Monday, 21 May 2018

Tetley's Returns to Leeds

Mike Perkins in front of Tetley's Brewery
before closure (photo: Ms Sam Thomas)
In June 2011, the iconic Tetley's Brewery in Leeds was closed by its owner, Carlsberg, thus bringing 189 years of brewing history to an end. The production of Tetley's Bitter, once the best-selling real ale in the UK, was moved to Banks's Brewery in Wolverhampton. A few months earlier, CAMRA's Southport and District Branch had visited the brewery while they still could - a trip suggested by Mike Perkins, a proud Yorkshireman and my predecessor in writing this column (in the local papers). I wrote about the CAMRA trip and the brewery closure here.

Surprisingly, Tetley's beers are to be brewed again in Leeds. No 3 Pale Ale will be based on a recipe from the Tetley’s beer 200-year old archive. The beer will be brewed by Leeds Brewery in partnership with Tetley's. At first it will be available in the Leeds area, but they intend to distribute it nationwide in the future.

The new beer is based on a recipe that was originally brewed between 1848 and 1868. Sam Moss, who founded the Leeds Brewery in 2007, said: “Joshua Tetley himself died in 1859, so there is every chance he would have drunk the very beer this recipe is based upon.”

While the original Tetley's Bitter will still be brewed in Wolverhampton, there are plans for other beers derived from recipes from the archive to be brewed by Leeds Brewery.

Emily Hudson from Tetley's said: “We felt it was a fantastic opportunity to team up with Leeds Brewery – one of the region’s leading brewers – to recreate the recipe within a mile of where it would have originally been brewed 150 years ago.”

It is unusual for a large company like Carlsberg to recreate beers from its archives and, recognising the increasing importance of provenance in the beer world, brewing them in the city where the brand originated. It makes a change after decades of beer production being centralised, often far from where the brands originated. Big breweries trying to garner some real ale credibility have in recent years preferred to take over an existing small brewery, such as SABMiller buying Meantime and Molson Coors acquiring Sharp's.

Locally Tetley's was once very popular: the only real ales the Cheshire Lines used to sell were Tetley's Bitter and Mild, kept to a standard that ensured the pub a place in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide. 

I'll give these beers a try if they appear locally.

Apart from the text in italics which I added later, this is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Some previous reviews are here.


  1. Call me a cynic/curmudgeon (take your pick!), but this whole exercise just strikes me as a bit of tokenism. As you say, Tetley's as such aren't brewing again in Leeds, Carlsberg has just contracted a smaller brewery there to brew one of its old recipes.

    It's actually becoming quite common for big national and even international breweries to do one-off recreations of beers from their brewing records: Fuller's did its Past Masters series a few years back, Greene King has just launched its Heritage beers brewed with rediscovered Chevalier malt, and Carlberg held a big event in Copenhagen in 2016 to unveil its revived 1883 dark lager to an audience of invited beer writers.

  2. You make a valid point, but this was written for the CAMRA column in two local papers, and I have 400 words max. As it's not specifically for us beer freaks, I write in a more general way than I might otherwise do. I see the purpose of the column as encouraging people to try real ale and support pubs.

    1. Understood, Nev, just thought I'd expand a bit on a couple of the points, which obviously you can't for space and the other reasons you mention when writing for the local press.

    2. I also meant to say: thanks for the additional info.

  3. As I wrote on Paul Bailey's blog, I attended the official launch of this in Leeds a couple of weeks ago, although I ended up missing most of it due to train problems.

    The beer on the day was very nice, and there was plenty of free food left. However, I can't help feeling that the news was bigged up for PR purposes beyond what it really deserved. Tetleys, as such, isn't returning to Leeds.


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