TWO of Scotland’s most iconic beer brands have been sold to an English firm in what brewing experts hailed as a “fantastic opportunity” to revive their image.
The leading brands, McEwan’s and Younger’s, were purchased by Bedfordshire-based Wells and Young’s, who vowed to “give them a new lease of life” while preserving their Scottish heritage, which stretches back more than a quarter of a millennium.
In the wake of the sale of the beer brands – believed to be worth in the region of £20 million – there were fears that Scottish jobs could be at risk. However, Wells and Young’s, the UK’s third largest premium ale brewer, stressed that it would continue brewing McEwan’s draught ales at Edinburgh’s famous Caledonian Brewery.
The firm also unveiled plans to create a dedicated Scottish office to support the brands, along with Wells and Young’s wider range of beers north of the Border.
Wells and Young’s managing director, Nigel McNally, said: “We will invest and nurture these fantastic ale brands and give them a new lease of life, whilst always putting their heritage first.
“That’s why we will continue to brew in Scotland, establish an office in Edinburgh and invest heavily in marketing.”
Mr McNally added: “As well as extending the popularity of McEwan’s and Younger’s in Scotland, we will work hard to increase their availability and fame in the rest of the UK and abroad.”
Famed for its bright red can and the laughing cavalier character in its logo, McEwan’s can be traced back to 1856, while the history of Younger’s – founded in Leith – stretches back even further, to 1749.
Having long operated as rival dynasties, the companies went on to merge, laying the foundations for the brewing behemoth that would become Scottish & Newcastle.
Nowadays, the two brands generate annual retail sales of about £80m in the UK, with McEwan’s the most popular ale brand in Scotland, enjoying more than 20 per cent of the market share.
Iain Loe, a spokesman for the Campaign for Real Ale, said that while the lustre of both beers had diminished somewhat in recent years, their new owners were well-placed to revive their fortunes.
He said: “Of late, the brands have been allowed to wither, and although they still have a big name in Scotland, they’re no longer the sort of beers a lot of our members would like to drink.
“But there’s a great opportunity there for Wells and Young’s to develop them.
“They’re bringing marketing expertise to the table, and it’s very good for Scotland that Wells and Young’s have said they are going to continue to brew them at Caledonian Brewery. They are keg brands at the moment but there’s a chance cask ale versions could be produced, which would be good news.”
The brands were bought by Wells and Young’s from Heineken UK, which took them over three years ago.
Mr Loe suggested that having a more British-focused owner would only be to the benefit of McEwan’s and Younger’s.
“I think Heineken were interested in their global brands, and they weren’t really interested or had the expertise to develop more niche brands, especially in the cask ale market,” he added.
“It’s early days yet but I’d hope Wells and Young’s could really develop these beers to make Scotland proud.
Stefan Orlowski, managing director of Heineken UK, said: “We are delighted to have reached this agreement with Wells and Young’s.
“We know that the McEwan’s and Younger’s ales will complement their portfolio perfectly.”