Brewer taps English market with McEwan’s

Paul Well tries a pint of Red, a new beer from the McEwan's range. Picture: Contributed
Paul Well tries a pint of Red, a new beer from the McEwan's range. Picture: Contributed
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WELLS & Young’s, the family-owned brewery that bought the McEwan’s and Younger’s brands from Dutch giant Heineken, is to use the two iconic Scottish beers for a push into northern England.

Chairman Paul Wells told Scotland on Sunday that his Bedford-based company would promote its new McEwan’s Red session ale south of the Border, alongside Younger’s Tartan Special.

“The north of England is a market that holds great interest for us,” said Wells. “Younger’s is already a well-loved brand in the area.

“I’ve been in the game long enough to remember when there was a waiting list for pubs wanting to stock Tartan.”

Wells has put McEwan’s back on sale in Canada, after it was withdrawn by previous parent Heineken, and plans to reintroduce it in the United States. He also plans to send McEwan’s to France, where his company owns a chain of nine pubs selling its own-brand beers, including Bombardier, Courage and Waggle Dance.

He said: “We already sell our beers in European markets such as Italy, Russia and Spain and so I envisage selling ­McEwan’s in some of those countries too.”

Wells & Young’s bought the worldwide rights to the two brands in 2011 in a deal believed to have been worth about £18 million.

Younger’s traces its roots back to 1749, while McEwan’s began brewing in 1856. Both brands were cornerstones of Scottish & Newcastle’s empire, which was broken up by Heineken and Danish brewer Carlsberg in 2008.

Wells & Young’s has reintroduced cans of Younger’s Tartan Special to supermarkets and last week unveiled Red, the first beer to be added to the McEwan’s range since the takeover.

The launch of the 3.6 per cent alcohol by volume session ale is part of a £4m investment plan to “rejuvenate” the brand.

Six months of research by the company found that younger and more affluent customers liked the existing McEwan’s ales – including Export, 60/-, 70/- and 80/- – but felt they were “my dad’s beer”.

The new brew is targeted at 30-50 year olds drinking in urban bars rather than pubs.

McEwan’s managing director Peter Mooney said: “At one end of the spectrum you have craft beers, which can have quite complex flavours, and then at the other end you have Belhaven Best and, more recently, Caledonia Best. There is a huge opportunity in between and that’s where Red sits.”

Red will be brewed for kegs at Heineken’s Caledonian brewery in Edinburgh and for cans at Wells & Young’s base at Bedford. Justin Phillimore, Wells & Young’s managing director, said it was “inevitable” that his company’s headcount in Scotland will rise above its current level of seven staff.

McEwan’s Export is Scotland’s best-selling premium ale but lost market share last year, according to market research firm Neilson. Mooney argued Export had an “amazing” position in the Scottish market despite being neglected by its previous owner.

Red is on sale now in a few bars, including the International Bar in Edinburgh and Oran Mor in Glasgow. The beer will be launched to the on-trade this month, with cans going on sale in supermarkets including Asda and Morrisons next month.