This Yorkshire Day, 1 August, we take a tour of God’s own county’s beer brewing heritage.
Beer was first brewed on a large scale by monks in the 12th and 13th centuries and with so many medieval abbeys in Yorkshire, it is not surprising that there is a strong brewing culture.
Towns shaped by beer
We are lucky to have many fine breweries across England but few places have been shaped so much by the influence of the local brewery as some of Yorkshire’s towns.
The market town of Tadcaster in North Yorkshire is home to three breweries – John Smith’s, Samuel Smith’s and Molson Coors Tower Brewery. The town is often filled with the comforting, hoppy smell of brewing.
Founded in 1758, Samuel Smith’s is the oldest brewery in Yorkshire and still employs traditional methods, including a small fleet of Grey Shire horses that deliver beer to pubs in and around the town.
Another small market town in North Yorkshire, Masham, hosts two internationally known breweries – Theakstons and Black Sheep Brewery. The breweries are actually run by members of the same family and the Black Sheep name belies a family feud. The town is also known for its major sheep market which originated because of large flocks of sheep at nearby Jervaulx and Fountains Abbeys.
Theakston’s ‘Old Peculiar’ is so named because, in the medieval period, the Archbishop of York designated the parish of Masham a ‘Peculier’ meaning that it governed its own affairs. It’s thought that this was to avoid what was an arduous and dangerous journey up to Masham.
A picture paints a thousand words
A number of Yorkshire brewers pay homage to local heritage through decorative beer labels. To celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of famous landscape designer Lancelot Capability Brown, Great Newsome Brewery in East Yorkshire brewed ‘Incapability Brown Ale’.
Whitby Brewery’s logo utilises the iconic shape of the Grade I Whitby Abbey ruins in North Yorkshire.
Saltaire Brewery’s logo features the Grade II* listed Salts Mill, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site near Bradford.
Family business Wold Top Brewery in East Yorkshire have Grade II* listed Flamborough Head Lighthouse on their Headland Red beer…
… and medieval scheduled monument Scarborough Castle on an IPA!
New uses for old breweries
While beer remains popular, brewing processes have changed over the years and some of the buildings historically connected to this industry have fallen out of use. Thankfully, many of them have found new uses.
Built in the late 19th century, Grade II listed Clementhorpe Maltings was operated by the Tadcaster Tower Brewery until the late 1950s. It was derelict until local developer, Northminster Ltd, took it on in 2015. Northminster Ltd converted the building sensitively into six town houses, keeping many of the original features like the timber trusses, malt bin doors and Victorian cast columns and the particularly impressive twenty foot high entrance hall that shows off original industrial machinery like the seed dressing machine, bucket lift elevator, steep and grain hopper.
Albyn Works in Sheffield was once the premises of silversmith Joseph Pickering & Sons. As an offshoot to the companies metal polishing products business, they developed a substance called ‘Blanco’ that was used by the British Army to whiten their uniforms during both world wars. In recognition of this, the current occupant of Albyn Works, The Sheffield Brewery Company, created a beer called ‘Blanco Blond’.
As Yorkshire’s brewing heritage inspires a new wave of indie brewers, it’s become popular to set up shop in disused industrial spaces. Grade II listed Marshall’s Old Flax Store, that served the nearby textile mills in this heartland of the industrial revolution, is now home to Northern Monk brewery and Refectory. Brewing 20,000 pints of beer a week – drinkers will be spinning a different kind of yarn!
If you prefer a stronger brew then you can do no better than a proper cup of Yorkshire tea from Taylors of Harrogate. Either way, Cheers to a great Yorkshire Day!