Friday, 31 August 2012

Young’s Back Yard

The appearance in Crewe of beers that I’d previously associated with other areas of the country – especially the south east – led me to hunt out a leaflet that shows more or less exactly what I meant about the geographical reach of brews not being anything like as great not so long ago. In this I am indebted to Young’s, who used to publish a map showing all their pubs.

Yes, all of them: there were 149 at the time I picked up this leaflet – not sure where – which was titled “Real Draught Beer and where to find it”, with the reverse showing “A Complete List Of Young’s Houses”. You might have also found their beers on sale in the free trade, but I doubt that any of those outlets would have been significantly outside the area of the tied estate.

Take a good look at that map. Very few of the 149 are outside the M25, let alone 158 miles from Euston. Most are clustered within a few miles of the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, with more in and around central London. There is a cluster around Croydon and Sutton. Many of those closest to the brewery were at the time getting their beer delivered by horse dray.

Click for full size version

So when was this map published? Not in the 1950s or 60s, but as recently as 1990 – the date can be seen clearly at the bottom right. So what brings Young’s to Crewe? Well, part of this is the move of production from Wandsworth to Bedford, with the merging of the Young’s and Wells brewing operations, but there is also the rationalisation of middling and larger players in the market.

Back in 1990, suppliers like Greenalls and Tetleys would have supplied many pubs in the area. Some still show the latter’s name outside. But the cask version of Tetley Bitter has effectively vanished from the area. All of Greenalls beers have likewise disappeared. The only reason that Thwaites has any cask presence is because the Nag’s Head has made Wainwright its regular real ale.

Other brewers that had served the Crewe area included Burtonwood and Bass, and neither are now served anywhere, in cask form. Nor is Manchester brewer Boddingtons, as its cask bitter has now ceased production. Small wonder that names like Wells and Young’s, as well as Greene King, which now includes Morland, are so well represented so far from their former heartlands.

So that’s why some cask beers are being trunked hundreds of miles to pubs in the town. And it isn’t only Wells and Young’s: Shepherd Neame of Faversham, as we’ll see, is available too. Young’s Ordinary isn’t a bad pint, but I can buy it in its London home, and on balance I’d prefer a few Tetleys, Thwaites, Burtonwood and Bass outlets. Just a thought.

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