Born and Bred in Masham, North Yorkshire
We live in a fast-paced world, but there are still some things worth savouring; our beers and the story of how they came to be being a couple of them. What a story it is too...
In the beginning
Paul Theakston, founder and Black Sheep, was born into a brewing dynasty. Paul's family and the T & R Theakston firm had been brewing in Masham for five generations before it was finally taken over by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.
The 'old' family firm had been subject to a series of acrimonious battles which lead to the takeover in the late eighties, and although Paul was offered a role in the 'big' company his heart was always in Masham.
So in a brave move, and with a growing family to support, Paul made the decision to leave and follow his heart. Some soul searching soon followed but soon the idea was born, to start afresh. So in an era of bland mass produced beer in 1992, Masham gained a pioneering new brewery, built on traditional values and rescued equipment but designed to brew beer with real flavour. The name 'Black Sheep' was actually the idea of Paul's wife Sue, who came up with it in the kitchen of their family home.
Major features of today's Black Sheep Brewery tour are in fact the salvaged wares from other now defunct breweries. The brewing copper, mash tun, hop-back, and the Yorkshire Stone Square fermenting vessels were refugees from other breweries; three of the fermenting vessels were literally snatched from under the ball of a demolition contractor. Black Sheep wasn’t just designing a new brewery, but bringing in subtle touches that championed the UK’s proud brewing heritage.
More than 20 years later, Black Sheep’s approach has weathered the most tumultuous time in British brewing history.
The sixth generation of the Theakston family brewing heritage is now proudly part of story, with Paul’s eldest son Rob as Managing Director, and second son Jo as Sales and Marketing Director.
Fans come from far and wide to experience Black Sheep first hand and the visitor centre has become an integral part of the experience . The site boasts a gift shop, a large split level bistro and bar & the always in-demand brewery tours.
What's in the name?
It is a little known fact that Black Sheep's site once housed an old brewery called Lightfoot's which Paul's grandfather had taken over after the First World War. Paul had originally planned to revive the Lightfoot’s Brewery name, but coincidentally, Scottish & Newcastle applied for the rights to the name at the same time. He wanted to convey brewing history, but in such a way that the new brewery would be discernibly different from the old family firm.
Names were toyed with and it was noted that sheep played a huge part in Masham's history, but it wasn't strong enough alone. When my wife Sue suggested 'Black Sheep' we knew instantly we had stumbled on something which sat well in the area but ultimately spoke volumes about our attitude to the attempt of the multi-nationals to dominate the brewing industry. What's more we captured the essence of the family struggle that led to our birth”
Brewing the Black Sheep way
True to its name, Black Sheep stands out from the crowd. From the beginning, we invested in traditional brewing equipment and only the very best raw materials; this ensured we could create something truly special.