Published on October 6, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour0
History and innovation in a glass
Black Sheep Brewery is 25 years old this month, so what better time to remind ourselves of a story of expertise, passion, vision, sheer bloody-mindedness and, consequently, family acrimony
Black Sheep was born from the pioneering spirit of Paul Theakston who, in 1992, followed his heart and dared to start a new brewing enterprise.
He was born into a brewing dynasty; Paul’s family and the T&R Theakston company had been brewing in Masham, North Yorkshire, for five generations before it was finally taken over by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries. The “old” family firm had been subject to a series of acrimonious battles which lead to the takeover in the late 1980s, and although Paul was offered a role in the “big” company, his heart was always in Masham.
So in a brave move, and with a growing family to support, he made the decision to leave the business founded in 1827 by Robert Theakston and John Wood in the Black Bull pub and follow his heart.
Some soul searching inevitably followed but soon the idea was born to start afresh, so in 1992, Masham gained a pioneering new brewery, built on traditional values. The brewing copper, mash tun, hop-back, and the Yorkshire Stone Square fermenting vessels were refugees from other breweries; three of the fermenting vessels were literally snatched from under a demolition ball.
Black Sheep’s current site once housed Lightfoot’s Brewery which Paul Theakston’s grandfather had taken over after the First World War. Names were toyed with and it was noted that annual sheep fairs played had a huge part in Masham’s history.
Paul Theakston says: “When my wife Sue suggested Black Sheep while we were sitting in the kitchen at home we knew instantly we had stumbled on something.”
Today, the sixth generation of the Theakston family brewing heritage is now proudly part of story, with Paul’s eldest son Rob as managing director, and second son Jo as sales and marketing director. Black Sheep supporters – and there are a lot of them – come from far and wide to experience the brewery first-hand and the magnificent visitor centre has become an integral part of the experience.
Black Sheep continues its tradition in innovation a flow of new and experimental brews alongside Black Sheep Ale (4.4% abv) which continues to maintain its presence among the top ten premium bottled ale brands in the country.