Carlsberg takes control of brewing at Marston’s

New venture to brew beer while Marston’s retains pub estate

Marston’s has become the latest brewer of traditional English ales to offload its brewing operations in favour of a focus on its substantial pub estate. In doing so it follows Fuller’s, Wells & Young and Greene King, all of whom have sold all or part of their businesses in recent years. The divestment is not total, as Marston’s retains a 40% share in the new venture, Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company, with Carlsberg paying £273k (€307k) for the remainder.

Headquartered in Burton-on-Trent, Marston’s is the largest brewer of cask beer in the UK and produces its flagship bitter, Pedigree, on the last operational Burton Union system. It has acquired five other regional breweries over the years, including Jennings, Bank’s and Wychwood. Additionally a number of cask beers are brewed under licence by Marston’s including the iconic Bass Ale.

Danish giant Carlsberg already has a substantial presence in the UK, with a large industrial brewery in Northampton. It owns the Tetley brand of ale and in 2017 purchased the troubled London Fields microbrewery.

The new venture will give Carlsberg a major additional inroad to the British ale sector, as well as access to Marston’s 1400 pubs. This places it squarely in competition with its continental rival Heineken, which owns 2700 outlets through its Star Pubs subsidiary.

Fears have been expressed over the safety of the diverse Marston’s portfolio, both in terms of beers and operational breweries. Cosolidation is likely to be fiercely resisted by consumers.