Suffolk/ Essex: Growler Brewery saved as Nethergate founder leads buy-back consortium
09:08 15 April 2014
A Suffolk brewer has said he feels like he is coming home after stepping in to save the struggling brewery he founded almost 30 years ago.
Dick Burge has led a consortium to buy back the Growler Brewery, based in Pentlow, Essex, which he originally established as Nethergate in 1986.
The award-winning brewery was put up for sale in March having only been taken over by its current management in 2010, who went about rebranding Nethergate as Growler – its most popular beer.
However, Mr Burge said he wants to bring the company back to its Nethergate roots and renew focus on its core business.
“We’re going to use the Nethergate name much more than the Growler,” said Mr Burge from the brewer’s base yesterday.
“I’ve spoken to our customers today, about 20 customers, and they all say that Nethergate works better. We want to go back to our core business, which is supplying freehouses within our area, which is probably anywhere within 60 or 70 miles.
“It feels like a homecoming, in a way. I’ve always felt emotionally involved in Nethergate as a brand, and I did not want to see it die.”
Mr Burge originally set the business up in Clare, with it moving the short distance to its current site on the Essex/Suffolk border in 2005.
It currently employs 12 people and has an annual turnover approaching £2million.
There were concerns that the recently opened Waggon and Horses pub in nearby Sudbury was in jeopardy having been widely portrayed as a Growler Brewery pub.
However, Mr Burge insisted it was owned by a private individual rather than the brewery, and had never been in the hands of McTear Williams & Wood, which was handling Growler’s sale.
He added: “It is owned by an individual who will still regard it as a Nethergate pub.
“He is very much convinced it should remain as a brewer’s tap – the pub has done very well anyway so far, selling products from Growler Brewery.”
Growler was voted brewery of the year in 2012 by the Good Pub Guide, and has also scooped the Campaign for Real Ale’s national Champion Winter Beer title on two occasions.