It used to be the Bass Museum, then it was the Coors Visitors Centre, and for the last 18 months its been an abandoned, heartbreaking relic of the world’s greatest brewing town’s former glories.
But tomorrow sees the official announcement of the opening of The National Brewery Centre.
Coors have done a deal with a company called Planning Solutions to reopen the museum by Easter 2010. Planning Solutions run a host of leisure and tourism attractions across the country. According to Coors and Planning Solutions, “it will retain key elements of the existing facilities, updating and reorganising the site to create a unique visitor attraction that will ensure its success well into the 21st Century.”
This comes after widespread protest from the town and the wider beer community. But I always felt that Coors were looking for ways to make it work – the PR mess that would have resulted from permanent closure would have been very damaging, and the people I’ve spoken to up there show a genuine enthusiasm for the chunk of brewing industry they now own.
Planning Soluitons aims to introduce animatronics and ‘live’ actors to help entertain and inform visitors in full historical character. “The public’s expectation is ever-greater and we will make sure that all of the exhibits fully-engage with people of all ages,” says CEO John Lowther, “Having live actors fulfil roles previously held by plastic dummies, the visitor experience will be completely transformed. It will be a lot more interactive and immerse visitors into an historical setting.”
Bars and restaurants will be incorporated in the plans for the new centre and these will be open to the general public and available for private bookings and live performances.
The move has been welcomed by the town, its MP and the volunteers who have kept the exhibits in good condition while the museum has been closed.
This enthusiasm stretches from the past to the future – the museum will feature a new 30-barrel brewery, overseen by Steve Wellington, legendary brewer of Worthington White Shield. This will be the hub for the full national launch of Red Shield, a new cask ale from the Worthington brand, and will also allow more brewing of legendary beers such as P2 Stout and No.1 barley wine. I spent two days in Burton a couple of weeks ago brewing with Steve and hearing about the future plans, and my fuller account of it will be in February’s edition of CAMRA’s Beer magazine.