Caledonian Brewery closure: Heineken urged to think again about closure of Edinburgh’s historic Caledonian Brewery

A campaign group has hit out at the decision to close Edinburgh’s historic Caledonian Brewery – saying it is ‘devastating’ news for Scotland’s brewing heritage.

Established by George Lorimer and Robert Clark, Caledonian Brewery opened its doors for the very first time in 1869, and has been operated by Heineken since 2008.

Announcing the closure on Wednesday afternoon, the Dutch brewer said it now has an agreement in principle with Greene King, which would see the brands currently produced at Caledonian – including Deuchars and Maltsmiths – produced at Greene King’s Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar.

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The 30 remaining workers at the plant on Slateford Road will now enter into a period of consultation with management over their future.

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has hit out at the decision to close Caledonian Brewery.

Matt Callan, supply chain director of Heineken UK, said the company has “not taken this decision lightly”.

“We’re acutely aware of what the brewery represents in Edinburgh, and its role in the history and heritage of brewing in Scotland – this is something we’re incredibly proud of,” said Callan.

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“Our primary focus is the 30 colleagues based there and we’ll now enter into a period of consultation.

“The sad fact is, its Victorian infrastructure means significant inefficiencies and costs, particularly as it is operating below capacity. To modernise the brewery, and to meet our own sustainability commitments, would require considerable ongoing investment, which would make operating the brewery economically unviable.”

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“The sad fact is, its Victorian infrastructure means significant inefficiencies and costs, particularly as it is operating below capacity. To modernise the brewery, and to meet our own sustainability commitments, would require considerable ongoing investment, which would make operating the brewery economically unviable.”

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Now, CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has hit out at the decision to close Caledonian Brewery.

CAMRA Chairman Nik Antona said: “This announcement is grim news for Edinburgh and Scotland’s brewing heritage and is part of a pattern of historic breweries, beers and brands being eroded through closures, mergers and lack of promotion in recent years.

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“Years of consolidation of the majority of the brewing industry into the hands of just a few, large international players is to the detriment of Scotland’s brewing history, the diversity of beer in pubs and consumer choice for pub goers and beer drinkers.”

CAMRA’s Scotland Director Stuart McMahon added:

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“While some brands are due to be brewed under licence at Belhaven, this nonetheless will see Caledonian beers losing their identity and provenance as part of Edinburgh’s brewing history and puts the long-term future of these brands, especially the brewery’s seasonal and special beers, in doubt.

“That’s why we are calling on Heineken to think again about this devastating closure, enter discussions with all interested parties and find a viable way forward to save this historic site as a brewery.”

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Commenting on the news of the closure on Wednesday, Lothian MSP Miles Briggs, said: “I am sad to hear that the Caledonian Brewery is proposing closure after over 150 years brewing in the Capital.

“It is important that all thirty members of staff are taken care of and supported in their transition into new roles.

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“The distinctive malt smell which comes from the brewery is part of Edinburgh’s identity and will be missed.

“If the closure goes ahead and the brewery is closed we must ensure that this iconic building is put to good use to best benefit people in Edinburgh.”