Brewing up export plan for iconic ale

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Heineken announced it had sold its two Edinburgh beer brands, McEwan’s and Younger’s, to an independent brewer in a deal reported to be worth around £20 million.

Bedford-based brewer Wells and Young’s now plan to breathe new life into the brands by increasing supply to England while breaking into potentially lucrative overseas markets in China and Russia, the firm’s managing director Nigel McNally claimed today.

Mr McNally said the brands could diversify with the addition of different flavours and packaging formats – such as cask and bottles – to boost demand for the products globally.

And he said the production of McEwan’s draught ales would remain at the historic Caledonian Brewery, where operations were transferred in 2005, while Younger’s, which was founded in Edinburgh in 1749 but has recently been brewed at sites in England, will now be produced at Wells’ Bedford site.

As a result of the deal, Wells and Young’s has now been propelled into the top three UK premium ale brewers, below Greene King and Marston’s.

Wells, which also brews Jamaican lager Red Stripe, said there were no jobs at risk and that up to five new positions would be created at a marketing office destined for the Capital.

Mr McNally added: “With 150 years of Scottish heritage, we will invest and nurture these fantastic ale brands and give them a new lease of life, whilst always putting their heritage first.

“That’s why we will continue to brew in Scotland, establish an office in Edinburgh and invest heavily in marketing.”

He said that there was an appetite for diversity in export markets, with Wells already established in the US, Canada and Europe, and making in-roads into Russia and China.

Asked if there were big ambitions for their new acquisitions, Mr McNally said: “They become the largest beers in our portfolio so we have a vested interest in looking after them and we would like to be around for another 130 years.

“It’s really about providing more choice for the drinker and bringing new drinkers to the great range of McEwan’s and Younger’s beers.

“I think we should be very open-minded about bringing different flavours of beers to McEwan’s and Youngers beers. Within our beers we have banana bread beer, chocolate beer and a honey beer, and they are all successful.”

Stefan Orlowski, managing director for Heineken UK, said: “We are delighted to have reached this agreement with Wells and Young’s. We know that the McEwan’s and Younger’s ales will complement their portfolio perfectly.”