Gone But Not Forgotten --
Young's Ram Brewery in London

Young’s is one of England's oldest breweries and until 2006 was known for having the oldest continuously operating brewery in England, the Ram Brewery in the Wandsworth suburb of London dating back to 1581. Unfortunately time marches on and the difficulty of running a large scale brewery in ancient facilities, combined with the sky-high value of the land under the brewery, led to a decision by the family-controlled Young's company to close the Ram Brewery and move its operations. While the Ram Brewery is sorely missed as an incredible piece of living history, thankfully the famed Young's ales live on through a joint venture with another distinguished family-owned brewery, Charles Wells. Wells & Young's Brewing now brews all of Young's ales at the Eagle Brewery in Bedford, about an hour north of London.

Touring the historic Ram Brewery with guide Tom Gorbutt
We were fortunate to visit the Ram Brewery in 2005 before it closed. The legend of the ram dates back to 1533 when the Ram Inn opened on High Street in Wandsworth, located to the southwest of London towards Wimbledon. According to tradition, the inn was built on a field where sheep were frequently grazing, making it a popular place for rams to visit. Brewer Humphrey Langridge began brewing beer at the site in 1581, making beer for the Ram Inn’s customers and then supplying local pubs and private houses. The Ram Brewery expanded under later owners in the 1600s and 1700s, transporting its beer to London and beyond by barges to the nearby Thames River and then in the early 1800s by the newly opened railway.

In 1831, the Ram Brewery was purchased by Charles Allen Young along with 80 pubs, many of which are still Young’s pubs today. The company began brewing its flagship Young’s Bitter beer in 1864 and started bottling its beers in 1905. The Ram Brewery site expanded to 5.5 acres, including large stables to house the Black Shire horse team that were to Young’s and Wandsworth what the Clydesdales are to Anheuser-Busch and St. Louis. The Black Shire horses were a familiar sight on the streets of Wandsworth, delivering beer by horse-drawn carts to local pubs.

Visiting the stables at the Ram Brewery
The Ram Brewery was a working museum of brewing history, with Victorian-era steam engines and copper vessels co-existing with computerized, stainless steel equipment. All of Young’s beers were brewed at that facility and the brewery produced about 170,000 barrels in the year before it closed. The Ram Brewery had its own pub, the Brewery Tap, which has also closed, but a few blocks away is the historic Brewers Inn. This hotel and pub offers the full range of Young's ales, including Ram Rod, Old Nick, Special London Ale, Oatmeal Stout and the deliciously rich Luxury Double Chocolate Stout. For those still wanting to see how Young's ales are made, the Wells & Young's Brewing Company gives brewery tours if arranged in advance at its brewery in Bedford.

Wells & Young's Brewing Company
The Brewery
Havelock Street
Bedford, UK

Keep your umbrella handy in London!
There are many fine Young's pubs to visit in London to sample the full range of Young's ales. One of my favorites is the Founders Arms located on the south bank of the Thames River right next to the Tate Modern museum and close to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The pub has outdoor seating for when the sun is shining (which does happen!) and great views of St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge.

Founders Arms
52 Hopton Street
Southwark, London
(020) 7928-1899

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