I first tried Young’s beers in London in the early seventies. At the time most British pubs were dominated by the ‘big 4’ breweries. Most pubs were owned by these breweries whose beer was watery and full of chemicals. But Britain also had a longstanding tradition of independent breweries mostly known in specific local areas. Most pubs in the UK are owned and controlled by a brewery. There are few independents that sell beers from competing breweries.
The independent breweries around London still made quality beer or bitter using traditional methods. In the London area these included Fullers and Young’s. The real beer movement was just taking off at the time.
The Young’s family bought the long established Ram brewery in 1831. The Ram brewery actually dates back to the sixteenth century! The purchase included 80 pubs many of which still belong to Young’s today. The Young’s brewery was located in Wandsworth in South West London where I lived for eleven years. Throughout the seventies Young’s still delivered their beer to the pubs on horse drawn carriages. The horses were the most beautiful and well groomed shire horses.
The popularity of Youngs pubs in South West London of the time lay not only in the tradition but in the quality of the beers. The beers were beers to be enjoyed. The bitter was light bodied and fairly fruity with a hint of malt. The alcohol content was about 3.5 % – low by international standards but more than the big breweries offerings. My favourite was Young’s Special.
My group of friends frequented many Young’s pubs in the area. One pub in particular that I remember was a pub in Putney on the river Thames. During the summer of 1976 – at the time one of the hottest and driest on record – London underwent a kind of revolution. The tables and chairs of restaurants and pubs alike migrated to the sidewalks and any outdoor areas adjacent to the facility. The pub in question had also virtually moved outdoors and was the scene of many pleasant summer evenings enjoying Young’s Special.
After an absence of thirty years I may be forgiven by being unable to name the individual pubs that I frequented with friends. Names that I thought that I would remember forever. Many of the pubs offered pub lunches as an alternative to outside restaurants. A Wandsworth pub close to my last workplace in London offered good food at reasonable prices. The menu varied from day to day but included a delicious cauliflower cheese to be washed down with a pint of Young’s bitter.
By the time I left London in 1979 the real ale movement was gaining momentum and Young’s was thriving. Today, Young’s beers are available in the South East and parts of the South West of England. Apart from the fine draught beers offered in Young’s pubs, a variety of quality bottles beers are even more widely available. The Young’s brewery is much larger and is no longer in Wandsworth. As for the horses, I hope that they are still a part of the Young’s family.