Three Tuns
Russ Cockburn

Member Article

Cheers as Three Tuns brews a £1m record year

The oldest brewery in England is set to smash the £1m sales barrier for the first time in its history, ten years since two ale lovers saved it from potential closure.

The Three Tuns Brewery, which sits in the picturesque town of Bishops Castle in Shropshire, has seen the growing popularity of real ale create additional demand for its unique range of beers taken from a secret recipe book, including XXX, 1642 Bitter and Cleric’s Cure.

Over 500 pubs are now stocking the company’s cask conditioned ales, with the next stage of its expansion focusing on building its presence within the Black Country and Staffordshire.

It could all have been so different if local entrepreneurs John Russell and Bill Bainbridge had not stepped in when the brewery was due to be sold and turned into a block of flats.

“Three Tuns is one of England’s best kept secrets, so we knew we had to step in to save it and all those years of history,” explained Bill.

“It is the oldest brewery in the country after it was granted a license by King Charles the 1st in 1642. We set ourselves the task of modernising the original brewhouse, increasing our distribution network and recreating the treasured recipes found in The Three Tuns recipe books, handed down by previous custodians of the brewery.

“It’s taken us over a decade to get to where we want to be, but the good news is we are now one of the most respected craft breweries in the world.”

The duo have invested nearly £900,000 into creating a state-of-the-art brewing system, a challenge made even bigger by the fact that they had to do this within the confines of the existing building.

Initially, this involved an injection of 200 tonnes of steel to allow for the new equipment to be installed over the four floors, which included new water tanks, fermenting vessels and a state-of-the-art brewery kettle.

Whilst facilities needed upgrading to cope with the volume of beer being produced, there has been a commitment to retain a lot of the original features with a copper fermenting tank from 1880 and liquor tank and pulley system in everyday use.

The Victorian tower houses the new updated and ultra modern gravity brewing system, whereas the original 16th century brewhouse is now used exclusively for fermentation.

It is also home to the famous Three Tuns yeast, a strain that is 120 years-old and crucial to the distinctive taste of the brewery’s beers.

John, who used to be a Futures Trader on the world’s stock markets, picked up the story: “We’re now up to 100 brewer’s barrels per week and have set our sights on increasing the number of pubs we supply. The Black Country is a big growth area for us and you can already find Three Tuns beers in the ‘The Barley Mow’ at Penn Common, ‘The Crown’ at Pattingham and occasionally in the ‘Horse and Jockey’ in Woodsetton.

“There have been four new jobs created in the last year alone, one of those being our trainee brewer Josh Russell, who at just 20 years-old, is one of the youngest in the trade.”

The Three Tuns Brewery has ambitious plans to open three or four tap houses to go with its first pub ‘The Bridges’ at Ratlinghope.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Russ Cockburn .

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