Thursday, 21 January 2010

Magnet loses its pulling power

Heineken UK, Dutch owner of Scottish & Newcastle, has announced it will stop production of John Smith's Magnet. "What is John Smith's Magnet?" I hear you cry. The beer is so little seen that most younger beer drinkers have probably never heard of it let alone drunk it. The last time I came across it was in a pub in Southampton in 2005, a long way from Yorkshire. Not that it's been brewed in Yorkshire for some time: S&N didn't let such a low-volume beer trouble its fermenters in Tadcaster and had it brewed under licence elsewhere.
The reason given by Heineken is that the beer is now sold in only 100 outlets. That speaks volumes for the priorities of the global brewers. I can think of many brewers who would love to have a beer that was sold in 100 outlets but brewers the size of Heineken can't be bothered with such tiny volumes.
Magnet was a 4% cask beer and it was a nice drop. While it was only 2% stronger than John Smith's Bitter and had an identical recipe, it had an appealing malty and fruity character. And it has been a victim of the law of diminishing returns: a brewer doesn't promote a beer then wonders why it doesn't sell and finally cuts off the blood supply.
It makes me wonder what future such once revered cask brands as Boddington's, Draught Bass and Draught Burton Ale have. Bass once accounted for more than two million barrels a year but first Bass and now AB InBev have allowed it to wither on the hop bine. When I first drank Boddington's in Manchester in the 1970s I didn't think beer could be that good. But that fine beer has all but disappeared.
Draught Burton Ale was a such a sensational success in the late 1970s that it played a vital role in the first cask beer revival. It's the only beer produced by a national brewer to have won the Champion Beer of Britain competition. It was an Ind Coope brand brewed in Burton but when the brewery closed it moved to Tetley in Leeds and has scarcely been seen since. When the Tetley brewery closes either this year or next, I have no doubt that Burton Ale will fall into the mass grave of unloved and unpromoted beers from the past.

4 Comments:

Blogger The Beer Nut said...

Magnet was the first cask beer I tasted, in The Three Tuns in Sheffield in the mid-1990s. I had actually begun to doubt its existence: thanks for clearing that up, even if in such tragic circumstances.

It would be a real shame to see those legacy cask ales go to the wall. In my limited experience they taste better than a lot of the more common flagships of the regional cask beer brewers -- I'd take a pint of cask John Smith's over a London Pride any day of the week. But in fairness they are a bit of an anachronism. Maybe cask beer should be left to smaller companies who maintain an active interest in their own brands.

When the number of quality UK breweries continues to grow, why hanker after these foreign-owned dinosaurs?

21 January 2010 12:05  
Blogger Ed said...

I've heard Burton is made by Lee's in Manchester now.

I agree it was a great beer.

21 January 2010 16:17  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

The only pint of Magnet I have ever had was in a pub in Blackpool many many years ago.
Whilst it is sad to see these old brands go, we do have more local brewers than I have ever seen before.
I did not realise that Magnet was still being produced.
It is more important to me that I can buy my beer direct from my local brewery ( Beeston Brewery) and talk about the beer with Mark the owner/brewer.
So if we are going more local it is bound to happen that some old national beers will dissapear.
Replaced by better local ones as in my case.

21 January 2010 23:56  
Blogger Tandleman said...

I can confirm DBA is brewed by Lees in Middleton.

2 February 2010 13:58  

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