Sixty Years of Brewing in Lincolnshire

by Steve Renshaw

As we’ve approached the Diamond Jubilee, the newspapers have been full of articles celebrating the sixty years of Her Majesty’s reign. So I thought it might be interesting to take a look at brewing in Lincolnshire since 1952.

At the time of the Queens’ accession, there were seven breweries left in Lincolnshire. Located in Alford, Brigg, Grantham, Grimsby, Stamford (two) and Wainfleet, they had all been established in the 19th century. As well as brewing, they each owned a string of pubs to sell their beer. Mowbrays of Grantham, for example, had 200 tied houses.

These small-town operations were being swallowed up by larger breweries. Mowbrays was acquired by J. W. Green, a Bedfordshire brewer, in March 1952. Two years later, J. W. Green merged with Flowers Breweries. In 1962, Flowers was taken over by the huge national brewer, Whitbread. The Grantham brewery closed in 1964.

Another example of the acquisition and closure cycle is Hewitt’s of Grimsby. In 1962, Hewitt’s was taken over by Charrington United Breweries. The latter company merged with Bass in 1967 to create Bass Charrington and, only a year later, Hewitt’s Tower Brewery was closed.

In 1974, when Melbourn’s All Saints Brewery in Stamford closed, Batemans was the sole remaining Lincolnshire brewer. During the 70s, traditional brewers were hit by the market saturation of pasteurised keg bitter and lager produced by the large, national brewers. However, cask beer managed to survive and, gradually, began to claw back market share. Some of the credit for this revival must go to four journalists who, in 1971, formed the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale (later to become CAMRA).

From the late 1970s, we saw the birth of a new generation of small breweries, which became known as microbreweries. In the 80s and early 90s a handful of micros opened in Lincolnshire, although only Willy’s in Cleethorpes has survived from that era.

The turning point came in 2002 when, after years of campaigning by CAMRA and the Society of Independent Brewers, the Government introduced a reduced rate of excise duty for small brewers. This measure was a major boost to hundreds of microbreweries which had been established in the late 90s.

Between 1995 and 2012, twenty-nine microbreweries were established in Lincolnshire. Of those, eighteen are still in business. A number have remained as small-scale operations but a few, such as Brewsters, Newby Wyke, Oldershaws and Fulstow, have moved into larger premises in order to increase production. So from seven breweries in 1952, we now have twenty, nineteen of which are micros.

And has cask ale changed during that time? Back in 1952, some breweries would have produced just a mild and a bitter. I’m guessing that they would not have tasted very different from some of the ales available today. However, the microbrewery revolution has sparked experimentation and innovation in the brewing industry.

The result is a much wider range of beer styles and flavours than would have been available sixty years ago. I’m sure this variety will be evident in the many beers being produced to mark the Diamond Jubilee. But for my taste test, I’m sticking with the one Lincolnshire brewery that has operated throughout the Queen’s reign. Batemans have produced Jewel in the Crown, and I managed to find it in The Cross Roads at East Barkwith.

And what about the beer? I’m guessing many of the Jubilee specials will be light, summer ales, but Jewel in the Crown is a lovely ruby colour. It’s fruity, and the roasted malts give it a hint of toffee. Cheers, Your Majesty.

For information about the Campaign for Real Ale, check our website www.lincolncamra.org.uk