LUDLOW’S FORGOTTEN PRIZED PALE ALE OF 1906
Over a thirty-year period Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery Company Limited brewed a range of ales, bitters and stouts, at their Corve Street brewery – including the 1st Prize Pale Ale of the 1906 International Brewing Awards.
Within its lifetime the brewery built an extensive estate of pubs in which to serve these beers, including The Trotting Horse (now a residential house known as Trotter House) located opposite the brewery site. It was here, some time in the 1990s/2000s that the owner discovered a bundle of documents relating to the brewery: these included stock inventories, receipts, letters, brewing schedules and financial records.
The paperwork was given to Gary Walters, around 2006, as he was setting up his first incarnation of the Ludlow Brewing Company, a few doors away from Trotter House.
Jump forward 10 years and the Corve Street home of Doghouse Magazine (just up the road from the old brewery site) is transformed at the weekends into a parlour pub (The Dog Hangs Well) – with another two years on to see the doors open to our recreated Victorian pub (The Blood Bay) in Ludlow’s High Street – going someway to imagine what it would have been like to drink in one of the many long-lost 19th century drinking establishments of Ludlow. The range of beers at the latter being just as in-keeping with the period as the fixture and fittings … authentically recreated from original Victorian brewing archives, with the help of Jimmy Swan of Leominster’s Swan Brewery, and Ludlow Brewing Company’s Gary Walters.
In this time Gary Walters announced the existence of paperwork relating to the Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery Company, which we took the time to pick apart and translate – along the way decoding the brewing records to establish not only the ingredients, and the manner in which they were brewing, but whether or not we could truly identify the recipe for the long-lost award-winning Pale Ale of 1906.
Dissection of the brewery’s paperwork, discussions with brewing historians, leading authors, and brewers (past and present), as well as access to the local and national archives (absorbed in the newspapers of the time, 19th century trade directories, brewery-related deeds, site plans, and auction particulars) has culminated in the following information – the most comprehensive timeline and information relating to one man, John S. Leake, and his Corve Street brewery: the gold medal winning Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery Company Limited.
A BIG THANK YOU, THUS FAR, IS EXTENDED TO:
Roger Fuller (previously of Trotter House) who discovered the paperwork; Gary Walters of Ludlow Brewing Company for keeping the documents safe; Jimmy Swan of Swan Brewery for his contacts, research, and the use of his 200-litre pilot brewing plant; Adrian Tierney-Jones for his book: Brewing Champions; Keith Osbourne (International Society of Label Collectors & British Brewery Research) for the Ludlow Pale Ale and Ludlow Oatmeal Stout bottle labels; Dr. Martin Speight (Ludlow Historical Research Group) for the initial archive research Walter J. Sykes and Arthur R. Ling for their comprehensive 1907 book: The Principles and Practice of Brewing – and brewing historian Ron Pattinson who single-handedly passed on a love for deathly quiet archive rooms, high start gravities, 19th century brewing adjuncts, and pre-decimal calculations.
1894 – 1926
13TH DECEMBER, 1894 – 25 year-old John Smith Leake (who had learned the brewing trade in Liverpool) acquires the builder’s yard on the west side of Corve Street, along the banks of the River Corve, for the sum of £1000. Purchased in the name of the newly formed Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery Company Limited: the property comprises of land, workshops, additional buildings, stabling and a dwelling house.
1ST JUNE, 1895 – an advertisement is placed in The Ludlow Advertiser & Craven Arms Gazette announcing that brewing has commenced: “At present can supply Harvest Beer at 6d. per gallon.”
29TH JUNE, 1895 – “Brewers of pure home brewed ales and stout” is the heading for a subsequent advert in the same newspaper – this time announcing their full range of beers. Two pale ales are produced: a light ale known as A.K. and a premium pale ale, initially advertised as Amber Bitter. Under the heading of ‘Household Beers’ is Harvest Beer (at 10d per gallon) and a light (8d per gallon) bitter by the name of K. All of the above were available in a variety of casks, from 4.5-gallon (pin) up to 54-gallon (hogshead). The brewery also invites customers to bring their own casks, for which a discount of 1d is offered.
14TH SEPTEMBER, 1895 – another advertisement in The Ludlow Advertiser & Craven Arms Gazette introduces three different mild ales (X, XX and XXX) as well as a premium stout, selling at 1s.2d per gallon.
OCTOBER, 1895 – a printed handbill is distributed throughout town: “The Manager returns thanks for the many flattering expressions as to the quality of the brewings, and also for the very gratifying support accorded during the short time the above local enterprise has existed.”
4TH JANUARY, 1896 – an excerpt from a Shropshire report states: “The water is of exceptional purity as regards organic matter, and well fitted for brewing.”
6TH JANUARY, 1906 – the word ‘Ludlow’ is bolted onto their ‘home brewed ales’ tag-line.
23RD OCTOBER, 1906 – Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery’s Pale Ale is awarded 1st Prize & Diploma at the 1906 International Brewing Awards, held at The Brewers’ Exhibition, Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington, London. That week the Advertiser reports: “LOCAL SUCCESS – At the Brewers’ Exhibition held in London this week. The Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery Co. Ltd., were awarded the first prize medal and diploma for ales. The competition was open to the United Kingdom, and there were about 400 entries.”
18TH JULY, 1907 – the following report is issued by The Edgbaston Laboratory, in Birmingham: “At the request of the Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewing Co,. Ludlow, a representative series of casks and bottles beers has been submitted to critical examination in the Laboratory and they may be certified as the highest purity and general quality. The several samples were uniformly bright and of a well-balanced malt and hop flavour, due to the care taken in the selection and blending of malt hops of the finest quality, as proved by the several samples which we have had the opportunity of regularly testing as to purity. The remarkable freedom of the beers from acidity and false ferments proved the extreme cleanliness of plant and the accuracy with which brewing operations had been conducted. It is pleasing to testify to the general excellence of your beers and their entire freedom from any deleterious substance.” (Signed) FRANK FAULKNER, WILLIAM DUNCAN, F.I.C.,F.C.S.
7TH MARCH, 1908 – The brewery announce the launch of their Oatmeal Stout in the local newspaper, available in both cask and bottle: “This Stout is guaranteed to be absolutely PURE, being brewed exclusively from the finest malted barley, malted oats, hops and water. The nutrient value of Malted Oats is well known, and is now very highly recommended by Medical Men : while the luscious beverage we are now offering, ‘OATMEAL STOUT,’ if once tried will commend itself. When asking for the same, insist on seeing the label.”
The same advertisement announces: “SUPPLIED in cask or bottle at wide range of prices. Ludlow Pale Ale! Ludlow Extra Stout! Ludlow Oatmeal Stout! Ludlow Golden Ale in ½-Pint and Pint Bottles.”
The advertisement finishes with a confident declaration: “The ever increasing demand for the above furnishes absolute proof that the quality and condition is unexcelled.”
7TH JULY, 1928 – it is resolved that Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewing Company Limited be wound up, voluntarily, and a liquidator be appointed. Confirmation of the above is published in The Ludlow Advertiser & Craven Arms Gazette on 13th July, 1928, agreeing the sale of the brewery premises for the sum of £2250 – including assigned land, the dwellings of 43 and 44 on the Linney (most probably one or both joined to form what is now the home of More Carpet), and 11 dwellings on Corve Street: 46, 47, 48, 49, 50 and 51, the latter located behind the aforementioned cottages. Included in the sale were also numbers 52 (now a part of No 51), and the brewery itself (53 and 53a).
5TH JUNE, 1930 – the freehold title of the brewery premises and 13 associated cottages is transferred from Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery Company Limited to the Mayor Alderman and Burgesses of the Borough of Ludlow. The council promptly demolish the brewery buildings (53 and 53a) – to make way for Ludlow’s first relief road, which they retrospectively name Coronation Avenue – marking the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.
CORVE STREET SITE
The plan (pictured above) outlines the breadth of the site; drawn up in the early 1920s, when the site encompassed five dwellings on Corve Street: 46, 47, 48, 49, 50. You’ll also notice 51 and 52 (accessed via to the right-hand side of No 50. These days the two buildings form one address. The main brewery buildings (pictured below) are shown on the plan as 53 and 53a.
The equipment at Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery continually yielded around 16 brewers barrels worth of beer per brew day (which equates to 576 gallons). Imagining they were achieving 80% from their plant, we can establish they were brewing on a 20 barrel plant – the exact same size as the existing Station Drive plant of Ludlow Brewing Company.
2ND MARCH, 1901 – Considering that the orders for Craven Arms’ cooper, F Peake, were taken at Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery’s registered office of 45 Corve Street where – as an advert from the above date states – “…the highest testimonials can be seen,” it is easy to suggest that F. Peake fabricated and fitted the Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery kit in 1895. The advert promotes: “All kinds of brewery, dairy and other utensils made & repaired.”
30TH MARCH, 1901 – Ludlow Borough Police Court grant permission to transfer a license from the office address of 45 Corve Street to The Hop Pole public house, next to The Blue Boar, on Mill Street. Both houses were already in the possession of John Smith Leake, who – the licensing panel for the same hearing heard – “…had made extensive alterations and improvements to The Blue Boar, with the idea of making it a high-class and thoroughly good market house.” Not long after, it’s neighbouring Hop Pole became the brewery’s bottling department. Not only did they bottle their own range of beers, but were also bottling agents for Guinness and Bass.
ALES & STOUT
AMBER BITTER ALE
This premium pale ale remained the brewery’s flagship ale throughout its history, brewed with Chevallier malt, maize, and the finest hop varieties available in England at the time. Based on the available records it appears that this beer was re-badged Ludlow Pale Ale after winning 1st Prize at the International Brewing Awards in 1906
“…a speciality, of a really good Pale Ale of high quality. It has met with very general expressions of approval, and can be confidently recommended.”
Moderately hopped with hops from Sussex, Suffolk and Kent. Archetypal A.K. beers of this period, produced throughout the British Isles, contained some level of sugar and corn, however – if the local recipe has been correctly translated – it appears Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery Co were attempting an authentic Bavarian lager bier, even honouring the 1516 Bavarian Purity Law, which prohibits anything other than water, malt and hops being used to brew beer
“The “A.K.,” a light Dinner Ale of Anglo-Bavarian type, combines great delicacy of flavour with low alcoholic strength”
The beer that launched the brewery back in 1895: a 3.9% light bitter, brewed with Lloyd’s malt, glucose, and a blend of four-year-old and yearling hops from neighbouring Worcestershire
The cheapest of their ‘Household’ range was also the lowest strength beer brewed by Ludlow & Craven Arms Brewery: a 3.4% light bitter, brewed with ingredients similar to their popular Harvest Beer
A range of mild ales, of varying strength, (X, XX, XXX) were brewed with yearling hops harvested from Worcestershire, along with sugar, and Lloyd’s malt
The brewery’s range included a Single Stout and an Extra Stout (both of which were re-labeled in 1906 to feature the word Ludlow). The range expanded in 1908 to include Ludlow Oatmeal Stout, which was brewed “…exclusively from the Finest Malted Barley, Malted Oats, Hops and water.”
Early incarnations of the brewery’s ‘Household’ range were brewed with Lloyd’s malt – one of the last barleys to be floor-malted in Ludlow. Located on Corve Street (where Castle Garage once stood, now vacant land) the maltster, Henry Lloyd, diversified around 1880 to brew under the name of The Ludlow Brewery. He announced the following, in The Ludlow Advertiser & Craven Arms Gazette, on 28th September, 1894: “Acting under the direction of my Medical Advisor, I have disposed of my interest in the above [Ludlow Brewery] which has been purchased by the Original Cheltenham Brewery Company, who will take it over on the First of October, next. I gladly embrace the present opportunity of heartily thanking my numerous friends and patrons for the generous support accorded to me during the time I carried on the Brewing Business. I further respectively inform my customers that I shall continue the Malting Business, as usual.”
THE BREWERY’S PUB ESTATE
Buffalo’s Head Clun, Seven Stars Broadstone, Swan Aston Munslow, Tally Ho! Bouldon – and in Ludlow itself: The Star & Garter and The Trotting Horse both on Corve Street, Green Dragon Old Street, The Queen’s Head Galdeford, The Blue Boar and The Hop Pole both on Mill Street, and The Raven Gravel Hill