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Taylor's Landlord notches up 60 years

Added: Sunday, May 20th 2012

The celebrations go on apace. Hard on the heels of the news that Marston’s Pedigree has notched up 60 glorious years, Timothy Taylor’s brewery in Keighley, West Yorkshire, has an identical birthday: the 60th anniversary of Landlord, its 4.3% multi award-winning pale ale.

Landlord has been crowned Champion Beer of Britain four times – that’s more than any other beer -- and it won the accolade two years running in 1982 and 1983. When it last won the title in 1999 it also took the Supreme Championship Cup in the Brewing Industry International Awards. The main image shows head brewer Peter Eells (left) accepting the trophy.

In common with Marston’s Pedigree, the name was chosen as the result of a competition among drinkers. To emphasise how times have changed, the award for the new name went not to a publican but to the steward of the Drill Hill Club in Keighley. He was given £500 – a substantial sum that’s worth £10,000 in today’s money.

Marston’s has brought back a special bottled version of Pedigree with a retro label of the beer from the 1950s. There’s no question of Taylor’s doing that: they don’t talk much about “retro” in Keighley. The beer was based on an occasional beer brewed in the 1930s and called BB, which presumably stood for Best Bitter. Brewery chairman Philip Taylor’s daughter Rebecca was an art student at the time and she designed the label with the image of a jovial landlord resplendent in a bright red waistcoat. The same image has survived since 1952, though the extravagant cravat worn by the landlord has been scaled down a tad.

The success of Landlord in bottle rapidly propelled the beer into cask in 1954. Taylor’s brews a full portfolio of ales but Landlord is its most famous beer and it’s now available the length and breadth of the country.

It’s dubbed “premium bitter” these days but – again in common with Pedigree – it’s a true example of pale ale. No dark malts are used – just 100% Golden Promise barley malt. Golden Promise is widely used as the base for Scottish whisky and there’s a connection between beer and whisky. The Taylor brewery is based at the Knowle Spring, a site chosen for the purity of the water that flows down from the Pennines. The late Lord Ingrow, formerly brewery chairman John Taylor, used to take supplies of the spring water home with him to mix with his Scotch.

The hops in Landlord are used in a most unusual way. In most breweries, a mash of malt and water creates fermentable sugar. The sweet extract is boiled vigorously with hops, which add both bitterness and aroma. The hopped extract is cooled and heads for the fermenting vessels where yeast turns the sugars into alcohol.

It’s a bit different where Landlord is concerned. English Fuggles and Goldings hops are packed in the copper boil for bitterness but, prior to fermentation, the extract or hopped wort lies for several hours on a deep bed of Styrian Goldings, where it picks up an exquisite floral and citrus aroma. Styrian Goldings come from the small country of Slovenia, the most northerly part of former Yugoslavia. They are commonly used in Britain today but they were rare in the early 1950s.

Philip Taylor was a trained brewer and he heard that colleagues at Davenport’s brewery in Birmingham were using Styrian Goldings in their beers. The hop is widely used in Britain today but it was rare in the 1950s.

The brewing scene has changed out of all recognition since 1952. The decline of heavy industry meant that Taylor’s no longer had a small army of thirsty mill workers to supply. It owned just 29 pubs and it had to grow the business outside Yorkshire.

Sales of the beers, with Landlord to the fore, have reaped a rich reward. In 1999, seven new fermenters were installed to cope with increased demand but by 2000 capacity had to be further extended and a brand new fermenting house was built. Capacity was reached again and in 2003, at a cost of £2.5m, the brewery was further expanded with four new fermenting vessels. In total, £11m has spent this century on updating and expanding the brewery. The final phase, completed last September, saw six more fermenters installed at a cost of £2.7m.

It’s a remarkable success story, testimony to the growing demand for beer of the finest quality. It’s a luscious ale, widely available on draught and with the bottled version on sale in many supermarkets. Its rich juicy and biscuity malt character is beautifully balanced by a deep bitterness and a fine citrus note from the Styrian Goldings.

The beer has won praise in surprising quarters. When Madonna lived in London and drank in the Dog & Duck in Soho, she declared that Landlord was her favourite beer. Tim Taylor’s responded by adding to the slogan on the sides of their delivery trucks “Landlord – enjoyed by Men of the North...and by Madonna”. It didn’t cost them a penny. They’re canny folk up north.

*An edited version of this article appeared in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, 17 May 2012.

Taylor's Landlord