The beer factory in Mortlake, which translates as “Dead Water”, has finally been put on death row and will receive its bolt through the head in 2010. Although its sad to see any brewery close down, I can't help cheering that this keg palace on the Thames is about to disappear. In recent years the brewery has been owned by American Beer giant Annheuser-Busch and they made their famous rice beer there – Budweiser. Before that the brewery was the home of Watneys and their great contribution to beer culture – Red Barrel.
The Mortlake Brewery began life in the 15th Century and in the 1840s was acquired by a Charles James Phillips. In 1888 it was owned by More & Co Ltd and Watney & Co bought it in 1889. It was renamed the Stag Brewery in 1959 after Westminster Council decided to drive a road through the original Stag Brewery in Pimlico. Destroying a brewery owned by Watneys could only ever be regarded as an improvement.
Now Watneys were bought by Grand Metropolitan who ended up buying Courage and the whole ownership got a bit convoluted as people stopped caring where their mass produced fizzy water came from. Courage went to Scottish & Newcastle who went into a partnership with Annheuser-Bush in the case of the Stag Brewery. Still with me? Annheuser-Bush has now merged with In-Bev and so the Stag Brewery is surplus to requirements as In-Bev has spare capacity at the modern motorway breweries at Salmsbury and Magor.
And now we see the Welsh connection, the former Whitbread Magor Brewery, now In-Bev, uses water from the Severn Tunnel to make Stella Artois and other traditional Welsh products. Magor – the home of wife-beater, as it should say on the sign posts going into the town. Now for years the local branch of CAMRA have had a salute to the Magor beer factory. When we have been imbibing the other side of the River Severn, we always make sure that we empty our bladders and flush the toilets on the train in the Severn Tunnel. We know where the waste water is going. I like to think that when I see someone drink Stella in a pub, that I have contributed a little bit to that pint. Now if production of the rice beer Bud moves to Magor I can have double satisfaction when I see a lager drinker. It will be a coup for Wales if Bud does come here and will rank alongside Pot Noodle as one of the great icons of Welsh food and drink.
CAMRA should be applauding the closure of the Stag Brewery, Mortlake, a non-real ale producing keg factory. Let's have a day of celebration when the plant does shut. There's a half decent Youngs pub opposite the factory, or even better, let's hire a barge on the Thames and stock up at the Griffin Brewery on the way to Mortlake. CAMRA members can then toast the demise of the last Watneys Brewery with bottles of Fullers London Porter and celebrate real ale and the fact that the founders of CAMRA way back in the 1970s never thought they would see the day when real ale wins over keg.
Stag Brewery to close – a victory for real ale drinkers everywhere.