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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 05:54 GMT 06:54 UK
Last orders for landmark brewery
By Rachel Kerr
BBC News, Newcastle

Tyne Brewery
The building was originally built in 1868
More than 100 years of brewing tradition ends on Friday with the closure of a Newcastle landmark.

The Tyne Brewery is closing with production moving from the city to Dunston in Gateshead after Scottish & Newcastle bought Federation Brewery.

The last bottles of famous Newcastle Brown Ale have now come off the Newcastle production line.

The run included 3,000 specially labelled bottles, not for sale but to go to employees and the company.

The labels on the commemorative bottles read "121 years of brewing history, last bottles produced at Tyne Brewery April 2005".

Last April, Scottish Courage, the UK operation of Scottish & Newcastle, announced the closure of the Tyne Brewery and the acquisition of the Federation Brewery with plans to combine the two operations at the Dunston site.

Tyne Brewery, 1884. Picture Ian Dobson

The reasons were the breweries were near each other but both operating below capacity and merging would ensure brewing remained on Tyneside.

Chris Jowsey, managing director of the newly-named Newcastle Federation Breweries, said while there was sadness about saying goodbye to the Tyne Brewery, they were looking forward to the future.

He said the crucial thing had been to preserve the brewing tradition on Tyneside.

He said: "It's sad to see the end of a landmark and icon but we are looking forward to the future because of Dunston taking over the reins."

Trial brews have been held at Dunston to ensure the distinctive Brown Ale taste remains the same and Mr Jowsey said they were confident that had been achieved.

The day after it went on sale police rang up and said if it continued to be sold could the strength be reduced because the cells were full
Brown Ale expert Jim Merrington

There were 150 employees at Tyne and about 60 of them have moved to Dunston with the other 90 a mixture of being redeployed in the company or taking voluntary redundancy. There were no compulsory redundancies.

Jim Merrington is an expert on the history of the Tyne Brewery. He worked for the company for 30 years before retiring as commercial director of Newcastle Breweries in 1998.

He said the move to Gateshead meant the process had come full circle as it was where John Barras had founded the company in 1770.

Brewing on the Tyne Brewery site dates back to 1868, with John Barras moving on to the site in 1884 and it becoming Newcastle Breweries in 1890. Newcastle Brown Ale has been produced there since 1927.

Newcastle Brown is now exported to 41 countries and Mr Merrington said it was an overnight success.

Commemorative bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale
The bottles are not being sold but are going to employees

He said: "It was such an overnight success that the day after it went on sale police rang up and said if it continued to be sold could the strength be reduced because the cells were full."

He said he welcomed the decision to keep brewing on Tyneside

He said: "The coming together of two great breweries to form one is excellent. It bodes well for the future still to have brewing on Tyneside."

'Beginning of era'

He said the site had seen a huge number of changes over the years as brewing traditions changed.

He said: "I don't regard it as the end of an era but the beginning of an era. It's good that it's happened this way.

"Obviously there is nostalgia about the buildings and what went on in them, the activities and decision-making, but I think that tradition will carry on."

Mr Merrington is working with a group to produce a book charting the history of the site.

On Friday, a get together for employees was being held to thank them for their work.

As well as the bottles, a number of commemorative items including plates and pens have been produced to mark the occasion.

In Pictures: Tyne Brewery
27 May 05 |  In Pictures
S&N to close Newcastle brewery
22 Apr 04 |  Business

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