Theakston Brewery

T&R Theakston is an English brewery located in the market town of Masham, North Yorkshire. The company is the sixteenth largest brewer in the UK by market share, and the second largest brewer under family ownership after Shepherd Neame.


The Theakston's Brewery in Masham

T&R Theakston Ltd. was founded in 1827 by Robert Theakston and John Wood at The Black Bull pub and brewhouse in Masham. By 1832 Theakston had sole ownership of the brewery and in 1875 he passed control over to his son Thomas who expanded the range of buildings by building the new brewery on the Paradise Fields.

In 1919 the company acquired and closed down the Lightfoot Brewery, also in Masham.

Theakston's expanded into Cumbria in 1974 buying the Carlisle State Management Brewery. The brewery had been owned and operated by the government since 1916. However the site was a financial drain[1] on Theakston's and led to the company being taken over in 1984 by Blackburn based brewer, Matthew Brown plc.[2] Matthew Brown was itself taken over by Scottish & Newcastle in 1987.

Paul Theakston (Managing Director since 1968) left Theakston's in 1988, and in 1992 established the Black Sheep Brewery in the old Lightfoot Brewery premises - located adjacent to the White Bear Hotel, one of Theakston's pubs.

The Carlisle brewery was closed in 1987, and brewing of some Theakston beers was transferred to Scottish & Newcastle's Tyne Brewery.

In 2004 the business returned to family ownership after being purchased back from Scottish & Newcastle by four Theakston brothers.[3] Major development works at the Masham Brewery enabled the company to announce that brewing of Theakston Bitter would return to Masham in 2009.[4]


Old Peculier

The company produces cask ale and pasteurised bottled ales. Theakston cask ales are widely available in pubs in the north of England, though are less common in other parts of the country. The bottled beers are also widely distributed to British supermarkets and exported to Germany and the United States.

The company produces five regular cask ales and six seasonal. Only two of the beers are filtered and pasteurised to be made available in bottles, Theakston XB and Old Peculier.

Best Bitter (3.8% ABV) is regularly paired with XB in pubs, Theakston Best Bitter is the company's most easily found product, served in many pubs, mainly in the north of England.

XB (4.5% ABV) is a premium strength Bitter with a more complex flavour. It was launched in 1982.[5]

Black Bull Bitter (3.9% ABV) was brewed to commemorate the Theakson's first pub where the first Theakston's beers were brewed and sold.

Traditional Mild (3.5% ABV) is the weakest beer produced by Theakston, a dark and dry drink created as an alternative for dark ales. It was launched in 1992.[5]

Lightfoot Bitter (4.1%abv) originally brewed as a seasonal bitter but with its high popularity has become one of many regular Theakstons brew. Golden in colour and bitter in taste, a favourite in many s&n public houses.

Old Peculier (5.6% ABV) is Theakston's most famous beer. Old Peculier has been made under this name since the 1890s. In 2000, it won the silver medal in the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)'s "Champion Winter Beer of Britain" 2000 competition. The label on the bottle describes it as a "full bodied, rich, smooth tasting ale with a mysterious and distinctive flavour". It is named after the peculier of Masham, a peculier being a parish outside the jurisdiction of a diocese. In 1985 The Economist dubbed it the "doyen of real ales."[6]

The six seasonal ales are Cooper's Butt (4.3% ABV), Hogshead Bitter (4.1% ABV), Grouse Beater (4.2% ABV), Masham Ale (6.5% ABV) and Paradise Ale (4.2% ABV).

Visitor Centre

The brewery also runs a small visitor centre at its home in Masham where guided tours are given about the actual working brewery. At the end of the tour, visitors are given tokens that can be exchanged for drinks at the bar of the Black Bull in Paradise, named after the original pub (Black Bull) and the location of the new brewery (Paradise Fields). There is also a small shop, selling crates of bottled XB and Old Peculier, beer glasses, T-shirts and an assortment of other souvenirs.

In popular culture

In the All Creatures Great and Small episode "Golden Lads & Girls", James Herriot and Tristan Farnon are seen drinking a Theakston Nutty Brown Ale.

In The Shadow of Israphel there is a character named Old Peculier.

In Martha Grimes' Richard Jury novels, the character of Melrose Plant prefers Old Peculier.


  1. "Michael Theakston", the Guardian, 1 October 2004. Retrieved 28 November 2011
  2. "The Brewery", Retrieved 28 November 2011
  4. "Theakston's Best Bitter returns home to Masham", The Publican's Morning Advertiser, 14 July 2009. Retrieved 28 November 2011
  5. 1 2 "Barnley's Bitter - Brewery News",, April–May 1992. Retrieved 28 November 2011
  6. "Newcastle and Brown's ale." Economist [London, England] 6 April 1985: 70+. The Economist Historical Archive 1843-2006. Web. 19 August 2011.

External links

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