The closure of Boddington’s brewery is sad, but is not such a great blow to the city or to real ale. The truth is the beer isn’t that good and industrial sites don’t fit in modern city centres. The city now has numerous microbreweries like Marble and retains a clutch of historic family brewers offering centuries of heritage and who own hundreds of pubs; Robinson’s, Lees, Holt’s and Hydes (who will now brew cask Boddington’s, in Manchester).
My lucky introduction to real ale came in the early 1990s, with my first PR job working on Robinson’s, then owned and managed by the fifth generation (I believe the sixth generation have entered the business now). I reported to Mr Dennis (family members are addressed Mr first name, because there are too many Mr Robinsons). Truth was, in common with most of my generation I was used to drinking lager and I was put on the spot by a couple of legends; Ian Botham and Max Boyce. They were in pantomime at the now demolished Davenport Theatre and I’d been put in charge of the brewery tour and press call (front page of the Stockport Express!). After the tour Botham accused me of being a lager drinker and I lied. Anyway, by the end of the afternoon I’d consumed a very large amount of bitter and now drink real ale whenever I can. I’ve since worked with Tetley’s, Marston’s, Bass and the North West Brewers Society, none of which exist in the same form today; the ’90s were a rocky decade for brewing.
Back to Boddington’s. Location does make a difference to the beer. For many years Tetley’s transported water from Leeds to Warrington by train, but still couldn’t match the original. But cask Boddington’s will still use Manchester water over at Hydes. The keg (smoothflow) and canned products are (almost by definition) only consumed by people who know nothing about beer and so won’t notice. (Better to drink a European lager than keg ale.) More importantly, the brewery site is an area in the midst of significant redevelopment with new housing and shopping facilities and an industrial site doesn’t really fit in with that. Closure will provide a good opportunity to ensure these new developments properly integrate with the city centre.