Thursday, 14 November 2019

Grolsch bows out

By Source, Fair use,
In what is seen as yet another shake-up of the global beer market, the iconic lager brand Grolsch is set to be discontinued in the UK after 35 years on supermarket shelves. This follows reports in recent weeks, that Grolsch had been de-listed in both Tesco and Asda supermarkets. 

Industry insiders had been saying that supplies of the lager had dried up, and now the reasons behind this have become clear. The brand's owners, Asahi of Japan, have ended their joint venture agreement with Molson Coors,  meaning the brand will no longer be available in the UK or Ireland. 

Molson Coors brewed Grolsch at their Burton-on-Trent plant, but the brand has been passed from pillar to post in recent years, following various takeover and mergers within the industry. Grolsch became a part of the SABMiller group in March 2008, but following their merger with Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2016, the brand was spun-off to Asahi, along with other former SABMiller beer brands such as Peroni and Pilsner Urquell.

By Ccyyrree - Own work, CC0,
The reasons for the decision to drop the brand are unclear, but Grolsch , has experienced a decline in popularity in recent years with sales in supermarkets and shops falling 22 percent in the last year alone. It is not known how much of this fall is due to completion from cheaper rivals, or to the rise in popularity of lower alcohol alternatives. Some commentators have even suggested the increased interest in craft beer may also have been a contributing factor, although personally I am rather sceptical about this.

The Grolsch Brewery was founded in 1615 in the Dutch town of Groenlo, which at the time was known as Grolle. The name Grolsch, means “of Grolle.” At the time of its takeover in 2006, Grolsch was the second largest brewer in the Netherlands (after Heineken), with an annual production of 320 million litres. 

Today, Grolsch is best known for its 5% abv pale lager, Grolsch Premium Pilsner and for its characteristic chunky green bottles, with their swing-top lids. The latter eliminates the need for an opener. The bottles are very robust, and the flip-top cap means they can easily be sealed by hand without the expense of new crown caps. This has made them very popular with home-brewers. 

To me, Grolsch always seemed one of those “other brands,”  a second-division sort of beer, if you like; although to be fair I always found it pleasant enough to drink.  When my wife and I had our off-licence, Grolsch was never a big seller, but it did attract a small band of devotees. 

I am sorry in a way to see it go, but reading between the lines it has been elbowed off the shelf by larger and more “powerful” brands, backed up by the power of mass-advertising. 

I expect home-brewers too, will be sorry to see it go, as will people like me who use the bottle for other purposes. The 1.5 litre bottle in the photo, is my 20p jar, which holds around £300 worth of coins, when full. It is now heading towards its second full load. I acquired it as a novelty, during my time at the off-licence.


retiredmartin said...

I'm always interested to see what the bands I watch are drinking in the club type venues I frequent.

Grolsch would certainly have been a common sight 10 or 20 years ago, now Red Stripe and a cup of tea rile!

BryanB said...

The last I heard - admittedly a few years ago - only the draught version was contract-brewed in the UK, while the bottles were imported from NL. Did that change?

And while we only see the "Premium" in the UK, there's several other Grolsch varieties on offer in NL. If Asahi really wanted to do something with the brand, they could try distributing those abroad!

Paul Bailey said...

I'm surprised to learn that Red Stripe is still popular, Martin. I've always regarded it as a very "90's" brand, but perhaps it serves as a badge of recognition/honour amongst musicians.

Not sure how tea fits in with the rock n' roll lifestyle, unless the artists concerned have to drive to the venue. Either that, or have alcohol/substance abuse issues.

Bryan, seeing as Grolsch has already been de-listed by several supermarkets, we must assume that the bottles (and presumably the cans), were being contract-brewed at Burton, alongside the draught version. If they were imported, they would still be available for retail sale in both Britain and Ireland.

As you point out, Grolsch brew several other beers in the Netherlands, although I can only see the Weizen, Radler plus alcohol-free variants on their website.

David Harrison said...

I've never really appreciated lager, but I remember that at one of the very early Kent Beer Festivals -in Dane John Gardens- the rumour went round that some funny Dutch beer in peculiar bottles, counted as 'Real ale'. I must have fallen for this,as I managed to hang onto the selfsame bottle,despite staggering to my mate's student house.Indeed,it lurked at home until well after I moved out.
Never really got the taste for it, though.

Bobby Mango said...

I could well have the wrong end of the pineapple, but something's stirring at the back of my subconscious that bottles of Grolsch with crown caps were brewed in the UK under licence, but the swing-stoppered bottles were Dutch-brewed. I admit, this is something I vaguely recollect from back in the day and it may not be the case now (and may not have been then either!)

Still, I'm not overly bothered about its demise in the UK. It's just one less eurolager to ignore.

Paul Bailey said...

David, it's a shame that the Kent Festival had to be moved from Dane John Gardens, as it was an excellent venue. I think noise levels were to blame, so given its proximity to neighbouring houses, the move out to Merton Farm was not surprising.

Bottled Grolsch being regarded as "real ale" is pushing it, but the popularity of the swing-top bottles as containers for home-brew, might have had something to do with this myth.

Bobby, you could be right, but I wonder if anyone was able to taste the difference. Shame it's gone, if only because of the iconic bottles.

David Harrison said...

Ahh, we wereyoung(ish) and gullible in those days.My trusty swing top bottle did get dragooned into home-brew service!