An opportunist explore of a stunning (if a little stripped) brewery building. Myself and Clebby slipped in unnoticed and spent a couple of hours getting lost in a building that thoroughly lived up to the brewery stereotype of an absolute rabbit warren of locked doors, parallel staircases and secret rooms. We knew that brewing had not taken place in the main brewery for a number of years (possibly since the 1990 buy out?) but it still had plenty of interest to see. From the epic tower to basement boiler house there was plenty of challenges and probably still plenty of secrets to be found if you spend enough time checking every last loft hatch, mini door way or cellar passage.
The Cains brewery was founded by Irishman Robert Cain in 1858 when he bought an established brewery. Cain had begun his brewing career aged 24 when he purchased apub and brewed his own ales.
Within 25 years of founding his brewery, Cain had established 200 pubs, including the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, the Vines and the Central Commercial Hotel, which are currently listed as being of architectural merit. His personal mansion had each window arch inscribed with his monogram. In 1887 construction began on a second brewery.
In 1921, 14 years after Cain's death, the Cains brewery merged with Peter Walker and Co of Warrington, becoming Walker Cains. Then in 1923 the original Stanhope Street Brewery was sold to Higsons, who continued to brew Cains ales.
In 1985, Higsons was bought by Boddingtons of Manchester. Five years later Boddingtons opted to concentrate on pub ownership and sold all its breweries to Whitbread, at which point the Stanhope Street site was closed.
The Stanhope site with its modern canning lines had been heavily invested in under Boddingtons' ownership and appeared an attractive asset. It was acquired by the previous owners of Gee Bee Soft Drinks who had sold that business to Princes. The new owners re-established the business under the Robert Cain brand but most of their production was focused on production for supermarkets.
Viewing Cains as a route into the UK market, Faxe Bryggeri A/S (now Royal Unibrew) acquired the company and invested in its ales and local pubs. Unlike its larger competitor Carlsberg, Faxe failed to crack the UK market and put Cains up for sale in 2002. It was acquired by the Dusanj brothers; the first Asian owners of a British brewery. At the time it had a turnover of £30 million.
A reverse takeover of AIM-listed pub operator Honeycombe Leisure plc was agreed by the company's board in June 2007, giving Cains access to Honeycombe's 109 outlets and their stock market listing. The company was renamed Cains Beer Company PLC.
On 7 August 2008 the company was placed in administration due to unpaid tax and other debts amounting to £38 million Negotiations with its bank failed to reach a conclusion that would have avoided administration.
The brewery and eight original pubs have since bought back by the Dusanj brothers for £103,750. As the Dusanji family holds the freehold to the site and control the terms of any lease for brewery operation, no other buyer could be found.
In April 2013, Cains announced it would be ending contract brewing and supermarket beers in the summer and announced a redevelopment of the site for leisure and housing with a small craft brewery established to continue the Cains ales.
In May 2013, Cains announced it had ceased brewing altogether and would seek a contract brewer for its ales until its craft brewery was built in the proposed redevelopment. 38 staff were made redundant. In the same month, Liverpool CAMRA reported that Cains was down to an estate of three pubs – the Brewery Tap, Dr Duncan's and The Dispensary.
In August 2013, co-owner Sudarghara Dusanj said that the he hoped Cains would have its own microbrewery up and running in time for the start of the International Festival of Business in June 2014. However, the microbrewery had yet to launch as of August 2014.
Liverpool City Council granted planning permission for what was to become known as the Cains Brewery Village in November 2013. This was described as a tourism, leisure and retail attraction. The first phase is expected to be completed by summer 2016. The million square foot site will include a 94-bedroom hotel, cinema, bistro bar, restaurants and an open-plan retail hall for artisan food producers.
In January 2014, Cains was reported to have arranged for small quantities of its beers to be contract-brewed for export and sale in its small pub estate. The contract brewery was not cited.
Further progress came in March 2014 with the UK Government's decision to not hold a public enquiry into the redevelopment, possibility due to its large scale.
June 2014 saw the first potential tenant unveiled with plans by Baltic Yards Ltd for a Sunday market in Brewery Village. Baltic Yards is described it as being an urban bazaar. It takes its inspiration from the USA, citing Seattle’s Pike Place and Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal as influences.