Today in Leeds we reach the end of an era to the anger and consternation of many of the citizens of this city, for today the Tetley’s Brewery closes forever and almost two hundred year of brewing ceases.
And Steve the brewer from our little band of brothers is forced into early retirement.
Joshua Tetley started brewing beer on the site south of the river in 1822 using water drawn from a well on the site and its been argued ever since that the same water supply is what has given Tetley Bitter its distinctive flavour, certainly anyone of my vintage will have been weaned on the stuff as teenagers for when ah wor nobbut a lad you didn’t sup namby-pamby lagers or coloured fizzy alco-pops when you went into a pub, you drank pints of Tetley Bitter and you stood in a tap room with older peers and quaffed deeply of the tawny ale and admired the way that the creamy foam head stuck to the glass all the way down – a landlord who kept a good pint of Tetley Bitter was a craftsman at his trade and a valued asset to his community.
Now all of that has changed, the current generation don’t go into pubs and when they do they don’t go into pubs to admire a finely brewed ale, more they go into pubs to tweet a friend across the room while drinking a glass of wine, or a poncy lager brewed in a random European country, or worse a bottle of pop to which has been added alcohol. More importantly pub landlords would argue that they don’t go into pubs at all but buy alcohol cheaply from supermarkets and drink at home, the death of the Tetley Brewery is linked intrinsically to the death of the pub too.
Greg Mulholland our local MP is a beer fan, he is also one of parliaments top tweeters and I’m forever receiving tweets from him describing which pub he is in and what beer he is drinking, he is vociferous in his condemnation of the closure of Tetleys by its owners Carlsberg and is leading a campaign to boycott Carlsberg products in the city, I do hope that his campaign is succesful although as a non drinker all I can do is stand on the sideline and wave a flag in support.
In Greg Mulhollands words Carlsberg have simply shafted the Tetley Brewery, asset stripped the company and abandoned the city under the excuse of profits and shareholder dividends, he points out that Carlsberg are not a struggling company, they are an international brewer making profit who simply don’t want to produce Tetleys beer any longer and having turned their back on the city its only right that the city should turn its back on them.
Of course they will brew the product elsewhere and here is the most shocking part to all true Yorkshiremen – Carlsberg are brewing the famous Tetley Bitter in Northampton and Wolverhampton.
I’ll let the fuss and hubble-bubble die down for a while.
Yes, Tetley Bitter is being brewed in Northampton, thats down south to those who don’t know their geography – they are brewing Tetley Bitter DOWN SOUTH, if you had told that news to a gathering of my peers in any pub in Leeds in the 1970s then frankly my dear you’d have been taken outside, tarred and feathered and strung from a lamp post for herasay – how can you brew Tetley Bitter down south, simple answer is you can’t, it will have “Tetley Bitter” written on the can but it won’t be Tetley Bitter inside the can, merely a cheap rip-off, comparable to buying an “i-pod” on eBay for £10 and then finding that you’ve ordered it from someone in China.
So Steve goes in for his last ever shift today and he is much saddened for it for brewing is in his blood much more than he dare to admit, he left school at 16 to work at the John Smith brewery in Tadcaster and then a few years later moved to Tetleys where he has done his turn at the mill ever since, night and day shifts for god knows how many decades, he admits to anyone who will listen that he hasn’t a clue what he will do with his time now and despite making the suggestion he hasn’t taken me up on the offer to trade places, more is the shame, he has already made the pledge not to purchase Carlsberg products and so my friends, so should you.