fixated pub bore. Born in Yorkshire, living in that London these past 20 years. Get in touch at teninchwheels@gmail.com, especially if you'd like to send me some free beer.
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6 Responses to >Tetley. Bitter.

  1. A F-A says:

    >There’s a horrible inevitability about this really. I was in Milwaukee recently, the home of Miller and US brewing. But the growth is in places like Rock Bottom Brewery which is a micro-brewery chain, brewing on site. It’s analogous to all those great places one can visit in Germany where they brew Kolsch, or Alt, or local Weissbiers. I just think we are all fed up with tasteless brown liquid, and are moving away from giant breweries. So the trick with (proper) Tetley’s would be to buy it out of Carlsberg and return it to what it once was – a belting good Yorkshire beer! At the moment, it’s overtaken by T. Taylors, Sam Smith’s, Black Sheep et al.

  2. >The thing is, Tetley do produce excellent real ales – produced in genuine Yorkshire Squares , a highly labour intensive method used by Black Sheep, and Sam Smith’s (but not Taylor’s as far as I know). They even do a mild. Tetley suffer a bit from being That Big Company In Leeds, and their association with Ice Cream Pints (as do John Smith) but their brews are as good as a lot of the craft brewers. A pint of hand-pulled Tet’s through a sparkled swan-neck is a thing of great beauty indeed.You’re right about a buyout – I’d definitely chip in if I had the money. Keep the core products, and keep making them on the original site. I grew up practically next door to Taylor’s – and I can vouch that a brewery can be a good neighbour if the rest of the Tetley site became residential. Wouldn’t it be good if Taylor’s bought it?

  3. A F-A says:

    >”Tetley suffer a bit from being That Big Company In Leeds, and their association with Ice Cream Pints (as do John Smith)” I so agree…and that their bitter, on top form, is as good as anyone’s – and better than most. Trouble is, submerged inside a “We must be bigger than anyone” company, they can’t concentrate on being good…just big! If their management was brave (and believed in Tetley’s), they’d buy it out….

  4. A F-A says:

    >Full 5 minute film clip and expose on Look North tonight (disapproving, natch) and appearance by AMRA guy! I think this one might run, yet!!

  5. BLTP says:

    >It's sad news and madness when local food & drink is the thing it's astonishing that local councils let it happen can you imagine the authorities in champagne letting one of their vineyards close. Look at youngs in wandsworth one of the oldest breweries in the land and the local council were glad to see the back it. Local beer is always best

  6. >According to the Guardian this morning, production of Tetley will be kept in Yorkshire at either Heineken-owned John Smith’s in Tadcaster (now more famous for its ubiquitous “smooth” ales than its very decent cask ales) or Theakston’s of Masham. Sort of makes me wonder about “falling demand” – I doubt they’ll be making less of the stuff. The article also mentioned that the site was worth a hundred million quid, even with the property market as it is. Hmmm.Between 1987 and 2004 (when the family bought it back) Theakston was owned by Scottish And Newcastle (now owned by Carlsberg and Heineken – see a pattern emerging?) who turned the Masham site into a sort of folk museum, with the vast bulk of Theakston’s being brewed in Newcastle at the Tyne Brewery, which is now closed (Newcastle Brown is now made in er, Scotland).Ironic that a small regional could be the saviour of a formerly gigantic once-rival. I think it’ll end up at Tadcaster, though. (welcome, bltp)

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