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Jobs axed at Redwell brewery after liquidation of parent company

PUBLISHED: 07:50 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:17 03 January 2020

The parent company of Redwell Brewing is being placed in liquidation. Pic: Archant

The parent company of Redwell Brewing is being placed in liquidation. Pic: Archant

Around 10 people at Norwich's Redwell Brewing - including the MD - have lost their jobs as its parent firm is liquidated.

Ben Hopkins, MD of Redwell, pictured in happier times last March. Pic: ArchantBen Hopkins, MD of Redwell, pictured in happier times last March. Pic: Archant

Meanwhile, the Redwell name continues under new owners, local businessman John Hughes and his brother Paul who are vowing to keep making beer. They are opening up the firm's taproom bar on Friday as planned.

Ben Hopkins, who took over as MD in late 2018 at the brewery based in The Arches, Bracondale, is understood to have been made redundant along with around 10 full-time employees, also including operations manager Laura Handford. Head brewer Belinda Jennings is said to have resigned.

One of the directors, who wished to remain unnamed, and is in charge of liquidating Three Arches, the parent company of Redwell, said after this process he would also be resigning.

MORE: Redwell Brewery bosses defiant despite parent company liquidation

The parent company of Redwell Brewing is being placed in liquidation. Pic: ArchantThe parent company of Redwell Brewing is being placed in liquidation. Pic: Archant

The Hughes brothers have taken over Unicorn Craft Brewing Company, which owns Three Arches.

They said: "We want to make beer and sell beer. We enter a new decade having restructured. Our staff and our local customers are central to our new realistic plans."

Meanwhile, more details emerged as to how the brewer got into difficulties.

A director and investor in Three Arches said: "The Aldi supermarket deal caused a cashflow hole and the same week as that unfolded, planners made the decision to change our [taproom] hours.

Open for business: John Hughes, second from left and brother Paul, second from right, now running Redwell Brewing. Pic: John HughesOpen for business: John Hughes, second from left and brother Paul, second from right, now running Redwell Brewing. Pic: John Hughes

"The two things at once left shareholders saying enough was enough. We have lost £500,000 and it's time to walk away.

"Aldi didn't cancel but Redwell pulled out of the deal due to stock and product challenges, it was unable to meet the order."

He also said that although the brewery had passed initial audits, essential for retaining the supermarket deal, "when there were problems with the process, it was felt if there was a re-audit, it would not pass".

Problems arose after Redwell signed a deal back in October with Aldi to double its sales to the supermarket, producing two different beers to be sold under the retail giant's own label.

"The Aldi order was too large for Redwell, it came to a head at the end of October, it was that deal, the stress of producing that volume," the director said.

The director also revealed that Redwell had failed to benefit from its crowd-funding exercise launched a year ago.

The firm had asked enthusiasts to invest £20 in return for a brewery tour and a free pint, while investors prepared to put £50,000 or more into the pot could name a beer.

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It raised £120,000 in crowd-funding pledges after setting a target of £250,000.

But when it failed to reach this, it got nothing due to the fundraising model's regulations. No one who pledged to the crowdfunding drive lost money.

The spokesman said he himself had invested a "considerable" sum in the firm.

"For me it has been a horrible experience, I and a group of friends stepped in at the beginning to protect the brand, a strong Norfolk brand, and in spite of this, it hasn't worked out.

"I will not be getting involved in the new firm, it is not for me. I have not been directly involved for two years but I have come in at the end to give Three Arches a graceful funeral."

Redwell, a Future50 firm, was bought out of administration in 2017.

It seemed to be thriving with the launch of various partnerships in 2019 including supporting and creating a new beer for Cromer Carnival.

But it recently suffered a blow when Norwich City Council planners decided to restrict their opening hours at the taproom over an issue concerning planning permission.

Neither Mr Hopkins nor Ms Jennings were available for comment.

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