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Reading's Courage Brewery closing
By Amanda Dellor
BBC Berkshire Reporter

Reading's Courage Brewery
Reading's Courage Brewery will close on 2 April

Reading was built up around the industries of beer, bulbs and biscuits but beer is the last one of those industries to leave the town.

Back on 12 February 2008, Scottish & Newcastle announced its intention to close its Berkshire Brewery Operations by early 2010.

Lauter Tuns
The Berkshire Brewery's Lauter Tuns
This left the 362 employees working at the brewery with an uncertain future.

It closes its doors for the last time on 2 April 2010.

With it brings an end to Reading's brewing heritage that began with Simonds' Brewery in Broad Street in 1785.

The original Simonds' Brewery merged with Courage in 1960 and became the company we know today in the 1970s.

BBC Berkshire has been speaking to Tom Robinson - general manager of the Courage site.

"Unfortunately over the last 30 years the sales of beer have reduced. The site was built in 1979 and from that point beer consumption reduced and costs needed to be reduced.

"As a business we found that we could take the volume that we produce in Berkshire and put it within the rest of the network."

Kegging lines
The kegging lines at the Courage Brewery

People still do drink beer though, so why does Reading have to close?

"It is about economics when it comes down to it.

"In 2007, quite a chunk of volume we produced moved to Alton Brewery. After that we looked at the viability of the site and we found we couldn't make it viable.

"You look at it across the whole network and you have to look at what is the most economic network that you have at the end of the day.

"Certainly wage costs for Berkshire come into it, costs of distribution are part of it, but when you look at the site it is a 6 million litre brewery and was built for that so has fixed costs.

"When it is producing half that volume, it doesn't make sense."

canning line
The canning line at Courage Brewery

It was obviously tough to tell your workforce that brewing was coming to an end?

"It was a very difficult thing to do. I wanted to be the person to do that.

"The decision affected me as much as everyone else on the site.

"We had talked to people but it's always a shock when you announce it.

"It was hard to do but I wanted to make sure people got that message from me.

"I took them through the decisions and the reasons and how we would support people.

"A good thing in a way was that it was a two-year phase out so it enabled us to think about how we would support people.

"I'm proud of the people here and how they have performed."

BBC Radio Berkshire's Maggie Philbin took a tour of Courage Brewery before it closes its door. Here she describes what it is like inside.

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