Fuller’s Brewery – Meet the new boss

I will keep this short as I’m writing from the road. The sale of Fuller’s brewery in Chiswick, West London arouses deep emotion in the heart of all true beer lovers of any generation or (today) nationality.

With roots in the 1800s and links to yet more distant brewing onsite, Fuller was the last family-controlled firm in London of the pre-craft/pre-CAMRA generation of English brewers. Moreover they were specialists in cask ales, a category under pressure again in Britain – quite literally as it happens.

Times and the business climate change, we all know it. And brewing will continue onsite at least for the forseeable future, but in the hands of a Japanese lager business with unceasing international ambitions whose perspective will inevitably differ from the descendants of the British founders who have sold their controlling shares.

I will always recall best Fuller’s of 30 years ago. The houses (pubs) seemed more natural then, less professional, more in keeping with their origins as independantly founded, hence more diverse in character and interesting.

The beer was better too, especially the famous Extra Special Bitter. Its hop taste seemed to change in recent decades, and the beer is less winy and sweet now, IMO.

Still, the porter is good as are some of the vintage and one off brews. And London Pride bitter, for its part, still deserves the name when well-served.

All things must pass, as another British legend, Beatle George Harrison, once set in song.

As the London-born Pete Townshend wrote too, the song is over, or in a manner of speaking it is.

It’s not all behind me though, the music lives on, in the form of a contemporary brewing tradition of symphonic complexity that is audible through the world.

To a not inconsiderable degree, the inspiration for that can be traced to the vatted lyres of Chiswick.

 

2 thoughts on “Fuller’s Brewery – Meet the new boss

  1. I haven’t batted an eye when newer craft brewers, like Lagunitas, have been bought by macro brewers. This one, however, feels a little harder to take.

    I think it may well turn out fine — Fuller’s line of beers is well established and there is no burning need to convert London Pride into Fuller’s New England Imperial IPA, or heaven help us, alcoholic soft drinks. And I think the economic pressures that might drive Fullers to be cheap on ingedients won’t be a bigger factor with new owners compared to staying the course.

    It’s also possible that a big foreign owner might lead to a push to expand exports, and that could mean very good things in North America. Beer production can scale up well without a loss in quality, better than some other products.

    But there is still some nostalgia for the way things were.

    • Thank you for this comment, well-expressed, and I hope you are right. However, it seems to me when a foreign company buys a business like this a line has been drawn. It’s nothing to do with Japan, it would be the same imo if the Germans had bought it, the Dutch, the Americans. It’s foreign-managed, essentially, and the key decisions are taken elsewhere. Often literal product approval, approving batch specs and such, is offshore too.

      Personally I wish part of the families controlling the vendor had bought it, although it probably would have meant the brewery buyers giving up their stake in the pubco which likely was not palatable to them. Or maybe it was not possible to raise the necessary money, or maybe no one was available with sufficient interest.

      Anyway it’s done and we should hope for the best.

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