Bringing back an age-old taste of the borough

Brewery enthusiast John Robinson
Brewery enthusiast John Robinson

Our resident beer expert Andrew Nowell takes a look at brews from yesteryear...

Beer fans will soon be able to take a trip into the brewing past and sample names which have not been seen in the borough’s bars for decades.

George Shaw’s Premium is the first ale created by the Leigh firm to be more widely offered after a group of Cheshire enthusiasts and beer producers got together to create an ale renaissance.

John Robinson, who was born in Leigh and walked past George Shaw’s Brewery Lane home on his way back from work, is overseeing the creation of beers such as Common, Tenpenny and Winnie for the first time in half a century or more.

He has teamed up with Tipsy Angel in Warrington, a brilliantly-named offshoot of the 4T’s brewery, to create the George Shaw beers as part of a wider effort to return ales which were once made by Walker’s to handpumps and pint glasses.

After initially testing the water around the Warrington area the Premium, a 4.3 per cent traditional bitter, is being offered at a cricket club-based festival in Daisy Hill.

With a photoshoot taking place at Leigh’s White Lion pub, hopes are high that George Shaw recipes could soon be flowing through the pipes of local watering holes once more.

Despite an increasingly busy and diverse real ale scene, in which incredible experimental brews are clamouring for attention with long-term favourites and revived heritage ales, John is convinced that there will be space for the new creations.

He said: “There’s a market for traditional beers and there’s one for modern beers. There’s also an awareness of brewing history and I think if it’s good it will sell.

“The Premium is a strong bitter but the famous beer they did was called Tenpenny, and dates from the turn of the century. The most common George Shaw beer was the mild, which was called Common in Leigh. About 90 per cent of the brewery’s output was that and it’s beautiful stuff. It’s a dark mild but you can still see right through it.”

Although George Shaw may only be dimly remembered now, and will probably be a completely unfamiliar name to younger generations of drinkers, John says that actually some of the revived beers may kindle more memories than expected.

“Walkers took over George Shaw in 1930 and they adapted five of the recipes and brewed them for 35 years. Some people may remember the dark mild they did. It’s basically Common and that was brewed as late as 1961. It only went when they merged with Tetley’s, who insisted on their version of the style being used.”

Tenpenny was also subject to some Walkers tinkering, with the firm using the beer as the basis for its Winnie, named after Churchill and marking the end of World War Two.

John says the living history beers have already gone down well at Cheshire competitions with expert judging panels.

Hopefully the borough’s drinkers will once again treasure beers supped by countless forebears.