St Albans beer writer’s new book looks at Britain’s brewing dynasties
- Credit: Archant
Leading St Albans beer writer Roger Protz has turned the spotlight on Britain’s long-standing beer producers in his new book, which is published this week.
Published by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), The Family Brewers of Britain celebrates the contribution to British brewing made by its family brewers.
They are the often-overlooked flag bearers for real ale and have fascinating stories to tell of the early days of commercial brewing. Fully illustrated, with modern and archive photography of the breweries, their pub estates, people and beers, this book will examine the past, the present and the future of these great brewing companies and help to highlight the important part they continue to play in the nation’s brewing story and in their local areas.
Britain’s oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame, based in Faversham in Kent, opened in 1698 and has a large number of pubs in Kent and London. Several more breweries opened in the Georgian period and were followed by a wave of new producers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Roger said: “There has been so much attention paid in recent years to the new wave of small craft breweries that many people are unaware of the 32 family brewers who have been in business for several centuries.
“They are brewers who have survived wars, the threat of invasion from France, punitive attacks by politicians during World War One, and saw attempts to take them over and close them in the 1960s and ’70s.”
The book includes local brewer McMullen in Hertford, who date from 1827 and who own several pubs in the St Albans area, including the historic Peahen coaching inn in the city centre.
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“McMullen has a rags-to-riches story,” Roger said. “It’s a classic case of poacher turned gamekeeper. Early members of the family include one denounced as ‘a rogue and vagabond’ while one son behaved so badly he was sent packing to the United States.”
Yet by 1887 the family was so successful that it moved into Hertford Castle and since then successive members have been mayors and lord lieutenants of Hertfordshire.
“In common with all the family brewers, the McMullens have had their share of disputes and almost closed at the end of World War Two as a result of death duties,” Roger said. “But the brewery survived and is run today by two young brothers, Tom and Alexander, who are developing new beer styles that will make the brewery fit for purpose in the new age.”
The Family Brewers of Britain is available from bookshops or www.camra.org.uk.