Jobs to go as Bluetongue Brewery closes

EDITORIAL: Brewery journey at an end

SIXTY-FOUR workers at the Bluetongue Brewery on the Central Coast are set to lose their jobs after Carlton & United Breweries confirmed yesterday it was shutting the $120million facility.

The closure of the Warnervale site, which will also see the Hunter Valley-founded beer disappear from shelves, comes only a month after cereal giant Kellogg’s announced it would close its factory at nearby Charmhaven, putting 100 people out of work.

It also follows Bluetongue’s recent announcement it was pulling out of its long-standing sponsorship of Gosford’s Bluetongue Stadium. That withdrawal takes effect on February 1.

Blaming the decision on ‘‘excess brewing capacity and duplication’’ in its network, CUB said it would relocate the brewing equipment to its Yatala brewery in Queensland and sell remaining assets.

Company spokesman Jeremy Griffith said it would look to redeploy employees and provide career advice, counselling services and redundancies when staff could not be retained. 

EXCESS: Corporate affairs director for Carlton and United Breweries Jeremy Griffith announces the closure of the site.  Picture: Simone De Peak

EXCESS: Corporate affairs director for Carlton and United Breweries Jeremy Griffith announces the closure of the site. Picture: Simone De Peak

Wyong mayor Doug Eaton made no secret of his disappointment, but said his council could help to form a consortium of other brewers willing to take over the purpose-built brewery.

Staff outside the Bluetongue Brewery on Thursday after the announcement. Picture Simone De Peak

Staff outside the Bluetongue Brewery on Thursday after the announcement. Picture Simone De Peak

EXCESS: Brewer Nic O'Donnell at the site.  Picture: Simone De Peak

EXCESS: Brewer Nic O'Donnell at the site. Picture: Simone De Peak

CLOSING DOWN: Jennifer Hawkins and John Singleton at the opening of Bluetongue Brewery.

CLOSING DOWN: Jennifer Hawkins and John Singleton at the opening of Bluetongue Brewery.

‘‘We desperately need the jobs in this area and this is going to hurt,’’ he said.

A consortium of small Hunter brewers, or even the larger brewers, ‘‘might see value’’ in taking over the site, he said.

‘‘Or maybe some of the clubs and hotels who sell high volumes [of beer] might see an opportunity to come together,’’ he said.

Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner said the state government would work closely with CUB to make sure support was given to those affected by the closure.

“The loss of one job is one too many, particularly in a region such as the Central Coast, so this is devastating news,’’ he said.

“The NSW government will continue to do all it can to strengthen existing businesses, attract new investment and create new jobs.”

Hunter Valley businessmen Bruce Tyrrell,  Ian Burford, Phillip Hele and Paul Hannan founded Bluetongue in 2003.

Four years later, advertising mogul John Singleton bought into the company and took the brand mainstream before selling it to Pacific Beverages, a joint venture between South Africa’s SAB Miller and Coca-Cola Amatil. Pacific Beverages launched the Warnervale brewery in 2010, with adman ‘‘Singo’’, model Jennifer Hawkins and Knights legend Andrew Johns among the VIPs at the opening.

A year later, SABMiller bought Fosters and included Warnervale in its CUB brewing network.

Mr Singleton was yesterday reportedly fuming over the decision to shut the brewery while Mr Tyrrell was similarly disappointed, saying it was never the intention for Bluetongue to be a major brewery. 

Nick O’Donnell, one of about 12 brewers at the Warnervale facility, said that while there had been rumours about the brewery’s demise, the announcement was still difficult to hear. 

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