Greene King faces brewery campaign
REAL ale supporters are campaigning to keep open an historic brewery in Nottinghamshire following its acquisition by Suffolk-based Greene King.The Bury St Edmunds company's £270 million deal for the 174-year-old firm of Hardy's & Hansons - including its brewery at Kimberley, just outside Nottingham, and its estate of nearly 268 pubs - was completed earlier this week.
REAL ale supporters are campaigning to keep open an historic brewery in Nottinghamshire following its acquisition by Suffolk-based Greene King.
The Bury St Edmunds company's £270 million deal for the 174-year-old firm of Hardy's & Hansons - including its brewery at Kimberley, just outside Nottingham, and its estate of nearly 268 pubs - was completed earlier this week.
No decision has been made on the future of the brewery but the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which has condemned Greene King over other brewery closures in the past, is calling for the Kimberley site to be spared.
CAMRA says that at least 1,200 people have signed a petition for the brewery to remain open and it is urging local residents to fill in 20,000 postcards produced in support of the campaign.
It also says that “concerned” drinkers will be visiting the brewery site and H&H pubs in Kimberley this Saturday to show their support.
Mike Benner, CAMRA chief executive, said the expansion of Greene King's pub estate, which now numbers more than 2,400, was “extremely damaging” to consumer choice.
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“Drinkers are faced with the same Greene King beers in every one of those pubs,” he said. “Only by consumers letting Greene King know that the Hardys & Hansons has their support do we have any chance of saving this historic and highly-regarded brewery and its beers.”
Greene King's shares have soared in value in recent years on the back of a succession of acquisitions and record profit figures.
However, it has become the real ale brewer which many CAMRA enthusiasts love to hate as a result of its closure of the former Morland brewery at Abingdon, in Oxfordshire, and, more recently, Ridley's, at Hartford End, near Chelmsford.
Although production of some of the beers formerly brewed at these sites has been transferred to Bury St Edmunds - notably Morland Old Speckled Hen, which has achieved substantial growth under Greene King's ownership - a number of ales have disappeared.
This has prompted CAMRA's concern over the future of H&H beers which, besides its flagship brand Olde Trip - named after its Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham, reputedly Britain's oldest pub - also include a Mild, a Dark and a Best Bitter.
Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King, said the group had yet to make some key decisions about the future of the H&H business.
“A bit of time is needed to get to know the business and explore all the options,” he said. “But, by the same token, we are mindful of the need to be as efficient as possible, avoiding any unnecessary delays in giving answers to people in both Hardys & Hansons and Greene King.”
Mr Anand added, however: “We are proud to take on a business with a fantastic pub estate and great beer brands. The two companies are an excellent fit, with the same structure, some shared history and a similar culture.
“Although Greene King may seem large in comparison with Hardys and Hansons, we are passionate about our brands and beer quality, we take huge pride in our pubs, and we are fixated on providing the best customer service in the industry.
“We aim to bring to Hardys & Hansons all the advantages of scale as well as the service ethos of a small, nimble operator who genuinely cares about individual customers.
“Our job now is to demonstrate that the confidence shown in our ability and management is well placed and that the trust put in us to behave sensitively and professionally during the process of integration is vindicated.”
Jonathan Webster, managing director of Hardys & Hansons, who has agreed to stay until the end of January, to see through the process of integration, added: “We expect Greene King to build on the past success of Hardys & Hansons.
“The two organisations complement each other, sharing the same values and a real commitment to quality and service. Greene King brews quality cask ale and the reputation of their pub operations is very high.”