Bitter end to Gales brewery

BEER bosses today confirmed people's worst fears when they announced the historic Gales brewery will close.

As predicted by The News, Fuller's – which bought the 150-year-old firm for 82m last year – has decided to shut the brewery and shift production of beers to its base in Chiswick from March 31.

The devastating news was broken to 21 members of staff today, who have all been told they have lost their jobs.

Workers at the brewery in Portsmouth Road feared the worst when luxury cars turned up at the site and bosses in flash suits marched into the building.

They dealt out the details of the decision, which include: stopping the brewing of popular beers like Horndean Special Bitter (HSB) and Butser and moving production to Chiswick;

axeing the production of Gales Bitter because it is too similar to Fuller's London Pride; making 21 members of staff redundant; turning the brewery building into a distribution and warehousing operation.

One worker – who refused to be named – said staff were 'gutted' by the decision even though it had been predicted for many weeks.

Chief executive of Fuller's Michael Turner said the decision to shut Gales brewery was a difficult one but claimed it was right for the business.

He said: 'While we are sad to announce the end of brewing in Horndean, with the loss of 21 jobs, we feel it is the best option for the long-term development of Gales beers.'

andy.kates@thenews.co.uk

What do you think of the decision to end brewing in Horndean? E-mail Gales RIP and we will put the best comments on our website. Please remember to include your full name and address.

This wasn't really unexpected; since the demise of the Gales family within the directorate, Gales had become very lackadaisical in their overall management policy and, in spite of much misguided expenditure (The Chairmaker's Arms for instance!), many of their outlets were no longer offering what their customers really wanted.

My own experience, over the last couple of years, has been that consumer criticism and constructive comment has been met by, at best, a negative response from Gales. They seem to have forgotten that their whole existence depended on their customers.

Whilst it's a shame to see a local industry disappearing, it's no longer a local family business – they've already all taken their profits and run, regardless of any loyalty to their employees or the eventual outcome.

On a positive note, at least we local residents will no longer have to suffer enormous traffic queues through the Village whilst large lorries are blocking the road outside of the brewery and, when all's said and done, a majority agrees that ESB and London Pride are much better brews than the Gales offerings!

Colin Tegg, Horndean

The forced death of Gales Brewery has every to do with corporate profit and

greed and nothing to do with the tradition of brewing, quality, reputation

or loyalty.

"Fullers" just wonted to kill off a worthy competitor.

I am sure that Fullers executives don't give a "fig" about Gales heritage,

Gales employees or the community of Horndean.

One has to question the executives and majority shareholders of Gales

Brewery who so readily and quickly agreed to the sell out off of Gales

Brewery.

One wonders what those ex Gales Executives and ex Gales majority

shareholders have to say to their loyal customers, the employees and the

community around Horndean.

Lastly, I am sure that Fullers will not care nor support the retained

Fire-fighters at the local Horndean Fire Station as Gales did so well.

Bryan Hare, Horndean

I am devastated after hearing that Gales brewery in Horndean is going to be shut down, I grew up in Portsmouth and moved to Bristol 20 years ago, all this time I have been getting my regular delivery of HSB either by members of my family or occasional visits 'back down south'.

In my opinion HSB is a gem of a traditional beer that, along with many others is fast disappearing from our land.

This is indeed another sad day for British traditional brewing.

Neil Short, Bradley Stoke, Bristol

Having lived in and around Horndean for most of the last two decades I'm amazed at the naivety of the Fullers management in thinking HSB will still be HSB when brewed in Chiswick. Have they not watched what has happened (particularly in the car making industry) what happens when you lose a strong brand identity?

I hope this goes sour for the greed merchants of Chiswick. I certainly won't be drinking "New Gales" when in the UK from March.

Mark Dorey, Zurich, Switzerland

I worked as a barman in a Gales pub in the early seventies. I well remember that the then George Gale made a habit of appearing in each of his pubs unannounced and ordering a half pint of "Ordinary" (now "Butser Brew") just to check that the quality of the beer was up to scratch.

He would then go on to have a meal (if the pub did food) and enjoy a peculiar cocktail involving gin, Dubonnet and something even more exotic, the details of which now escape me.

In 1975 I went to London as a student and encountered Fullers beer for the first time. Whilst it is correct that Fullers' "London Pride" equates to Gales Ordinary bitter there was a distinct difference in taste. That was underlined by the difference between Fullers ESB and Gales HSB:- the former was much less smooth than the latter and left an unpleasant aftertaste. Since the pub I frequented was immediately outside the gate of the brewery, I must assume that it was "passed by the management".

I have serious doubts that the water of Chiswick can replicate that of Horndean and therefore we have to adjust to yet another change, which will see local produce supplanted by a foreign import. Are we to expect the Managing Director of Fullers to continue the tradition and appear unannounced in Gales pubs? If he does, he might learn something!

Tim Concannon, Buriton

No more beer to be brewed in Horndean?

The answer's quite simple.

After the end of March, don't drink any Gales Ales.

Gerry Woods, Southbrook Road, Havant

I am a non drinker but I am sorry to hear of the closure of the brewery at Horndean. It is a perfect example of corporate greed, they do not care about the jobs and the historic value of the area.

Hugo Beschorner

Aside from feeling sad at the loss of a local brewery, it will also mean the end of an era for me. Not only do I remember the times 25 or so years ago when HSB proved too potent a drink for such a young man, but also the intervening years when both myself, and my palette matured. Enabling me to enjoy the excellent flavour and the company of friends and strangers in some of the most charming pubs in the area.

John R Enderby 50 Wilson Rd Portsmouth

Fuller's can no longer pretend to be a caring company extolling family values with this devastating blow on Hampshire's oldest and most traditional brewery. With no regard for jobs, beer choice or 150 years of heritage, the axing of Gales will rip the heart out of Horndean.

HSB will certainly become Hampshire's Secret Beer when its copy flows out of the London suburbs using different ingredients and brewing methods.

Meanwhile the superb Festival Mild, brewed originally for a Hampshire Beer Festival, and only last month winner at the Champion Winter Beer of Britain Competition will no longer use the unique spring water that gave it its taste.

Next step will be the selling off of community locals to help pay for their purchase, together with development of the brewery for high cost executive flats and apartments.

Fullers have shown they care little about such niceities as they now prove they have joined the band of breweries who put local customer wishes at the bottom of the agenda.

John Buckley, Mcfauld Way, WHITCHURCH, Hampshire

This is an example of everything that is wrong with business today. I have been involved in corporate acquisitions and must say that the lack of clear strategic intent is upsetting for both employees and public. Whilst I agree that there could be some benefits for Gales in being part of the Fullers group by bringing new outlets increasing the potential customer base and also the opportunity for combining some service infrastructure and group purchasing to reduce costs. Fullers have obviously ignored local feelings and have adopted a strategy of buying a competitor in order to take them out of the market. Things like this make me sad as institutions like gales are part of our tradition. Earlier this month I had some visitors from Taiwan and Germany and took great pleasure in booking them on a brewery tour, they thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the beer and found their stay at the ship an bell very comfortable. I am the managing director of a local company and find it very difficult to find interesting venues for my international visitor that are not the normal faceless global chain hotels. Fullers, please rethink your strategy and help this country to retain it traditions and not just be driven by increasing shareholder value for investors who have absolutely no interest in brewing and only have an interest in their bank balance.

Paul Revell, Photon Power Technology Ltd, Waterlooville

I was a Watney man once, called Fullers beer Thames Water.

Sorry lads another asset stripping exercise.

Why not set your own brew up you have the experience.

F.W.Jiggins, Bracknell, Berks

It is with regret that Gales ales will disappear because of the need to feed

the bottom line by the new purchasers. while it has been a few years since I

have enjoyed the taste of Horndean Special brew I still have a

bottle(unopened) of Gales D-Day Special. I recall , in the 50's tasting a

home brew made by my wife's friends father. It was the best homemade beer I

had ever enjoyed. When I asked his secret for making such a great beer, he

said he had help from the master brewer at gales. it's a long way from

Portsmouth to Canada but I do regret the loss of such great beers.

Bill Hooper, Toronto Canada

We cannot believe this. For us, HSB was the king of all beers. Shame on Fuller's. Long live Hampshire's HSB!

Rosie, Marcia and Jean. Kansas City USA

With regard to the imminent closure of the Gales brewery in Horndean - one must question the reasons as to why Fullers decided to buy Gales.

Was it because it recognised that Gales was a leading brand and its stature as the largest independent small brewery in the country something that Fullers wished to exploit? If so, then surely they would play this strength to increase the turnover in sales of Gales beers.

Was it because Gales was profitable and that they wished to capitalise on an opportunity to increase their own profits through sales of Gales beer? If so, then the brewery would be staying open.

Or was it because Fullers intended to buy up and then dissolve the opposition? Perhaps that is why they have been attempting to 'recreate' HSB in the lab rather than sticking to the brewing methods that have made HSB what it is today? Having acquired the brand name of Gales, and 'recreated' HSB, what need of the brewery itself?

Perhaps Fullers have even had their eyes on the Horndean site for redevelopment? Have the local authority already given planning permission for change of use, I wonder? Is that planning permission for residential accommodation? If so, then the government need to step-in and put a halt to this.

I was weaned on HSB as a student in the late 70s and early 80s. My taste is Traditional English Ale (or "a nice cuppa T.E.A.... ", as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore used to refer to it....) and my palate has become quite discerning in the years since. I even like Fullers E.S.B and Discovery. However, if these plans proceed I can assure you and the management of Fullers that I will never again touch a single drop of their produce, nor will I set foot into any of their establishments. I will also actively dissuade my friends and colleagues from putting any business Fullers' way.

Their closing line " we feel it is the best option for the long-term development of Gales beers." beggars belief. What they really mean is "we feel it is the best option for the long-term development of Fullers beers.".

The question I posed earlier needs repeating. Why, exactly, did Fullers buy Gales? I think we should be told.

Graham Wheatley, St. Andrew's Road,

Southsea

What a disastrous start to 2006. I know things never stay the same, but this

year has hardly got under way before I learn that there is to be no ice

cream and now, no beer in my home town. You'll be telling me there is no

premiership football next! The taste of Portsmouth is turning sour.

Bill Seager - Downham Market, Norfolk.

'This is a sad day for Hampshire beer lovers as well as, of course, the people who will lose their jobs. Fuller's are a well-respected brewery, but HSB brewed in London just won't taste the same as HSB brewed in Horndean. The great shame is that it was the very success of the beer that led to the takeover - and the subsequent loss of the beer as we know it. RIP, HSB.' Mark from Drayton, Portsmouth