Dave Wickett founded Kelham Island Brewery in 1990 when the micro brewing movement was very much in its gestation. Dave was a truly inspirational pioneer for the fledgling independent brewing sector and a lovely chap to boot. His son Ed took on the mantle on Dave's sad demise several years ago, but Kelham fell on hard times following the pandemic disruption. It is wonderful news and a great tribute to his legacy that the brewery and its cracking beers such as Pale Rider have been saved during Cask Ale Week. Here's the story from Charlotte Walker of Thornbridge Brewery.
Sheffield’s oldest independent brewery, has been saved from closure.
The brewery is a significant part of Sheffield and the UK’s brewing history.
Its award-winning flagship beer, Pale Rider has previously been named Champion Beer of Britain and will return on cask at the Fat Cat and at CAMRA’s Steel City Beer Festival on the 19th October.
Kelham Island Brewery, Sheffield’s oldest independent brewery, has been saved from closure by a group from Sheffield.
The brewery’s rescue is a collaboration between Tramlines co-founder and Sheffield venue owner James O’Hara, his brother and financial analyst Tom O’Hara, Simon Webster and Jim Harrison of renowned Thornbridge Brewery, Peter Donohoe, founder of Sheffield based creative studio Peter and Paul and Ben Rymer marketing manager from beer festival organisers, We Are Beer.
James O’Hara, who put the group together after hearing about the brewery’s closure, said: “Kelham Island Brewery, and its flagship beer Pale Rider, are known and revered beyond Sheffield. It’s heritage that we, as a city, should be really proud of. We couldn't let that just disappear, it means too much within the city and to the UK’s beer culture for it to become another Wikipedia entry.”
A pioneer for the UK’s craft beer scene, Kelham Island Brewery has played a significant role in Sheffield’s brewing history and heritage. The brewery was founded in 1990 by Dave Wickett and was the first new independent brewery in Sheffield for over 100 years. From humble beginnings in the garden of the Fat Cat pub in Kelham Island it flourished, with many of its brewing talent going on to set up and work for the likes of Abbeydale, Thornbridge, Magic Rock, Bradfield and Brewdog.
Simon Webster from Thornbridge Brewery commented, “Kelham Island Brewery has always been linked with Thornbridge. They were the reason we started the business. Theirs were the first beers we brewed and Dave Wickett was a guiding hand in the early days of Thornbridge. When I first heard about the closure, I immediately thought, how can we help? How can we save the heritage that the Wickett Family had built? I chatted passionately about what we could do with James and we formulated a plan to try to save those great beers. I’m so pleased we have been successful. We’re looking forward to brewing the beers and keeping Kelham Island Brewery alive in Sheffield and beyond.”
Pale Rider, the brewery’s flagship beer, won the Champion Beer of Britain in 2004, it was the first winner to use hops from the USA and is still the only beer in South Yorkshire to have ever received the accolade.
Ben Rymer, who works for beer festival organisers We Are Beer, a celebration of all things in modern beer culture, said: “American hops form the backbone of the modern craft beer scene, but what Dave was doing was really revolutionary. He really went out on a limb at the time and was a true visionary. No one was setting up breweries back then and the craft beer industry as we know it now simply didn’t exist. The fact that Dave had to sell the beer he made in his own pub wasn't about creating a scene, it was a necessity. Most pubs at the time were all owned by big pub companies.”
Jim Harrison from Thornbridge Brewery said: “Dave was a good friend and really understood beer and its regional variations. He understood that to be successful you needed to get your beer to people outside of the area. He was years ahead of his time and I’m so proud that we have been able to save these beers from being lost forever.”
Ed Wickett, former Kelham Island Brewery owner and son of founder Dave Wickett said: ‘I’m really pleased the brewery is in such safe hands. It’ll be great to serve Pale Rider in the Fat Cat again’
The first pour of Pale Rider will be at the Fat Cat on lunchtime of the 19th October, it will then also be pouring at CAMRA’s Steel City Beer Festival taking place, fittingly, at Kelham Island Museum starting on the evening of the 19th October for four days. The beer will then be delivered to the wider on-trade from week commencing 24th October.
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