Reviving past beer brands has become popular in recent years. The uncovering of original brewery names and tiling on pub frontages and the display of old brewery mirrors inside has encouraged this trend. In London we have seen the rebirth of Truman’s Brewery and the occasional reappearance of once widely available beers like Charrington IPA. Even CAMRA’s original bête noire, Watney’s, has made a comeback, albeit in new hands.
Allsopp’s beers are the latest to reappear in London pubs and are arguably more authentic than most. Old Etonian and former city financier Jamie Allsopp, seven times great grandson of pioneering Burton brewer Samuel Allsopp, is fulfilling a lifetime ambition to restore his family’s inter-nationally famous brand to its former glory.
Allsopp’s has a long and chequered history, dating back to 1730 when Samuel Allsopp’s grandfather, Benjamin Wilson, founded a hand built brewery in Burton upon Trent. His strong Burton beer was exported to the Tsar’s court in Imperial Russia and Samuel took control in 1807, just as Napoleon Bonaparte started to blockade British exports to the Baltic. After some lean years seeking new markets, Samuel was inspired by the London brewer George Hodgson, who invented India Pale Ale (IPA), to perfect his own version. It was reputedly conceived in a teapot and contained more hops. In 1823 he began sending his IPA on the six month journey to supply the British troops in India and it became hugely successful.
The company boomed in the 19th century. Allsopp’s opened the first ever brewing laboratory in 1845 and in 1859 built a new brewery which became the second largest after Bass. Notably, it won a contract to supply Arctic Ale, (a life-sustaining strong, sweet, scurvy-preventing 11% ABV ale), to a number of the Victorian Arctic expeditions that were seeking the North West passage. It was described as ‘rich brown in colour with flavour of old Madeira’.
In 1876, Allsopp’s Red Hand trademark was registered and, in 1888, Samuel Allsopp and Sons, who by this time were brewing 460,000 barrels a year with a workforce of 1,750, went public. In 1896 however, things took a downward turn. Following visits to Germany, Percy Allsopp invested in a 60,000 barrel, state of the art lager brewery. Britain however did not take to lager beer at that time (it being 50 years too soon) and its failure upset investors and resulted in the Allsopp family being ‘asked to leave’ when the company went into receivership in 1911. The business continued trading however and, in 1921, the lager brewing kit was relocated to Alloa in Scotland and it is said that the recipe later became Skol. In 1934, Allsopps merged with its next door neighbour in Burton to become Ind Coope & Allsopp, with the Red Hand logo being retained and continuing to feature on beers such as Double Diamond.
In 1959 the Allsopp name was dropped from beers and bars and all remaining assets sold off. Ind Coope became part of Allied Breweries in 1963 and the logo survived, appearing on pumpclips and advertising for the launch of Draught Ind Coope Burton Ale in 1976. Finally, in the mid-1990s, Carlsberg Tetley, who had taken over Allied Breweries, issued some Samuel Allsopp Brewing Co branded beers in its ‘Tapster Choice’ series, including Sam’s Stout and Treason Ale.
In 2021, Jamie hunted down the sole surviving ledger containing 250 of the family’s beer recipes from the 1930s. He also sourced the old Allsopp’s yeast at the National Yeast Archives. He then bought back the iconic Red Hand logo, which had been acquired by BrewDog, and went on to negotiate the return of the Allsopp brand name, which had ended up with Carlsberg.
The two Allsopp’s beers revived so far are the Pale Ale (4% ABV in cask, 4.4% in bottle) and the IPA (5% ABV in cask, 5.6% in bottle). Both are well balanced traditional classic ales. To adapt the original recipes to work with today’s ingredients, methods and tastes, Jamie turned to Jim Appelbee, a Burton style brewing expert at the National Brewery Centre. The beers are currently being brewed at the Dead Parrot Brewery in Sheffield but may move on if production expands. Jamie Allsopp’s ultimate ambition is to re-establish his own brewery in Burton itself.
The Pale Ale has Maris Otter, Extra Pale and Chevalier malts with Aurora and Cascade hops. It is pale gold with bready, cereal and citrus notes and a dry finish. The IPA also has Marris Otter and Chevallier malt, with Bramling Cross, Fuggles and Challenger hops. It’s darker and clearer than most modern IPAs with fresh hay, citrus and dark fruit notes and a dry finish.
The cask beers are being supplied to several Cubitt House pubs in Marylebone and Belgravia, including the Coachmakers Arms, the Grazing Goat, the Alfred Tennyson, the Orange, and the Thomas Cubitt. If you visit, expect however to pay central London prices. Other regular outlets include the Wilton Arms in Belgravia, the Portman in Marylebone and the Island in Kensal Rise, which are part of the small Inda Pubs chain. In addition, the recently renovated and reopened Pelican in Notting Hill (W11 1HE), as featured on the cover, is owned by a relative of Jamie’s and not only sells the beers but also proudly displays the Allsopp logo outside.
Jamie’s next project is to revive the original lager beer that ruined the family business and we can also expect Arctic Ale to reappear in some form. He is undoubtedly committed to bringing back quality beers and, in a crowded market, we wish him every success. Visit www.allsopps.com to find out more.
With thanks to Allsopp & Sons for use of the images