Black Sheep Brewery turns 20

Posted on 29 Oct 2012

North Yorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery is celebrating its 20th birthday with a special anniversary brew named Progress.

The name seems particularly accurate, considering the obstacles the successful company has had to overcome over the past 20 years and the difficulties the UK manufacturing sector as a whole is experiencing.

Founder Paul Theakston joined the Masham-based family company T&R Theakston training as a brewer and at the young age of 24, when his father died, he was left having to fight for the survival of the brewery.

The transformation he spearheaded over the years led to the take-over of the brewery by Scottish&Newcastle in 1988. Despite the decline in British manufacturing and the dim prospects for the ale market, and undaunted by borrowing rates of 15%, Mr Theakston decided to buy a disused maltings in Masham. With the support of local builders and engineers, he converted the maltings into a brewery, which brewed its first beer in autumn 1992.

Two decades later, Black Sheep Best Bitter is one of the top 10 cask ales in the country and Black Sheep Ale is one of the top 10 bottled ales – and birthday celebrations are under way with Black Sheep Progress Ale, a special anniversary brew of 4%abv. It is brewed using the “Yorkshire Square” system.

Rob Theakston, managing director, said: “Progress is a tribute by our head brewer Alan Dunn to my father, Paul, who created the Black Sheep Brewery when no-one was investing in production, let alone in brewing; when ale was in decline; and when borrowing rates were over 15%. A seemingly strange move at the time, but one which has paid off in a multitude of ways, not least in terms of creating employment; growing tourism in the Dales; driving demand for proper ale  and helping to grow the market for real Yorkshire food and drink brands.

Paul Theakston, who recently stepped away from his management role to become chairman of the Brewery, also commented: “The 20th anniversary of the company is a great opportunity to thank all those who showed faith in the idea at the beginning, who trusted me to turn the idea into a reality and who have supported the venture along the way.

“I recently handed over the reins to my eldest son Rob, who now leads the company as managing director, and next in line, Jo, is the marketing and take-home director. I’m leaving it to the next generation to ensure that the business survives the huge challenges of the economy and keeps providing pleasure to people up and down the country as well as jobs for people in our great county.”