How Tetley came back to city... in a half-pint brewery

Brewer Rob Warriner, filling up casks at the Leeds Brewery.
Brewer Rob Warriner, filling up casks at the Leeds Brewery.
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Even in a county famous for its beer and its breweries, the name set it apart, and for several generations the day was not complete unless a glass of Joshua’s finest had been taken.

So the news, seven years ago, that production of Tetley’s bitter was to be switched south to Wolverhampton left a nasty taste in the mouth.

Tetley's No.3 Pale Ale

Tetley's No.3 Pale Ale

The 40 buildings that comprised the old brewery in Hunslet, Leeds, were razed to the ground in 2012, save for an art deco office complex that became the Tetley arts space.

Yet yesterday came the news that Tetley’s beer would nevertheless return to the city – courtesy of a microbrewery that had once been its rival.

The Leeds Brewery, a mile across town in Holbeck, will take over production of a range of “heritage” beers, Tetley’s parent, the Danish brewer, Carlsberg, announced.

The first, created from an 1868 recipe in the company files held at the West Yorkshire Archive in Bradford, is No3 Pale Ale, which, the firm says, uses the same “unique double strain of yeast” that has been the brand’s hallmark since Joshua Tetley rolled out his first barrel in 1822.

“Recreating this beer has been a really interesting process,” said Sam Moss, whose independent Leeds Brewery was opened five years before Tetley’s closed.

“The Tetley yeast gives it a distinctive character that you could identify with your eyes shut,” Mr Moss added.

“At a time when many breweries seem to be creating weird and wonderful ales, traditional English beers like this can easily get forgotten.”

His microbrewery is capable of producing 150,000 pints a week, and produces five of its own brands, including Leeds Best and Midnight Bell – both of which will now be sold in pubs nationwide as part of the arrangement with Carlsberg.

Mr Moss said he and his colleagues had “thought long and hard” about accepting the offer to brew the beers for their former rival, but that “the exciting opportunity to play around with the Tetley archive” had proved too hard to resist.

He said: “It’s great that we can do this. It could be a really interesting journey celebrating everything that is really good about British beer.

“But it’s going to be a small part of our business – which has gained a great following in the city since Tetley’s closed down.”

The brewery has used the same traditional Kent hops as in the original, Mr Moss added.

“We’re thrilled with the quality and flavour of the beer and with how faithful we’ve managed to remain to the original recipe,” he said.

Emily Hudson, Carlsberg’s brand manager for Tetley, denied that since completing its takeover of the label 20 years ago, it had overlooked the legacy of what had been in the 1980s the world’s largest producer of cask ale. She said she hoped the new initiative would “re-invigorate” the Tetley name.

“We just want to fly the Tetley flag. We know there is still a genuine love for Tetley’s here in Leeds and we hope this will be the start of something really special,” Ms Hudson said.

“We recognise the affection and support for Tetley’s that still lives on across the country, particularly in Yorkshire.

“We felt this was a fantastic opportunity to team up with one of the region’s leading brewers to recreate the recipe within a mile of where it was originally brewed 150 years ago.”

The Leeds brewery, which used to own six pubs in the city, has a reported workforce of 13, compared with Carlsberg’s 41,000.

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