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Ceylon Brewery moves to Biyagama

From P. Rajaratnam in Nuwara Eliya
(Reproduced from Daily News of October 23, 2001)

Ceylon Brewery Limited has wound up operations in Nuwara Eliya by shifting to Biyagama after 150 years.

Most of the employees and staff have been given the option to retire with perks and gratuities. The Ceylon Brewery Limited provided job opportunities for the educated and sports-minded youth of Nuwara Eliya and promoted all sports activities with particular interest in soccer.

The Ceylon Brewery Limited started as a family concern and grew to a national product with an international flavour with the secret being the Nuwara Eliya water.

The Irish and the Scottish as early settlers of the British era in Nuwara Eliya naturally had found it to be a ‘Pub with no Beers’. Back at home, beer with a cheer was as common place as a chew in then Ceylon.

According to records the family business could be traced to 1860. The brewing business gradually progressed and was named the Ceylon Brewery. The site for the brewery was chosen below the present ‘lovers’ Leap falls especially due to the excellent water and its richness in mineral values.

The present brewery was founded as the Ceylon Brewery Limited in 1881.

The historical development of the Ceylon Brewery from the early days has been recorded in the following manner by R.S. Burgoyne Johnson, a brewer in the forties.

The work done by Lindsay White in the 19th century, Hood Wright Snr. and Bass in the early 20th century, then later on by Hood Wright Jnr. and to the present time, Wood Hobley laid the foundation for the Ceylon Brewery. It is on record that Hood Wright Snr. when teaching his son the noble art of brewing insisted that he slept in the brewery. His meals would be sent down to him. Long hours of supervision in the brewery are necessary and tough pupilage was the right approach.

Around 1921 considerable rebuilding of the brewery took place and new plants were installed.

It has come a long way from the family concern to a national industry. The habit of beer drinking in Ceylon was originally introduced by the British and this habit developed rapidly in all parts of the island.

Beer became a widespread social custom. The company in the early days adopted islandwide distribution in an organised manner.

However the people of Nuwara Eliya and beer drinkers from all parts of the country particularly the holiday crowds including foreigners will miss the chilled ‘Beer’ of Nuwara Eliya waters with the production and bottling coming to an end here.

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