Monday, 31 August 2015

Albion Brewery Tap, Northampton

The renaissance of beer and brewing in the UK has brought with it a welcome revival of many 'gone but not forgotten' ales from the past. For the most part these are simply recreations from original brewhouse recipes, sometimes perfected with the help of former brewers, often with the help of an enthusiastic tasting panel of old-timers who can still remember how these beers used to taste.

The chance to recreate a beer in its original home is more often than not an impossible dream. Many of the breweries which were closed in the latter half of the 20th century have now been demolished to make way for commercial or municipal development, and where brewery buildings do remain, they have often been irrevocably converted to residential or retail use.

Phipps NBC of Northampton effectively ceased as a brewing concern in the early 70's following the takeover of the business by Watney Mann of London. Both the Phipps and Northampton Brewery Co premises were soon demolished, the sites redeveloped to include the huge Carlsberg Brewery which continues to dominate the south of the town to this day. So when the current team hatched plans to revive the Phipps name in Northampton, a return to the original brewing site was simply not on the cards.

Following several years contract brewing Phipps and NBC ales at a brewery in Rutland, a chance to return production to Northampton presented itself when the former Albion Brewery on Kingswell Street became available. The Albion Brewery is barely a stones-throw from the original site of brewing, and shares the same water supply which helped give their beers such a distinctive local taste. This was as close to an authentic revival of the Phipps NBC brewing heritage as anyone could have reasonably hoped for. Brewing re-commenced in Northampton in 2014, and Phipps NBC beers are now widely available throughout the county and beyond.

At the peak of their success following merger, Phipps and the Northampton Brewing Co had well over 1,000 pubs, as evidenced by the fact their logos (and the latter-day Mann's livery) can still be found on pubs throughout the county. It has always been the intention to open a pub at the Albion Brewery site, and much reclaimed Phipps and NBC memorabilia has been incorporated into the Tap at the front of the brewhouse. It's a fabulous achievement, and regarded by many as one of the most successful revivals of our British brewing heritage. You can learn much more about the history and current plans for Phipps NBC on their excellent website:

Don't be confused by the image above, this view into the Albion Brewery Tap from the entrance lobby has been flipped to 'correct' the writing. Through the windows can be seen the Bar Billiards Table and Northamptonshire Skittles Table. At one point, there was some uncertainty as to whether there would be space in the bar for these classic bar-room games, but I'm pleased to say that tradition has won out again, and both games are proving to be popular with customers.

The small orange label on the left-hand leg identifies this Skittles Table as having been made by G J Pepper of Wellingborough. Pepper's tables have straighter side cushions than the more common W T Black & Son models, and can usually be identified by their upright square netted 'hood' as opposed to the sloping style of a Blacks table. They are also considered by many to be the best quality tables.

1 comment:

Phipps NBC said...

Cheers for the positive and informed blog. One additional point to make on the authenticity of our return to the Ratliffe & Jeffery Albion Brewery, it was actually owned and brewed in by Phipps from 1899 to 1919. The brewery was the original home of Ratliffe's Celebrated Stout and we brew the beer today