UK: Closure of National Brewery Centre is a 'devastating loss'

A temple of British brewing tradition, the National Brewery Center (NBC) in Burton upon Trent / UK, is to be closed. The heritage site that is owned by Molson Coors and is dedicated to Burton upon Trent's historical connections with the brewing industry is planned to make way for the firm's new headquarters after the company sold its current head office for GBP 5.7m (USD 6.2m). About 50 jobs are at risk at the NBC.

The NBC features exhibits showcasing the history of brewing techniques. It also houses a bar and cafe, a history of the town, a collection of historic vehicles, a micro brewery and a shire horse collection.

The museum's importance becomes apparent when one realizes that Burton upon Trend is regarded as the home of the UK brewing industry. The city once produced about a quarter of Britain's beer and was home to more than 30 breweries.

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) says the closure will be “a devastating loss not only to Burton upon Trent but also to the nation’s brewing history.”

“While we can see the benefit of relocating the archive to a site where they can be properly stored and maintained, a limited display of material in a new location is not an adequate replacement for the only museum in the UK focused solely on our brewing heritage,” says CAMRA’s National Executive Member Gillian Hough.

While preserving the historic buildings on the site, Molson Coors plans to move the archive to the new Burton Heritage Centre, which will form a spacious site with the former Town House and the Bass House. But the new center will not be big enough to house the displays and artefacts at the NBC.

The museum started in 1977 as Bass Museum and was taken over by Coors (which eventually became Molson Coors) in 2000, when Bass left brewing. At its peak, the museum attracted 120,000 visitors a year, but without any promotion numbers declined before Molson Coors announced in 2008 the closure of the museum.

However, after heavy protests, headed by several organizations including CAMRA, with more than 400 people marching through the town, the decision was reversed and Molson Coors agreed to lease the museum to Planning Solutions, an events company that opened in 2010 the National Brewery Centre (NBC) including a later added Heritage Brewery that recreates old Bass beers.

After Planning Solutions became notice to terminate the lease on the site, not only the museum but also the Heritage Brewery is in danger of closing if not relocated elsewhere.

“CAMRA urges Molson Coors to reverse its decision, invest in the center in its current location and ensure its collections are open and accessible to the public. As one of the largest brewers in the world, Molson Coors has a responsibility to safeguard historic and educational facilities that are under its care. It is extremely concerning that Molson Coors is putting profits over protecting Burton’s place in global brewing history,” Gillian Hough adds.

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