Scottish & Newcastle is to close the bottling operation at its Gateshead brewery with the loss of 66 jobs.

The closure, at the former Federation Brewery, follows a decision from the UK's largest brewer to stop supplying flagship brand Newcastle Brown Ale in returnable bottles.

Chris Jowsey, managing director, Newcastle Federation Breweries, said yesterday (10 January): "We currently package Newcastle Brown Ale in two types of 550ml glass bottles and this impacts negatively on cost and operational efficiencies.

"No other national beer brand sold by S&N UK or its competitors is available in returnable bottles and we have concluded that it is no longer necessary or economically viable to supply Newcastle Brown Ale in returnable bottles."

Jowsey said that the packaging of returnable bottles would end next month. All Newcastle Brown Ale will be packaged at Tadcaster in North Yorkshire, he added.