Young's Brewery, Wandsworth
1) after the sad news of 18 September 2006
I first knew something was wrong yesterday on the 19th as I drove my usual morning commute past the Bridge Hotel at Greenford. The Young's Flag was at half-mast. A visit to the Young's site explained why with the sad news of the death of John Young. Despite the below, we mourn the passing of this stalwart of British Brewing. Without him, the prospects for Real Ale in the 70s would have been much darker and the capital might have been left without a single Real Ale brewery. So despite the below, please raise a glass to the memory of a true Hero of British Brewing in grateful thanks for the millions of gallons of the finest ales available produced under his stewardship. Some of which have been going my way since 1972.
John Young C.B.E 1921 - 2006 (brewery announcement here)
2) after the dreadful news of 23 May 2006
Since I was stuck in the usual traffic jam on the North Circular - or A40, I forget which - life could hardly be worse. Then in the mellifluous tones of a Radio 4 newsreader, disaster struck. One of the most important pieces of Britain's Brewing History was to close. Thanks to some nameless nurk in Wandsworth Council reclassifying the Young's Brewery land as suitable for development, Young's is to close by October 2006.
Here follows the edited (thanks, Geoff) version of a correspondence I had with CAMRA over this tragic occurence. It originally appeared in that fine organ London Drinker Vol 28 No 4.
I've been a CAMRA member since 1970-something and my first ever pint was Young's Ordinary. My Dad's office backed onto the Wandle on the opposite bank to the Ram Brewery about which I wrote this page on my website.
Oh my word, how wrong I was. Today, I can't believe I wrote that page.
I remember the pensioners' party during the Jubilee, I've met RamRod (the third one, I was told), I've been in the sample room, I've had the private tour (and the public one several times), I remember the beam engine - and as a Wandsworth resident and beerdrinker, I can remember being so proud of Young's. Here was a company that stuck to its guns against all the odds, here was a slug of history on a site that goes back to when the Danes called Wendel gave up pillaging and turned left up a little tributary of the Thames and settled as a trader from, yes it's true, "Wendel's wharf" and gave the settlement its name.
A glorious anachronism that stuck two (rather right- wing) fingers at the establishment and told it to flush its keg down the tubes - we do proper beer here, deliver it the proper way (and if that means drays and shires on the A3, sobeit - there's nothing magical about so-called "progress", you know), and serve it in proper pubs. Right in the middle of that one way system where they've been for centuries before the one way system existed.
Every time I sank another pint it was in tribute to this wonderful company and in thanks for its stubborn determination do do things properly. Well, apart from the wonderful taste and thirst-quenching properties, obviously. Now - it's just another regional brewery. I think that's what saddens me the most. Once, the flag of Young's fluttered proudly over a unique institution that gave Wandsworth its soul and the real ale movement heart in the dark days of the 70s. Now - an industrial estate in Bedford just doesn't cut it. It may be "more efficient" but Young's once survived and thrived by telling the "efficiency of keg" where to get off. Just aanother brewery, how sad.
How Wandsworth could have allowed this to happen is beyond belief. I think we should organise a wake. A last pub crawl round the 4 corners. Or even let's bring the whole A3 to a grinding halt in memory of this dearly-departed, much-loved long-time friend.
What a sad day. 5 centuries of brewing history wiped from the map. Bloody politicians, bloody developers. I remember Wandsworth when it was a proper South London town. And now in one stroke, London loses 50% of its breweries. It's a bloody disgrace. I'm moving to Devizes...
That was in the few weeks after the awful news. To this day, I still don't understand why Wandsworth didn't bulldoze the Arndale Centre to give room for the Brewery rather than vice versa ... I mean after all, which one would you rather visit?
I still drink Ordinary and Spesh - they're still (for the moment) rather good) but my heart's gone out of it.