Changes a-brewing

Southwold brewer Adnams is proud of its past but has just invested £10m in its future, including a state-of-the-art brewhouse. A plc with strong family input, it has its own way of doing things, from a quietly profitable green strategy to a new product it hopes will reach the parts other real ales don't. Andrew Saunders reports.

They like to do things differently at Adnams. That much is plain as soon as you arrive at its picturesque Southwold, Suffolk, base, where the mellow yellow brick of the famous brewery contrasts with the white-painted wood of the landlocked lighthouse - and the slow, grey rollers of the North Sea break on the shore of the bay a hundred metres away.

There is no shiny office block, no towering atrium and, best of all, no surly security staff. Just a modest reception area and a ready smile and cheery hello. It's refreshingly straightforward and makes a wonderful first impression. This, one immediately feels, is a place where people rather than processes predominate.

Chairman Jonathan Adnams is equally far from the corporate archetype. In jeans and puffa waistcoat, he's dressed for the outdoors, not the boardroom; lean and weatherbeaten, he looks every inch the keen sailor that he is. Until quite recently he was a member of the local lifeboat crew, and when the maroon went up, he had to answer the call. Unpredictable departures from even the most important meetings were not unknown; visitors abandoned in this way must have felt nonplussed.

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