Magazine article The Spectator

The Beerage

Magazine article The Spectator

The Beerage

Article excerpt

Keystone Brewery in Berwick St Leonard, Wiltshire, is small but perfectly formed.

Founded last year by Alasdair Large -- late of the Royal Tank Regiment -- and his wife, Charlie, Keystone is as micro as they come. The workforce comprises just Alasdair (brewing and deliveries) and Charlie (sales and marketing). Charlie's brother Nick occasionally lends a hand and a brace of grannies helps out babysitting the Larges' three-yearold son, Bertie.

'It's going well, ' Alasdair told me as we sat over our pints of Large One in the nearby Beckford Arms.

'We've just won a Gold Award from the Society of Independent Brewers for our Gold Spice, with its little zing of ginger, so the hard work is paying off. We're barely a year old, but the sooner Bertie faces up to his responsibilities and pulls his weight the better. After all, family brewing dynasties have to begin somewhere.

All he's done so far is to rechristen our Gold Spice, Gingerman Juice.' The king of brewing dynasties is Shepherd Neame, Britain's longestestablished brewer (and our 19th oldest company overall, one spot behind my alma mater, Berry Bros & Rudd), which has plied its trade in Faversham since 1698. There is no beer that I like more (other than Guinness, of course), having been weaned on the stuff while growing up in Kent.

The company's chief executive, Jonathan Neame, represents the fifth generation of Neames at the helm (the Neames having bought out the Shepherds in 1877), although he didn't plan to join the family firm.

'In my father's day there was little choice but for sons to go into family businesses, ' he told me. 'But when I was at university in the mid-Eighties, such a move was seen as the last resort. I wanted to spread my wings and so qualified as a barrister before spending five years as a strategic consultant. In the end, though, I found the thought of working at Shepherd Neame irresistible and ended up joining of my own volition. It was the best decision I ever made since it's a fantastic life being involved with such a wonderful product.'

Shepherd Neame, along with other such familiar thirst-inducing names as Adnams, Arkells, Everards, Fullers, Hook Norton, Timothy Taylor, Wadworth and Young's, is a member of the Independent Family Brewers of Great Britain, a loose organisation made up of 28 family-owned breweries which between them employ 34,988 people, own 4,507 pubs, brew 459 brands and produce 2. …

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