Tastings School - The pride of Yorkshire

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The pride of Yorkshire

Yorkshire is one of Britain's finest beer regions. We have extensively covered North Yorkshire in past issues. Here Barrie Pepper goes West and South

The 1974 edition of the Good Beer Guide – the very first which warned you to avoid Watney’s like the plague – lists 10 breweries in South and West Yorkshire.

Of these eight have closed. In this year’s guide there are 41, showing a net gain of 39.

This remarkable statistic takes no account of a dozen or more micro plants that have opened and shut in the last 30 years or so. Some of these were never going to make it but others, sadly, were victims of circumstance.

Take the Boat Brewery located behind the Boat pub at Allerton Bywater which was its main customer. Formed in 1999, in 2002 it won a bronze in the mild section of the Champion Beer of Britain awards for its Man in the Boat. One year on the same beer took the silver.

There were high expectations for 2004 but between times the pub changed hands and the new owners stopped selling Boat beers and the brewery was forced into closure. The West Riding Brewery, also a winner at CBOB, was closed down twice after disastrous fires, and there were economic failures at two other prizewinners: Trough of Idle and Stocks of Doncaster.

Success for Yorkshire breweries in competitions is commonplace, and none more than Timothy Taylor of Keighley.

Its flagship beer Landlord has been both Champion Beer of Britain and top prizewinner in the Brewing Industry International Awards several times. Two years ago Pale Rider brewed by Kelham Island of Sheffield was Champion Beer of Britain and 1872 Porter an inspiration from E & S Elland picked up a gold medal in the international awards.

A dozen lesser gongs went to brewers in the county – less auspicious maybe but important to what are mostly small breweries.

The breweries that have passed away from that original 10 include some that are still sadly missed: Barnsley whose breathtaking Bitter was swallowed up by John Smith’s and Courage. Darley’s of Thorne and Ward’s of Sheffield, both with a list of straightforward and beautifully crafted beers.

The only other brewery apart from Taylor’s that has maintained its presence is Tetley’s of Leeds. It is the enigmatic one, you either love it or hate it; nevertheless until recently it has brewed Tetley Cask Bitter, the top selling cask conditioned ale in Britain.

The future of brewing in the South and West Yorkshire looks secure enough and there are sufficient pubs in and around able to take their choice of the hundreds of locally brewed beers.

And although there are claims to a Yorkshire style – sharp tasting, hoppy, light coloured and refreshing – there’s a lot of initiative about to create imaginative and, dare I say it, prize winning beers.


There was a time when Taylor’s beers were not available outside the brewery’s pale – let’s say 30 miles – mainly in the West Riding with the occasional visit across the black stump into Lancashire.

Nowadays you can find the flagship, Landlord, on sale from Aberdeen to Zennor so popular has it become. The tied estate has not grown, it is simply that the beers have enveloped the free trade. Taylor’s confidence in its high place in the list of the nation’s most popular beers is such that guest beers are now sold in its own houses.

And this popularity is shared by such eminent beer drinkers as the Prince of Wales who visited the brewery two years ago and enjoyed Royal Ale specially brewed for him, and Madonna who named Landlord ‘the Champagne of ales’.

Landlord, the 4.3% pale ale seems to pick up awards wherever it goes. It leads a portfolio of four other regular beers – all of them also prizewinners.

The company places quality at the top of its agenda. Only the finest malt and hops are purchased and its water comes direct from a Pennine spring – the Knowle Spring from which the brewery takes its name.

More than £2 million has been invested in both production control and expansion. Four more fermenting vessels were installed which added 30 per cent to production.

Since Timothy Taylor formed the company in 1858 the family has stayed at the head with the present managing director, Charles Dent, married to founder’s great grand daughter.

Tradition has remained important, change has been measured carefully over the last 150 years and the beers are all the better for it.


This brewery was in winning form from the start. It was set up in 1999 by Steve Beech with equipment from two defunct Sheffield breweries – Stones and Ward’s – and its very first brew won the Beer of the Festival award at that year’s Sheffield Beer Festival.

The winning beer was Wentworth Pale Ale (4.0%) - WPA or Woppa to its friends - which continues to pick up prizes on its way.

The brewery is set in the highly attractive, eponymous village with stately home Wentworth Woodhouse as its neighbour along with monuments, columns and follies and two very characterful pubs and all surrounded by beautiful countryside.

WPA isn’t the only Wentworth beer to win awards; most of the others in its portfolio have done so and its most recent success came with a Silver in the speciality beers section at the recent Society of Independent Brewers Northern section’s competition with the honey-laced Bumble Beer (4.3%).

This is unusual in that it has four seasonally different tastes from spring to autumn when the local Wentworth Estate bees are pollinating different flowers.

Wentworth is now brewing 70 barrels each week and has moved into bottle conditioned beers. It sells to the one pub it owns and 300 more across the broad acres of Yorkshire and has declared its intention to create its own estate. Tours of the brewery can be made by arrangement.


Sheffield was a major brewing centre until big brother stepped in and closed down all the major plants within 25 years.

Bang went Hope and Anchor, then Tennants, followed admittedly a few years later by Stones and then, perhaps the saddest of the lot, Wards. But into the void stepped Dave Wicket to create Kelham Island brewery in an industrial area in the north of the city and next door to his pub The Fat Cat.

Business went well and in 1999 he expanded by moving to a new site, at the other side of the pub. Trade remained constant until 2004 when the strongest beer, Pale Rider (5.2%) was acclaimed Champion Beer of Britain at the Great British Beer Festival.

To cope with demand that the success created a partnership arrangement was set up with Ridley’s of Essex but this ended when the southern brewery was bought out and closed. However the brewery has managed to cope and it is brewing to capacity at 50 barrels each week.

“We would like to brew more,” said Dave, “but it means a new brewery and that’s not possible on our present site. So, for the moment we are exploring but have no definite plans.”

He is however involved with a new brewery in the stately home of Thornbridge Hall in nearby north Derbyshire. Last year he helped Jim and Ella Harrison set this up in a former workshop. Already it is producing 20 barrels each week.

Five years ago Kelham Island brewed a special Cathedral Ale to help the funds for a refurbishment of the Anglican cathedral. The Bishop of Sheffield at a commissioning ceremony said ‘I would be a very happy man if every adult in Sheffield would drink a bottle of this beer every day for the next year.’

What he didn’t say was that the fund received 10 pence for every bottle sold.


E and S has its origins in two other breweries: the Barge and Barrel of Elland with brewer John Eastwood providing the E, and West Yorkshire in Luddenden Foot where Dave Sanders gives the S. Mr Eastwood has gone to other pursuits and Mr Sanders carries on making explanations like this and brewing excellent beers. He started his career in 1994 at one of the Allied chain of Firkin pubs.

The new company dates from 2002 and has established a firm portfolio of regular beers along with seasonal ales and one-off specials. In the company’s short life there has been investment in extra vessels and equipment and it now owns one pub and supplies more than 100 outlets across Yorkshire and into Greater Manchester and north Cheshire.

In 2004 a newly brewed beer, 1872 Porter (6.5%) – won a gold medal in the Brewing Industry International Awards.

“It was simply a recipe I found that dated from that year,” says Dave.

It was the first of many and the most recent was a bronze for Bargee (3.8%) in this year’s SIBA Northern Beer Competition.

South and West Yorkshire Breweries


Anglo Dutch Dewsbury
Selected beer: Tabatha the Knackered (6.0%)

No web site
Selected beer: Chardonnayle (4.3%)

No web site
Selected beer: Dalebottom Dark (4.3%)

Selected beer: Rams Revenge (4.6%)

Clarke’s Organic
No web site
Organic bottled beers

E & S Elland
No web site
Selected beer: Beyond the Pale (4.2%)

Empire Huddersfield
No web site
Selected beer: Strikes Back (4.0%)

No web site Selected beer: Malt Shovel Mild (3.8%)

No web site
Selected beer: Pennine Gold (3.8%)

Goose Eye
Selected beer: No-Eye Deer (4.0%)

Selected beer: Flying Winger (3.6%)

Halifax Steam
No web site
Selected beer: Cock of the North (4.9%)

No web site
Selected beer: English Guineas Stout (5.3%)

Little Valley
Hebden Bridge
Selected beer: Cragg Vale Bitter (4.2%)

No web site
Selected beer: Best Bitter (3.8%)

Old Bear
Selected beer: Original (3.9%)

Old Spot
No web site
Just starting up

Selected beer: Silver King (4.3%)

Selected beer: Butterley Bitter (3.8%)

No web site
Selected beer: Old Albion (4.6%)

Sowerby Bridge
No web site
Selected beer: Stabbers Bitter (5.2%)

Selected beer: Golden Salamander (4.5%)

No web site
Just starting up

Timothy Taylor
Selected beer: Landlord (4.3%)

Selected beer: Tetley Cask Bitter (3.7%)

No web site
Selected beer: Blanch de Newland (4.5%)

No web site
Selected beer: Bitter (3.9%)

Upper Agbrigg
No web site
Selected beer: Holme Valley Bitter (3.8%)

WF 6
Selected beer: Brickwoods Squares (3.8%)

Whitley Bridge
No web site
Selected beer: Newton Bar Bitter (4.3%)


Selected beer: Absolution (5.3%)

No web site
Barnsley Bitter (3.8%)

Selected beer: Farmer’s Bitter (3.9%)

No web site
Selected beer: Bengal Tiger (4.6%)

Edale (also Crown and Wellington)
Selected beer: Stannington Stout (5.0%)

No web site
Selected beer: Lightyear (3.9%)

Kelham Island
Selected beer: Pale Rider (5.2%)

No web site
Selected beer: Old Tom Mild (3.4%)

Port Mahon
No web site Brews specials only

Selected beer: WPA (4.0%)