TIRRIL BREWERY HISTORY
Based in Long Marton, near Appleby, Tirril Brewery offers fine traditional ales, refreshingly crisp pilsners & a range of spirits. The first brew was delayed for a month, by the arrival of our daughter India. It turned out by chance that the current Tirril Brewery opened exactly 100 years after Siddle’s the last brewery in Tirril had closed….
John Siddle’s brewery was bought by Glassons of Penrith in September 1899 and subsequently closed down. The building known as the “malt house” the site of Siddle’s brewery is still standing in the village.
Glasson’s of Penrith were bought by Dutton’s of Blackburn in 1959, Dutton’s themselves were eventually swallowed up by Whitbreads’s by 1964 and finally shut down in 1978.
Meanwhile the Queen’s Head Inn had been acquired by another Blackburn Brewery – Matthew Brown’s.
An interesting aside is that the last Managing Director of Dutton’s was Clifford Bowman. Later his son Richard became MD of Whitbread’s, running the Whitewell Hotel “in his spare time”. Today, Clifford’s grandson Charles runs the fantastic Inn at Whitewell, which stocks both Tirril Beers and Pilsner.
Matthew Brown’s were, in turn, taken over by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries in 1987. Scottish and Newcastle eventually sold on the property in 1994.
The pub changed hands again in 1996 and the second owner of the free house, Chris Tomlinson, was another Blackburn lad, ironically brought up on Matthew Brown Beers and trained by Whitbread’s pub management arm.
Three years later, completing the 100 year cycle, Chris brewed the first beer in Tirril for a century.
The original brew kit for Tirril Brewery was 2 and a quarter Brewery Barrels or 81 gallons (368 Litres). Cobbled together in Heath Robinson fashion from all sorts of abandoned pieces of other breweries, washing machine hose and all fired by two workman’s “tar burners”.
The Parish Council, in a panic, granted planning permission only on the agreement that 90% of the beer produced would be sold in the Queen’s Head – to avoid, in their opinion, “the coming and going of tankers at all hours of the day and night”.
Therefore pretty much all the beer produced was to be drunk in the pub, which as a small “hobby” brewery had been the intention all along.
Each beer arrived with a blackboard as a pump clip – chalked up as ‘Beer number 1’ and so forth.With a very large and vocal quality control department featuring every regular drinker in the village, each beer variety was slowly discussed, debated, altered and eventually agreed upon.
Within twelve months three beers had been developed, each named after characters from the village’s history
John Bewsher’s Best Bitter, a classic session ale, was named after John Bewsher the Landlord of the pub in the 1830’s who rented the property off the Wordsworth family.The indenture of the rental agreement, signed and wax sealed by three of the Wordsworth family including William the poet, is still in the possession of the brewery. A copy is on display at the Queen’s Head Inn.
Thomas Slee’s Academy Ale, a darker traditional British Ale, was named after Thomas Slee’s Maths Academy (the building is now known in the village as the Old School House). According to the Gazettes of the time his Academy for the study of Mathematics was talked about in the 1800’s as the equal of Oxford and Cambridge (although this may just have been his own advertising).
The third beer, Charles Gough’s Old Faithful, neither denotes a resident that lived in the village, nor a human.
“The unfortunate Tourist of Helvelyn” was a “venturesome” young man who wished to paint views of Helvellyn in1805, but had no guide (amongst other rumours, the lack of a guide has been attributed to the forementioned guides spending the day drinking at a fair in Patterdale). He climbed Helvellyn without a guide and sadly fell to his death from Striding Edge.
His faithful dog Foxie, stood guard by his body until it was found some 3 months later. His remains (what little were left…) were buried in the Quakers graveyard in Tirril. The fate of Foxie, his old faithful hound is not recorded. Both Sir Walter Scott and Wordsworth wrote poems about the tragedy.
In 2001, The Foot and Mouth outbreak devastated the rural economy in Northern England. The first case in Cumbria was the farm neighbouring the Queen’s Head Inn. Who’s fields surrounded three sides of the Inn.
Staff and customers alike could not visit the village or pub. Overnight the Inn lost 85% of it’s trade.
One of the few means of creating any income, was contravening the planning permission and selling beer away from the pub. This soon created a demand for Tirril Brewery’s beers that had never been planned for…..
As the pub slowly got back on its’ feet and thanks, in no small part to the popularity of the beers the pub went from strength to strength, eventually winning the 2003 Good Pub Guide’s award of overall Best Pub in Britain.
By this point the demand for the beers, both inside and outside the pub had led to a move to larger premises and a new brewery with capacity increased to a 10 Brewery Barrel Brew kit and capacity for two brews a week at Brougham Hall.
The brew kit from Tirril was sold on to a new brewery called Loweswater Brewery at the Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater.
Brougham Hall was the country’s largest stately home restoration project.
Tirril Brewery, by chance, re-occupied the next section to be restored. According to the plans of renaissance architect Lewis Cottingham, this section was the original bakery and Brewhouse (dated 1823 on the plans).
Thus with the expansion, the brewery gained new beer names, for our expanding range – Brougham Ale with Lord Brougham’s coat of arm’s reproduced by kind permission of the current Lord Brougham and Vaux. As well as 1823, commemorating the date of the original brewery at the Hall.
The Brougham Hall door knocker became our logo. The Original Brougham Hall pair were a matching set to those on Durham Cathedral (although Brougham’s were taken away for “safe keeping” in World War II – never to be seen again).
As the Brewery grew we took on our deliveries into the Lake District and beyond, first in a 110 Land Rover and later in our first distinctively liveried Transit van.
By 2003 we had realised we had massively underestimated quite how much space and capacity were needed to make a stand alone brewery separate from the Queen’s Head Inn.Not to mention that carrying all the ingredients and finished beer by hand, over a stone bridge was becoming quite tiresome!
Red House and Red House Barn in Long Marton near Appleby-in-Westmorland, nestled beneath the Pennines looked like the ideal place.
Planning permissions, building work and a staged installation of a new 20 Brewery Barrel kit, with a 60 Barrel per week capacity, took several years.
Hindered by the fact that the Grade II Listed Barn was being held up by rubble and had to have one third under pinned and rebuilt, whilst the Westmorland slate roof was propped up by scaffolding.
Finally in 2007 Brewing started at our current site in Red House Barn.
The Brew kit from Brougham Hall was sold to another Cumbrian start up Brewery – Whitehaven Brewery, now known as Ennerdale Brewery, whilst yet another new Cumbrian Brewery, Eden Brewery – now Eden Rivers Brewery, took over the brewery site in Brougham Hall.
Tirril Brewery was finally brewing with purpose built, brand new brewing kit, in a building refurbished specifically to be a brewery, whilst retaining all its original features.
We have been brewing at Red House barn ever since, expanding our range of beers with Red Barn Ale (of course), Eden Valley Pale Ale as our lightest summer ale and making the most of our Lakeland history with beers like Ullswater Blonde, Windermere IPA and Borrowdale Bitter.
Since 2012 we have been having our beer kegged, initially smooth keg bitters to compete with national brands and soon after we developed our own Pilsner lagers, giving Cumbria it’s own lager.
Single Malts which we enjoyed making for several years, have given way to the gin revolution, with the Brewery working in partnership with Solway Spirits since 2018, collaborating to make bespoke gins, with hand foraged Cumbrian hedgerow ingredients.
We also use rhubarb and raspberries grown in the old farmhouse garden, fertilised by hops from the brewery and Alison’s ducks!
Each year experimentation and great suggestions allow us to expand our range of mainly unique flavours.
Not remaining complacent Tirril Brewery introduced a gluten-free bottled pilsner and a gluten-free bottled ale in 2018. Soon these were followed by draught versions of the same beers.
Since then the whole brewery has been converted to producing only gluten-free ales and lagers, in bottles, casks and kegs.
We believe we are now the biggest producer of gluten-free beers in the North of England.
2020 has brought Covid 19 and the huge impacts it has had on hospitality.
The next stage in our history will be bouncing back from all the challenges the pandemic has thrown at us.
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