Hidden behind the White Bear Hotel
in Masham is the town's other brewery, Black Sheep
, housed in the former maltings of the Lightfoot Brewery, which was taken over by Theakston in 1919. In fact the White Bear Hotel occupies the former Lightfoot Brewery buildings, the original White Bear was destroyed by a bomb in 1941, not deliberately it seems, a damaged Heinkel was shedding it's bombs before it crashed
The front of the Black Sheep Brewery is rather industrial, it's the rear of the premises where the impressive and more photogenic side is.
The ghost sign underneath the Black Sheep Brewery letters refers to the previous use of the building as a maltings.
Whereas the outside blends the historic and industrial, inside there is a modern bar, bistro and shop
There were more people on this tour than on the one a few hours earlier going around the Theakston Brewery, a lot more, there were 3 people on the Theakston tour, including myself, whereas there were about 25 on the Black Sheep tour, this could be put down to better marketing but also the Black Sheep Brewery has room for coaches in the large car park.
First up on the tour was a corporate video, explaining the history of this brewery, founded by Paul Theakston in 1992.
Below: The Theakston family tree
The brewery appears to have been designed with tourism in mind, from the shop and bar to the video room and walkways. A short walk from the video room and up some stairs we come to the tall and long room of the former maltings, now home to the mash tun and copper.
Both pieces of equipment were second hand, the copper coming from the former Hartley's Brewery of Ulverston, Cumbria which closed in 1991.
Above: a close-up of the mash tun and Steele's Masher
Below: the copper
Back to the the other room for another copper and the hopback
The fermenting room features round Yorkshire square fermenters which sounds like a bit of a contradiction in terms but, bear with me for this! The Yorkshire Square method of fermentation refers to the two-part open-topped fermenting vessels and the rousing pipe which circulates the fermented wort over the yeast. The multiplying yeast expands into the upper vessel, separating the beer from the yeast. Originally these vessels were square or rectangular but difficulty in cleaning and sourcing new vessels resulted in the round Yorkshire Square being invented.
Above: An old Yorkshire Square at the brewery
Above: the rousing pipe and the yeast below
Above: cut-away diagram showing the Yorkshire Square fermenter
Black Sheep brewery are one of the few breweries using this method of fermentation.
Below: the racking hall
The tour guide on this tour was one of the most knowledgeable and informative guides I have been with on a brewery tour. Well versed in the history and function of the brewery plant, he also threw in a few amusing anecdotes, such as when the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, visited the German-born Pope Benedict XVI he took him a bottle of Black Sheep Monty Python Holy Grail beer!
Tours of Black Sheep Brewery cost £9.95 pp (2018 prices) and if you only have time to visit one brewery in Masham, I suggest visit Black Sheep rather than Theakston's as the tour is far better.
Masham is not short of pubs, however I only had time for a swift pint in the Bruce Arms
before catching the bus back to Ripon.