Fuller’s, the brewer whose beers include London Pride, is to sell its entire drinks business to Japan’s biggest brewer Asahi.
The company said the £250m deal would preserve the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, west London, where beer has been brewed since 1654.
Fuller’s will now focus on its hotels and pubs business, which generates most of its profits.
Asahi is the owner of the Peroni and Grolsch brands.
Fuller’s said the deal – which also includes cider and soft drinks brand Cornish Orchards and craft cask brewer Dark Star – was due to “structural changes to the beer industry”.
As a mid-sized brewer, the company said it was being squeezed between the global brewers and the 2,000 smaller brewers across the UK.
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said it was a “sad day” for the industry.
Fuller’s is forming an alliance with Asahi to enable its pubs and hotels to continue to sell the beers and ciders.
Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, said: “The deal secures the future of both part of our business including protecting the heritage of the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, which was particularly important to the Fuller’s board”.
While the Griffin Brewery dates back to the era of Oliver Cromwell, the business – full name Fuller, Smith & Turner – was formally created in 1845.
Mr Emeny is the first chief executive of the business not to have come from one of the founding families, taking over in 2013. A large proportion of the shares is still owned by descendents of the founding families.
Neil Wilson, chief markets analyst at Markets.com, said: “Punters won’t notice much difference at the bar. Pubs may be closing at a hell of a clip these days but consumers still want experiences and dining out is one of those.
“Therefore investing in pubs and hotels is essential as consumers demand more from their pub experience.”
He said the deal was well timed because of the fall in the pound.
“Right now with the pound still very undervalued it looks to be a good time to swoop. The Japanese firm has been gobbling up brewers across Europe and elsewhere on major buying spree.”