Sunday, 31 August 2008

Tales from the Riverbank (1)

I was walking the dog the other day along the river path past the Stag Brewery in Mortlake and just reflected on the size of the site. If the handful of acres at Wandsworth realised £69 million, this prime stretch of river bank but be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Of course, it has always been prime land but the brewery is about to change hands again. The owners, Anheuser Busch are in the final days of being swallowed up by Inbev, to combine as the world's largest brewer, with a turnover of $36 billion and production of over 46 billion litres.

Although Mortlake Brewery is now a state of the art lager plant brewing vast quantities of Budweiser, my guess is that this could be one of the prime assets of the Anheuser Busch UK business. Luckily the credit crunch will defer any plans to "rationalise the property portfolio".

Beer has been brewed in Mortlake for over 500 years and although the Brewery History Society would have grounds for complaint about any redevelopment, how ironic it would be for a brewery whose more recent history has been anonymous to the real ale scene, to be a case for a protest campaign.

In my memory the brewery was owned first by Watneys. In those days of the late 1970's there was still a large amount of real ale produced - although it was of the Watney variety - London Bitter and Fined Bitter together with the fine barley wine, Stingo (in bottle only). Although I don't believe that Red Barrel was ever brewed here, it was for the local Sheen Lawn Tennis Club that keg beer was invented in 1960's. As Watney was taken over by Grand Met, the brewery became part of Courage and then Scottish Courage, part of Scottish and Newcastle and at that time started to become more lager driven.

ScotCo then leased the brewery to Anheuser Busch who have since made billions of pints of Budweiser on the site and, it is believed, purchased the freehold more recently.

My only comment thus far is watch this space - I would think plenty of others are.

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