Last Victorian brewery in Edinburgh set to close after 153 years

The Caledonian Brewery was founded in 1869 and was the final operating of Edinburgh's 41 facilities.

Edinburgh Caledonian Brewery set to close as Victorian building deemed ‘economically unviable’ Commons
The Caledonian Brewery is the last operating facility of its kind in Edinburgh.

The last surviving Victorian brewery in Edinburgh is set to close after its owners claimed it was “no longer economically viable”.

Production at the historic Caledonian Brewery will cease over 150 years on from its foundation following a decision from alcohol giant Heineken.

The Dutch firm said the iconic red-brick building in the Slateford area of the capital – which opened in 1869 – had been ‘operating under capacity’ for a ‘long period’.

Brewing will now be redirected to Greene King’s Belhaven facility under plans to continue producing Caledonian brands including Deuchars, Coast to Coast IPA and Maltsmiths.

The 30 remaining workers at the plant will now enter into a period of consultation with management over their future.

Matt Callan, supply chain director at Heineken, said the brewery’s “Victorian infrastructure” made it unsuitable for modern techniques, adding the decision “had not been taken lightly”.

He said: “We’re acutely aware of what the brewery represents in Edinburgh, and its role in the history and heritage of brewing in Scotland – this is something we’re incredibly proud of.

Our primary focus is the 30 colleagues based there and we’ll now enter into a period of consultation.

“The sad fact is, its Victorian infrastructure means significant inefficiencies and costs, particularly as it is operating below capacity. 

“To modernise the brewery, and to meet our own sustainability commitments, would require considerable ongoing investment, which would make operating the brewery economically unviable.”

Heineken purchased the facility from Scottish and Newcastle in 2008 – a year shy of the 140th anniversary of its foundation by George Lorimer and Robert Clark.

At one stage, it was one of 41 breweries operating in the capital, but was saved from demolition in the early 1980s after being listed as a site of historical significance.

Callan added the brands produced would be “saved” if the proposed closure goes ahead.

He said: “We have an agreement in principle to licence the brands to Greene King who will brew Deuchars, Coast to Coast and Maltsmiths IPA and Lager at its Belhaven brewery in Dunbar.”

Joe Clarke, Unite national officer for the Food and Drink sector said: “This is devastating news for the Caledonian Brewery which has a 150-year long tradition and history in Edinburgh.

“Unite will enter into immediate discussions with the Heineken and we have arranged meetings next week in order to find out further information and facts relating to the proposed closure.”

He added: “Unite will leave no stone unturned in an effort to keep production and jobs in Edinburgh, and all options should be on the table including government support.”