London’s long line of family brewing comes to an end

Beerista: The sale of Fuller’s to Asahi late last month took many by surprise

Fuller’s was London’s oldest independent brewery until it was sold to Asahi for £250 million late last month

Fuller’s was London’s oldest independent brewery until it was sold to Asahi for £250 million late last month

 

Amid all the dramatics of Brexit over the past few weeks, you could be forgiven for missing the first big beer news of the year. The sale of Fuller’s, London’s oldest independent brewery, to Asahi for £250 million late last month took many by surprise in the brewing world and beyond. Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide, was reported in the Guardian as saying he was “completely dumbfounded” by the move, adding that it tragically marked the end of a long line of family brewing in London. “Bitter blow to our pride” went one headline in the Daily Mail, regretting the work of “foreign predators” in the UK’s homegrown businesses.

‘Spiritual home’

London Pride, Extra Special Bitter, ESB and London Porter are among the flagship brands of the Fuller, Smith and Turner partnership, which was founded in 1845. Although the Asahi group has said it will continue to operate in the Fuller’s “spiritual home” in the Griffin brewery in Chiswick, it aims to turn the beer into an “international brand”. It will be interesting to see how – or if – the beer changes over the next few years under Asahi, whose acquisitions also include Grolsch, Peroni, Pilsner Urquell among others.

The UK brewery market has become the focus of international brewing giants over the past number of years, including Heineken who purchased a stake in London’s Beavertown for £40 million last year. In 2015 Camden Town was bought out by AB Inbev, owner of Budweiser, Corona, Becks, Hoegaarden and others.

You’ll find a quality line-up of beers on the shelves here from the Five Points Brewery – and they recently added a juicy pale ale called Jupa to their core range – which is one of the roughly 100 microbreweries operating in London.

So fans of Fuller’s now looking for independent alternatives will have plenty to choose from, although the irony of London Pride English Bitter being owned by a Japanese company will linger for a long time, no doubt.

@ITbeerista, beerista@irishtimes.com

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