And the news certainly goes counter to the signs coming out of Cumbria until recently, with new facilities having been opened at Flookburgh to cope with the increased demand for their beers. It was a Monday afternoon when I visited a few weeks ago, the Beer Hall was hosting a corporate away-day, there were plenty of visitors enjoying the beer and food on offer, and there was even a passing brewer - Nick Briggs from Mallinsons and Briggs Signature Beers - checking out the range as brewers do in the interests of keeping an eye on what's going on.
So what has prompted the current situation? Hawkshead are owned by the Liverpool-based international wines and spirits group, Halewood International. Over the years they have successfully acquired or developed brands - often taken from former established regional companies such as Greenall Whitley and Hall & Bramley - giving them a new life. So brands include Whitley Neill Gins, Crabbies, and Lambrini, and given their focus on these, the acquisition of Hawkshead - along with Sadlers a few years earlier - always seemed a bit of a strange fit. I suspect that the current situation, with income from the beer side contributing significantly less to the group's coffers, has prompted a wave of cost cutting, and possibly heralds a retreat to "focus on core business." And where this leaves Hawkshead when we emerge from the wastelands of Covid-19, who knows? Will it be as part of a scaled down group with Sadlers' Peaky Blinders range of beers - now brewed in Cumbria rather than Stourbridge - offering a more general and safer viable proposition to a wider market? We just don't know, but on a positive note, the talent that Hawkshead have just lost will surely be someone else's gain.
|Hartleys Brewery, Ulverston (photo courtesy of breweryhistory.com)|
|Arden Arms, Stockport; one of Robinsons' finest pubs|
There have been some unlikely developments as well. I nearly fell off my chair when I read in The Yorkshire Post at the weekend that Sam Smiths were delivering beer via dray horse to residents around Tadcaster. This is the same company whose owner refused in the wake of the 2015 floods to allow, following the collapse of the town's main bridge, a temporary footbridge on his land to cross the swollen River Wharfe necessitating a detour of about 3 miles just to cross from one side of town to the other. Now a cynic could say it may just be a means to get some income and give the horses, one of whom is called Humphrey like the brewery's owner, some exercise, but who knows, it may be an act motivated by kindness for the local residents. Let's hope so.
|"No comment": a couple of dray horses earlier today|
|Stod Fold Dean Clough, Halifax|
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