Look at that. One beer shop, 3 quality breweries, and another one just off the map, not bad for a small (ish) town. It’s all the product of one large brewery’s demise. The town is my hometown of Horsham, West Sussex and the large brewery is the former King & Barnes.
King & Barnes were founded way back in 1800, then known as Satchell & Co, until the maltster Mr James King took a liking to it, bought it out and renamed the brewery to King & Sons. At the time there was another family brewing in Horsham, yep- you guessed it, the Barnes family, or GH Barnes & Co to be formal. The two families merged in 1906 and beers such as Sussex Bitter, Festive, Old Ale and Broadwood were born, brewed and loved.
Fast forward to 2000 and King & Barnes are bought by Hall & Woodhouse after a buy out from Shepard Neame falls through. Badger beer take on the license to produce Sussex Bitter, Hall and Woodhouse take on the 57 pubs (out of Horsham’s 24 town pubs, 11 of them are H&W owned as well as many more in the rest of the Horsham District- not great for the local microbreweries and real ale fans who want some variation) and the locally iconic brewery that used to cloak the town with aromas of sweet malts is closed, demolished to make way for flats. A far too common story.
But all is not lost…
In 2001 Bill King of the King & Sons lineage started a new microbrewery – W J King & Co and set about creating a new brew for the town- Horsham Best bitter (whilst Sussex Bitter had undergone a recipe re-write under the Badger brand). The brewery has grown and is now owned by Niki and Justin Deighton with Head Brewer Ian Burgess at the helm. They’re now known simply as Kings after a re-brand earlier this year and continue to brew the classics; King’s Old, Horsham Best and Festive alongside many more in their established ‘Heritage’ range with a more experimental ‘Evolution’ range being developed by second brewer Shaun – Warrior being exceptionally good (a kiwi pale ale).
HEPWORTH & CO
Back at King & Barnes the brewing side of things was run by Andy Hepworth, Head Brewer. When things there went down the sinkhole Andy saw an opportunity to start anew and set about creating Hepworth & Co in 2000. Producing beers in cask, bottle and keg, they’re committed to using locally sourced ingredients and as well as brewing their own distinct beers such as Prospect, Sussex, Pullman, Conqueror and Iron Horse, they contract brew and package for the trade, including Sussex Golden for M&S.
Initially set up in 1995 by Ray Welton in Capel, near Dorking. The taxing in the 90’s wasn’t beneficial to small scale brewers and so Ray mothballed the site. When Hepworth’s opened up in Horsham Ray Welton installed his own equipment and using his own yeast brewed alongside them at their site in a shared operation. Hepworth’s began to grow, as did Weltons and eventually a new site was acquired just 100 yards from Kings brewery on Foundry Lane. Weltons now produce 6 regular cask ales including Pridenjoy, a full bodied low gravity 2.8% beer that was included in Roger Protz’ book ‘300 beers to try before you die’ .
FIREBIRD BREWING CO.
Bill King has gone on to open a new microbrewery just outside of Horsham in the old brickworks at Rudgwick. Founded in the summer of this year, Bill and fellow master brewer Richard are taking on traditional beer styles and coming up with some outstanding beers such as Heritage XX – their take on an original Kings recipe, XX (from 1854) which is also thought to be the origins of the Sussex Bitter.
THE BEER ESSENTIALS
2001 was also the year in which former K&B retail sales manager Gareth Jones opened The Beer Essentials, a store in Horsham town centre selling 150 bottled beers and cider as well as a selection of draught cask ales. Gareth and The Beer Essentials team also organise the annual Horsham Beer Festival showcasing a range of local and national beers and ciders with the obligatory entertainment from the Broadwood Morris Men
As you can see a lot has happened in the wake of the King & Barnes closure. Horsham has lost an icon of the town, but has since gained a whole scene in 3 new breweries, an old brewery re-established, a beer shop and a festival.
Couple these with other local breweries; Dark Star in Partridge Green (brewing their own version of K&B Festive titled Festival), Arundel, Ballards, Langham, Gribble, Adur , Hammerpot (to name just a few) – and the brewing heritage of Horsham and the rest of West Sussex is looking pretty healthy indeed.
Many of these breweries run tours and events so do have a look at their websites/facebook pages more more info.