Thursday, 31 July 2008

180 - Not Out!


I recently wrote an article for my local CAMRA branch's magazine "More Beer". It is published today, so I thought I'd share a very slightly modified version of it with you. The article was the basis of this post here.

One Hundred and Eighty!

JW Lees are currently celebrating 180 years of Independent Family Brewing in Middleton. Founded by John Willie Lees in 1828, the company is still committed to brewing and to its Middleton Junction site. Currently the sixth generation, lead by Managing Director, William Lees-Jones is at the helm though the fifth generation, lead by William’s father and uncle, Richard and Christopher who are Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively, are still very much on the scene.

Lees are a very optimistic company, which is refreshing amidst all the doom and gloom that currently pervades the industry. William told “More Beer” that they intend to develop the company further. “We take the view that we do not inherit the brewery from our fathers, rather, we maintain and improve it for our children”. At a recent visit to the brewery, I also took the opportunity to have a chat with the Chairman, Richard Lees-Jones, who is still known in the brewery as Mr Richard in the age old tradition. For someone who has worked at the brewery for well over forty years, his enthusiasm and optimism burn brightly. He is still in every day, working as usual. He was telling me that the seventh generation now number seven in total, so he is optimistic that the youngsters are in sufficient numbers to take over in due course, though it will be a fairly long time away. He spoke cheerfully of his confidence that Lees can ride out any recession.

William too is keen to emphasise that they are spending a lot of money to keep things forging ahead. He is very proud of the refurbishment programme that has seen many community pubs upgraded and that the brewery itself is now modern and flexible. He points out that two new fermenting vessels for cask beer have been recently installed giving more ale brewing capacity.

Giles Dennis, Head Brewer still sees a bright future for cask ale and points out that the brewery has never had a better range of cask ales, with four permanent beers as well as four seasonal ales and four special occasion ales on offer. To celebrate 180 years, a special beer is being brewed, appropriately called “180”. It is out now and is a 4.5% full bodied ale with a good hop character.

It is good to be able to report that the company is in safe hands and so positive about its future. More Beer congratulates John Willies and looks forward to the next 180 years!

Given the gloomy nature of the trade generally and the as yet unresolved situation at Robert Cain, it is nice to tell a good news story! Things aren't all bad!

Since writing this article, Giles Dennis, Head Brewer of Lees for the last 28 years has announced his retirement. Look out for a blog post on this soon.

3 comments:

a swift one... said...

Nice that we are both reporting optimistically today about our respective local brewers. Long may it continue.

Tandleman said...

I admire Ossett!

joel said...

Could you have Mr. Richard send a cask or two of 180 across the pond? Thanks.