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ARM Innovation Hub
31 January, 2007 - 15:19 By Staff Reporter

Brewery in Bedford near full capacity after guzzling Courage

The Wells & Young brewery in Bedford has almost reached full capacity following its swoop for Scottish & Newcastle’s renowned Courage portfolio of ale brands.Just months after taking on production of the Youngs range of ales, the Eagle Brewery will increase its total production by a quarter, or 115,000 barrels a year, hitting almost 600,000 barrels per annum.

At least 15 new staff will be hired as Wells & Young takes on the full production, marketing and sales processes of the Courage brand, bringing the operations down from the Courage facility in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, over the next few months.

The new venture will be run as Courage Brands Ltd, which will be 83 per cent owned by W&YBC, with S&N holding the remaining 17 per cent, and will drive the Courage brands that include Courage Best, Courage Directors, Courage Dark Mild and Courage Light Ale.

Made for an undisclosed sum, the acquisition brings Wells’ production back up to full throttle for the first time since it embarked on a new strategy that saw it exit own-label brewing contracts with customers such as the high street supermarkets.

W&YBC spokesperson, Sarah Mcghie, said: “The intention was to fill capacity with our own branded beer and now we are close. We were aware of this potential transaction around the time that we took on Youngs, so when the facilities were redeveloped we took it into consideration.”

Though running close to maximum and concentrating on the serious business of consolidation, W&YBC is still open to considering further acquisitions and willing to undertake the necessary effort should the right opportunity present itself.

Part of the effort is ensuring ale fanatics continue to enjoy their brew. S&N said great care and attention will be made to flavour matching and product quality as brewing is transferred, assisted by W&YBC master brewer, Jim Robertson, who trained for 10 years as a Courage Brewer at Horsleydown Brewery.

W&YBC was formed in October last year when London brewer Young’s combined its brewing operations with Charles Wells of Bedford, taking on the brewing of all of Young’s beers in Bedford alongside the Charles Wells brand portfolio.

It is now a leading supplier of speciality beers in Britain and one of the top three brewers of cask beer in the country, with two of the fastest growing national brands, Young’s Bitter and Wells Bombardier.

Nigel McNally, MD of W&YBC, said: “This is a significant first major acquisition for Wells & Young’s and firmly cements our commitment to brew and develop speciality cask ale. The Courage portfolio compliments the W&YBC portfolio and gives us further authority to speak to the trade, both in the on and off trade sectors as category leaders of cask ale.”

John Dunsmore, managing director of S&N, added: “The Courage brands are an excellent fit with W&YBC’s existing specialist beer portfolio and they have already proven excellent brewers of a number of our brands over the years, so part of this strategy is to optimise the use of the excellent brewing facilities that they have at Bedford.”

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