The beautiful old Wisteria plant at Fuller’s Griffin brewery is in full munificent bloom. Brought here from China in 1861, a year after the battle of Waterloo and planted in the brewery yard outside what was then the Head Brewer’s house, it is one of the oldest in the country.
It must have witnessed a few changes over more than 150 years, but perhaps none as significant as this week’s hand over of brewing at the site to Japanese beer company Asahi.
The company bought the Fuller, Smith & Turner drinks business for £250m, including its flagship London Pride and has made clear its intention to carry on brewing at the site by Hogarth roundabout.
Asahi issued a statement yesterday announcing the arrival of the first range of cask ales and ciders into its portfolio: London Pride, Frontier and their first Premium Cider brand, Cornish Orchards.
The acquisition is part of Asahi’s international growth strategy ‘to lead the Premium Beer category across Europe’. They have previously bought Peroni and Pilsner Urquell. In practice it should mean that beers made at the Griffin brewery are sold more widely through Asahi’s international infrastructure.
There was still a rather wistful message on Twitter from brewing team leader Henry Kirk on Friday as he started the last batch of beer to be made by a company still run by descendants of the the Victorian brewer:
‘I’m the last brewer on shift at Fullers while it is still owned by the family. Brewing a Wild River to see us home’.
Photograph by Jon Perry