End of an ale era as Wood's Brewery closes citing 'unfavourable conditions'

Real ale drinkers in Shropshire are ruing the closure of a renowned county brewery in Wood's.

The award-winning Wood Brewery, based in Wistanstow, Craven Arms, was created in 1980 and became one of the best known in the county.

Its closure has been confirmed by a message on the company's answering machine.

A sad-sounding message says that the company's demise was "forced" on to it due to "unfavourable trading conditions."

The recorded message apologises for not being able to answer - but it points out that the brewery pub, the Plough Inn, remains open and trading.

Since it started brewing real ales in 1980, the Wood Brewery has become one of the best known in Shropshire.

Shrewsbury and West Shropshire CAMRA were dismayed to hear today of the closure.

Wood’s was an early addition to the new wave of real ale breweries in Shropshire, growing from family ownership of The Plough next door to the brewery, and continuing in family ownership for over 30 years.

The CAMRA branch has had a long and happy association with the company and have enjoyed Wood’s hospitality in the brewery, and their beers in pubs across the county and beyond.

Becky Ransley, the branch chairman, said: “This is a sad day for brewing in Shropshire.

"Wood’s produced beers which satisfied many a monner’s thirst and brought Shropshire brewing to the notice of drinkers throughout the UK.

"Our thoughts are with the current employees of the brewery, and the two associated pubs, the current owners and the founders, the Wood family.”

CAMRA says although few pubs in Shropshire have closed permanently as a result of the pandemic alone, several have reduced their hours and others have reduced their range of ales.

This has had a knock-on effect on brewers which are also facing increased ingredient and energy costs.

Norrie Porter, the group's public affairs officer added: “This sorry event is an indication of the lack of support from the Government for breweries during the pandemic.

"Although eligible for furlough payments, brewers got no grant support despite their customer base disappearing overnight during lockdowns. Small breweries have struggled on under intense pressure, waiting for market conditions to improve.

"Unfortunately for some, the recovery hasn’t been quick enough and they have come to the end of their resources.

"This is a reminder to pubs as well as drinkers that our traditional brewing and pubs industries remain fragile, and we need to use them or lose them.”

Wood's top-selling bitter, Shropshire Lad, was the leader of the pack for the brewery, which boasted a range of brews.

Last year the brewery celebrated its 40th anniversary a year late – an earlier attempt had been cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Following the easing of restrictions, and the reopening of food and beer festivals, the brewery decided to mark the occasion by taking part in four events over a five-week festival.

In September 2021, the company managing director Stephen O'Neill said the past 18 months had been very hard for the business.

"About 85 per cent of our sales are to pubs, so this business was completely wiped out during lockdown," said Mr O'Neill.

"We did improve our bottle sales, but nowhere near enough to compensate and we were forced to make cutbacks in a number of areas in order to survive."

They had released two new drinks, and re-introduced an old one, and even teamed up with Shropshire Distillery in Ellesmere to produce a limited edition hopped dry gin, using the Cascade hops which make the Take 5 IPA and Shropshire Lass beers.

Sadly now it seems all the company's efforts have failed with the latest news.

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