Black Sheep Brewery

Black Sheep Brewery
plc (over 1,000 shareholders)
Industry Alcoholic beverage
Founded 1992
Founder Paul Theakston
Headquarters Masham, North Yorkshire, England
Products Beer
Production output
70,000 barrels
A group of visitors observes fermentation vats whilst on an official tour of the brewery facilities
A brewery guide distributes a sample of "Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale"

The Black Sheep Brewery is a brewery in Masham in the Borough of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England.


The Black Sheep Brewery was established by Paul Theakston in 1991. Following a successful launch as a Business Expansion Scheme, it became a public limited company (plc) in 1992. Paul Theakston had been managing director of Theakstons brewery, also in Masham, since 1968. He began at the age of 23, taking over from his father, Frank Theakston.

Theakstons brewery was bought by Matthew Brown following disagreements between members of the family and other shareholders, and in 1987 Matthew Brown was in turn taken over by Scottish and Newcastle. Paul Theakston left in 1988, and after a hiatus of more than a year purchased the North Yorkshire Malt Roasting Company, originally part of the former Lightfoot's brewery site, from an animal feed company, in order to start a new brewery in Masham.

Theakston wanted to use the Lightfoot name to bring back an old brewing tradition; however it was discovered that this name had already been trademarked by Scottish and Newcastle. The associations of Masham with sheep led Theakston to come up with the name "Sheep Brewery" which rapidly became "Black Sheep" at his wife's suggestion.The first and original Black Sheep Best Bitter was sold at the Bruce Arms by its Landlord, David Young.

The brewery produces a range of well-hopped bitters, to distinguish itself from Theakston's range of fruity and yeasty beers. The brewery quickly became successful after formation, and now produces over 75,000 barrels a year. The brewery has capitalised on its popularity by converting unused parts of the original maltings into a visitors centre to promote visits to the brewery itself. For the first 15 years it paid its shareholders, including many real ale enthusiasts, steadily rising dividends. However its has since been forced to retrench, and has paid no dividend for several years. It is one of the largest shareholdings of the CAMRA Members' Investment Club.

The brewery re-launched their Emmerdale Ale as a lower-alcohol beer (formerly 5%) on 27 January 2006 at The Crown in Manfield for the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). The launch party saw Chris Chittell (Eric Pollard from the Emmerdale TV series) pull the first pint of the new brew. Emmerdale Ale is no longer brewed. The night also marked the rebranding of Black Sheep's Special Ale (in cask form) as Black Sheep Ale, the name that it has been sold as in bottles since 1992, bringing both into line.[1]

In 2008, the brewery launched Draught Golden Sheep, a blonde cask beer with a refreshing citrus-hop flavour. It remains a seasonal brew. This, like all Black Sheep beers and indeed the brewing plant itself was created by Paul Ambler, Head Brewer since 1992 and later Operations Director. Paul Ambler has now retired. Comments Paul Theakston, "Over the years, Paul Ambler has been a fierce champion of the quality of our beer, which is the keystone of our success". Nevertheless, a growing share of its sales is in on-cask form.

All bottled beers brewed by the Black Sheep Brewery are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.[2]

Cask beers

According to the website, "...Riggwelter takes its name from the local Yorkshire Dales dialect – when a sheep is on its back and can’t get up without help, local dialect says it is riggwelted.[4] This dialect word comes from the old Viking words: ‘rigg’(rygg) meaning back and ‘velte’ to overturn (the words and their meaning are still largely the same in the modern North Germanic languages).[5] Riggwelter is also popular in Sweden, being in the top 20 of bottled ales sold in that country.[6]

Bottled beers


  1. Re-launch story Morning Advertiser - Retrieved on 2007-07-23
  3. Archived February 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Riggwelter Archived August 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. - Retrieved on 2007-07-23
  5. Riggwelter Archived August 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Black Sheep Breweries - Retrieved on 2007-07-23
  6. Riggwelter exports to Sweden The Northern Echo, 2004-12-08. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.

External links

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