Paul is a fluent speaker who was in full command of his brief. While some of the audience may have had reservations about the move, you can’t say Hydes haven’t thought it through carefully.
The real driver for the move is the ending of their InBev brewing contracts, which makes the current brewery, with its heavy overheads, uneconomic. In the short term at least, cask Boddingtons will be allowed to die, although he suggested InBev may look to revive it in the future.
5,000 barrels a year is a realistic assessment of the volume of their own beers Hydes are currently putting through their pubs. Original Bitter makes up over two-thirds of this. With more intensive use there will, however, be the opportunity to increase production well above that level.
They are going to concentrate entirely on cask beers - their smooth beers will be discontinued and third party alternatives brought in. They will also cease brewing Harp Irish Lager which even now is a strong seller in many of their pubs, and buy in a new portfolio of lager brands. They will continue to brew Owd Oak, 1863, Original Bitter, Manchester’s Finest and a range of seasonal beers.
They are also considering introducing a separate range of beers under a different branding.
As an all-cask brewery, obviously they will stand or fall on the quality of their cask offering, giving a strong incentive to get it right, but on the other hand it could be argued it involves putting all their eggs in one basket.
They plan to buy their new site outright rather than leasing it, which is a sign of commitment to the future.
While they have abandoned direct selling to free trade accounts, they are still looking at doing wholesale business with companies like Wetherspoons and Punch.
He pointed out that Robinson's new brewhouse has a brew length of 90 barrels, as opposed to 360 in the old one, so represents a similar although less obvious reduction in capacity.
Given the business situation they found themselves in, doing nothing and staying with the old brewery wasn’t really a viable option, so it is good that they have decided to stick with brewing rather than simply selling up. Only time will tell whether or not it proves to be a sound move.