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An introduction to family brewers 

A great way to learn about the drinks we love is via the medium of a good story. Roger Protz introduces family brewers: Iconic, family-run breweries that have been fundamental in the evolution of the British brewing landscape for hundreds of years without which today’s beer scene would be very different.

Explore the place of family brewers in British Brewing within a historical and economic context, the vital role women have played within family brewers and the new hope as the next generation takes over the reins.

Roger Protz

Roger is a prolific author of books on beer and pubs. As a speaker and educator giving talks and tastings across the world Roger has traveled widely in the search for good beer and continues to be one of the most vocal and respected champions for British beer and brewing.

 

An introduction to family brewers 

Explore the place of family brewers within British Brewing in a historical economic context, the vital role women have played within family brewers and the new hope as the next generation take over the reins. (Skip to the guide)

A great way to learn about the drinks we love is via the medium of a good story. Roger Protz introduces family brewers: Iconic, family-run breweries that have been fundamental in the evolution of the British brewing landscape for hundreds of years without which today’s beer scene would be very different.

Roger Protz

Roger is a prolific author of books on beer and pubs. A speaker and educator giving talks and tastings across the world.

I grew up in the East End of London…

…surrounded by such once famous names in brewing as Charrington, Ind Coope, Manns, Taylor Walker and Truman.They started life as family brewers, became public companies and disappeared in the wave of mergers, takeovers and closures that scarred the 1960s and 1970s.

Family brewers were, and remain, independent breweries that are owned and managed by members of the same family.

Of course, many small independent craft brewers are family-owned too. In this context I am talking about stalwarts of the industry who have been around for centuries, some from the Georgian period.

Somehow, against all the odds, some 30 of these family-owned breweries have survived. They have withstood not only takeover frenzies but, in earlier times, the threat of invasion from revolutionary France, world wars, bombings, recessions and attacks from politicians who were ill-disposed to the brewing industry.

It is because their story is so remarkable, that they are such a notable and historic feature of the British brewing landscape that I have written a book about Family Brewers

I grew up in the East End of London…

…surrounded by such once famous names in brewing as Charrington, Ind Coope, Manns, Taylor Walker and Truman.

They started life as family brewers, became public companies and disappeared in the wave of mergers, takeovers and closures that scarred the 1960s and 1970s.

Family brewers were, and remain, independent breweries that are owned and managed by members of the same family.

Of course, many of the new wave of small independent craft brewers are family-owned too. In this context I am talking about stalwarts of the industry who have been around for centuries, some from the Georgian period. Somehow, against all the odds, some 30 of these family-owned breweries have survived. They have withstood not only takeover frenzies but, in earlier times, the threat of invasion from revolutionary France, world wars, bombings, recessions and attacks from politicians who were ill-disposed to the brewing industry.

It is because their story is so remarkable and that they are such a notable and historic feature of the British brewing landscape that I have written a book about Family Brewers

“Somehow, against all the odds, some 30 of these family-owned breweries have survived..”

 

— Roger Protz

“Somehow, against all the odds, some 30 of these family-owned breweries have survived..”

 

— Roger Protz

We take them for granted.

We see their names on pub signs but don’t pause to think: “That’s a Shepherd Neame pub – and Sheps has been around since 1698.”

Most importantly, they are the flag-bearers for this country’s unique contribution to beer – cask-conditioned real ale. They are not fuddy-duddies though or lost in the past. In addition to brewing beer for cask many of them are also producing; beers for keg and other distribution containers, modern interpretations of traditional beer styles, and lager. Some have branched out into adding unusual flavours such as herbs and spices and are also ageing beer in oak casks obtained from the wine and whisky industries.

But without their commitment, we would no longer enjoy a type of beer that’s not finished in the brewery but which reaches maturity and perfection in the pub cellar. It requires skill and even a little love to “tap and spile” a cask, allow the beer to breathe, and for the yeast sediment to fall to the base of the container before it’s pulled to the bar by a simple handpump without the need for applied gas pressure.

People who write off cask beer and doubt it has a future should pause and look at simple statistics gained from my visit to Timothy Taylor’s brewery in Keighley, West Yorkshire. I asked chief executive Tim Dewey how much beer he produced a year. “70,000 barrels,” he replied. And what proportion of that is cask? “80 percent,” he responded crisply. That’s not a type of beer that’s heading for oblivion.

We take them for granted.

We see their names on pub signs but don’t pause to think: “That’s a Shepherd Neame pub – and Sheps has been around since 1698.”

Most importantly, they are the flag-bearers for this country’s unique contribution to beer – cask-conditioned real ale. They are not fuddy-duddies, lost in the past. Many of them are also producing modern beer styles such as craft keg and lager. Some have branched out into adding unusual flavours such as herbs and spices and are also ageing beer in oak casks obtained from the wine and whisky industries.

But without their commitment we would no longer enjoy a type of beer that’s not finished in the brewery but which reaches maturity and perfection in the pub cellar. It requires skill and even a little love to “tap and spile” a cask, allow the beer to breathe and for the yeast sediment to fall to the base of the container before it’s pulled to the bar by a simple handpump without the need for applied gas pressure.

People who write off cask beer and doubt it has a future should pause and look at simple statistics gained from my visit to Timothy Taylor’s brewery in Keighley, West Yorkshire. I asked chief executive Tim Dewey how much beer he produced a year. “70,000 barrels,” he replied. And what proportion of that is cask? “80 per cent,” he responded crisply. That’s not a type of beer that’s heading for oblivion..

“Somehow, against all the odds, some 30 of these family-owned breweries have survived..”

 

— Roger Protz

I’ve been writing about beer and brewing since the late 1970s.

One thing I’ve discovered over those long years is that you never stop learning.

Trawling through the archives of the family brewers proves it’s clear they are far from being whiskery old gents lost in the past.
At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the early brewers of the 17th and 18th centuries produced dark beers for the simple reason that grain destined for brewing was dried and heated over wood fires that created brown malt. As soon as coke replaced wood as the fuel in malting, brewers in country areas embraced pale malt and pale beer with as much enthusiasm as those based in towns and cities.

Palmers in Bridport in a remote part of Dorset, with rudimentary transport and slow communications, nevertheless hurried to join the pale ale revolution within a few years of the new style being perfected in far-off Burton-on-Trent. A century earlier, the pioneers among the family brewers moved fast to join the race to produce the ground-breaking style of the 18th century: Porter and Stout. They are thought to be quintessentially urban beers, brewed in London and Dublin, but the early family brewers became celebrated for their versions of the style.

Families fall out and there have been some spectacular rows and disputes over the years, most notably in Yorkshire. In the 19th century, Samuel Smith and John Smith opened rival breweries cheek-by-jowl in Tadcaster and a century later the Theakstons of Masham also went their separate ways. The Theakston row was especially bitter, with members of the family slugging it out in the High Court in London, one side accusing the other of conspiracy. The result led to Paul Theakston opening his own Black Sheep brewery in buildings formerly owned by his cousins.

 

I’ve been writing about beer and brewing since the late 1970s.

One thing I’ve discovered over those long years is that you never stop learning. Trawling through the archives of the family brewers proves it’s clear they are far from being whiskery old gents lost in the past.

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the early brewers of the 17th and 18th centuries produced dark beers for the simple reason that grain destined for brewing was dried and heated over wood fires that created brown malt. As soon as coke replaced wood as the fuel in malting, brewers in country areas embraced pale malt and pale beer with as much enthusiasm as those based in towns and cities.  

Palmers in Bridport in a remote part of Dorset, with rudimentary transport and slow communications, nevertheless hurried to join the pale ale revolution within a few years of the new style being perfected in far-off Burton-on-Trent. A century earlier, the pioneers among the family brewers moved fast to join the race to produce the ground-breaking style of the 18th century: Porter and Stout. They are thought to be quintessentially urban beers, brewed in London and Dublin, but the early family brewers became celebrated for their versions of the style.

Families fall out and there have been some spectacular rows and disputes over the years, most notably in Yorkshire. In the 19th century, Samuel Smith and John Smith opened rival breweries cheek-by-jowl in Tadcaster and a century later the Theakstons of Masham also went their separate ways. The Theakston row was especially bitter, with members of the family slugging it out in the High Court in London, one side accusing the other of conspiracy. The result led to Paul Theakston opening his own Black Sheep brewery in buildings formerly owned by his cousins.

“Most importantly, they are the flag-bearers for this country’s unique contribution to beer – cask-conditioned real ale.”

 

— Roger Protz

Brewing is seen as a very male-dominated industry.

However, my research has revealed that women have played – and continue to play – a major role in running breweries. At Harvey’s in Lewes, three sisters ran the brewery from 1912 to 1980, with Alice-Mary Harvey Smith in the chair. At St Austell in Cornwall, Hester Parnell was in charge for a remarkable 23 years, from 1916 to 1939. Anne Hyde ran Hydes in Manchester for 56 years from 1916 and Ann Yerburgh was a director of Thwaites of Blackburn for many years before becoming chairman in 2000. 

Women continue to play an active role. At Elgood’s in Wisbech, Belinda and Jennifer from the family are in charge while at Bateman’s in Wisbech Jaclyn Bateman runs the brewery with her brother Stuart. Jane Kershaw is a director of Holt’s in Manchester and was named Brewer of the Year in 2019 by the influential Parliamentary Beer Club.

Brewing is still a very male-dominated industry.

However, my research has revealed that women have played – and continue to play – a major role in running breweries. At Harvey’s in Lewes, three sisters ran the brewery from 1912 to 1980, with Alice-Mary Harvey Smith in the chair. At St Austell in Cornwall, Hester Parnell was in charge for a remarkable 23 years, from 1916 to 1939. Anne Hyde ran Hydes in Manchester for 56 years from 1916 and Ann Yerburgh was a director of Thwaites of Blackburn for many years before becoming chairman in 2000.

Women continue to play an active role. At Elgood’s in Wisbech, Belinda and Jennifer from the family are in charge while at Bateman’s in Wisbech Jaclyn Bateman runs the brewery with her brother Stuart. Jane Kershaw is a director of Holt’s in Manchester and was named Brewer of the Year in 2019 by the influential Parliamentary Beer Club.

“Somehow, against all the odds, some 30 of these family-owned breweries have survived..”

 

— Roger Protz

The Family Brewers of Britain.

A celebration of British brewing Heritage by Roger Protz

Britain’s family brewers are stalwarts of beer making. Some date back as far as the 17th and 18th centuries and have survived the turbulence of world wars, bomb damage, recessions, floods, and the hostility of politicians and the temperance movement. This book, by leading beer writer Roger Protz, traces the fascinating and sometimes fractious histories of the families still running these breweries.

Pre-order your very own copy today

 

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