Report - - Cannon Brewery Sheffield April 2011 | Diehardlove | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Cannon Brewery Sheffield April 2011


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William Stones Ltd was a brewing company founded in 1865. Originally based at the Cannon Brewery in Sheffield, England, the company is now a functionally defunct subsidiary of Molson Coors. They brew the pasteurised Stones Bitter (3.7% ABV) at their Burton upon Trent brewery and contract the production of the cask conditioned Stones Bitter (4.1% ABV) to Everards of Leicester. Available across the United Kingdom, the brand is among the country's top twenty ale brands. It was launched in Southern England in 1979, and at the beer's peak during the 1980s and early 1990s, it was the country's second best selling ale, in home sales as well as in public houses

William Stones was born 1840 in the Hartshead district of Sheffield, where his mother was a cabinet case maker, In 1865 Stones took over the Neepsend Brewery of Shepherd, Green and Hatfield. This became the "Cannon Brewery". William Stones became a limited company in 1895. William Stones himself died in 1900, a bachelor, and one of the richest men in Sheffield, although he lived a modest life in a terraced house. He bequeathed the brewery to a friend.

1931 saw the company report a net profit of £61,767, or £3.3 million in 2010 prices. 1953 net profit was modest at £66,778 or £1.5 million in 2010 prices.

During the 1950s there was a period of consolidation in United Kingdom's brewing industry. In 1954 Stones purchased Mappin's Brewery of Rotherham, shutting the brewery down the following year. The takeover added around 100 extra public houses to their tied estate. The same year they partnered with Tennant Brothers to acquire the Sheffield Free Brewery, closing the brewery and dividing the estate between them. In 1955 profits had greatly increased to £135,276 or almost £3 million in 2010 prices. In 1959 William Stones also bought Ward and Sons of Swinton, well known local bottlers of beer (including Guinness) and mineral water for £100,000 (£1.8 million in 2010 prices). In 1965 the company was valued at £5 million.

The Cannon Brewery, with its tied estate of 257 public houses and a further 60 or so off-licences, located throughout South Yorkshire and surrounding counties, was bought by Bass Charrington in 1968. The takeover was a friendly one, and £9 million was offered for the company, and recommended by the William Stones board.Bass Charrington already owned 14 per cent of the company's shares.William Stones had made a pre-tax profit of £629,000 in the previous year, equivalent to £9 million in 2010. The Cannon brewery continued until April 1999 when it closed with the loss of around 60 jobs. The beers that it had produced were Stones Bitter, Light Mild and Mild, and Bass Special, Bass Light and Bass Mild. The brand continues however; the pasteurised beer is brewed by brand owners Molson Coors at their Burton upon Trent brewery, whilst the cask version is contract brewed by Everards

In the early 1940s Stones first produced their famous, refreshing, golden/straw coloured beer called Stones Bitter. It was initially created in order to quench the thirst of Sheffield's steelworkers, who would spend about 10 hours a day working at the furnaces, and some pubs would open at 6am to slake the thirst of men coming off from the night shift. Other pubs got through 30 hogsheads a week, such was the demand.

After the Bass takeover the beer was still brewed at the Cannon brewery, but expanded production led to its also being produced at the Hope & Anchor brewery (also in Sheffield) and the Tower brewery in Tadcaster. From time to time during the 1980s it was also produced at Bass' Runcorn brewery. Bass soon introduced the use of cheaper adjuncts in the brewing of the beer, such as flaked maize. During the 1980s, Stones had such a strong regional following that it was described:
as more of a religion [in those areas] than a beer.

It is a Sheffield icon, and the beer is prominent in two of the most iconic films set in Sheffield: When Saturday Comes (the protagonist works at the Cannon brewery) and The Full Monty. During the 1980s it was sold as Stones Best Bitter. Sometime during the 1990s the canned and keg versions were reduced from 4.1% to 3.9% and finally 3.7% ABV.

The current packaging was created in 1994, and evokes Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and blacksmiths, and protector of craftsmen.

Like most predominantly pasteurised ales in the United Kingdom, Stones is undergoing a significant decline in sales. In 1995-6 it was the fourth most popular ale brand in the UK with 1.7 per cent of all beer sales. By 1997, Bass had already decided to deprioritise the brand in order to concentrate on promoting Worthington as their national ale brand. By 1998 it was regarding by the company as a "niche" product. In 2010, 115,700 hectolitres of Stones Bitter were sold, which was less than half of the amount sold in 2004. Molson Coors have shown some interest in the brand however; during the summer of 2007, a cask conditioned Stones Pure Gold (4.1%) golden ale was brewed by Everards, and in 2011 four sport-themed Stones branded guest ales are being made available throughout the year, brewed at the new William Worthington's Brewery.

The cask conditioned version's taste is described thus: "A light cornflake-cereal & salty sweetness precedes & softens the underlying bitterness that surfaces & lasts, mingling with the red apples & malt". In 1991 it won silver in the Bitter category in the CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain. The pasteurised version comes in kegs and 440ml cans, and is described as "A dense interplay of hops & yeast with a full flavour that is typically Yorkshire".

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Stones Bitter was sold in cans in Australia.

Stones also produced a Mild and a Light Mild (both at 3.2% ABV), but these appear to have been discontinued with the closure of the Cannon Brewery

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