In most nations of the world, it is lager beer that is king. The reverse is true in England, though it should be said that there too, lagers have experienced a steady rise in popularity, in part kicked off by the warm summers of the 1970s. Admirably, the palate of the British beer drinker remained largely unsatisfied by the bland tastes of many "watered down" lager beers, and the ales prevailed. Incidentally, the craft brewing revolution of the U.S. shares this ale-savoring spirit, as the majority of microbreweries specialize in the brewing of a variety of ales rather than lagers.
The British brewery we are featuring this month is located along the northeastern coast of the country, in a portside town called Hartlepool, which holds the unfortunate distinction as the first British town to be bombed by the Germans in 1914 during WWI. The Lion Brewery has been established in Hartlepool for over 150 years and has been the home to the famous Camerons' brews since 1865. Prior to 1865 it was owned by William Waldon, who purchased it in 1852 for its pure water, drawn from an artesian well. This same well supplies the modern brewery today, and has been integral to producing beer at the site since the first brewery, Nimmo's, was established there way back in 1826. All told, we're talking nearly 180 years of brewing at this site! The present Lion Brewery was constructed in 1892, and by 1894, Camerons became a limited company owning no less than 50 pubs. For the next 91 years, Camerons Lion Brewery roared amidst growing popularity. Sadly, in 1985, the economy of Hartlepool experienced a major decline, and the brewery changed hands between various corporate owners, ultimately ending up under the control of one of the UK's largest brewing conglomerates (the craft brewery-swallowing beast known as Witbread—less affectionately referred to as Twitbread by some—which itself was ultimately cannibalized by the larger than life mega-conglomerate Interbrew).
In April 2002 The Lion Brewery was purchased by Castle Eden Brewery and a new company was formed—Camerons Brewery Limited. Castle Eden mustered the motivation for the purchase upon discovering that Witbread had plans to close and demolish the historic brewery. This prompted a move of self-sacrifice on the part of Castle Eden, as they brokered a deal to sell off one of their breweries to a housing development corporation, using the money from the sale to help fund the purchase of Hartlepool's Camerons brewery, gallantly safeguarding the future of brewing at the site, and releasing the Lion Brewery from the death grip of corporate ownership. Proudly, the Lion roars again, as a small craft brewery that produces the smallest batches produced by Northeastern England's only independent regional brewing operation.
For more information about the Lion Brewery, check out the following web site: http://www.cameronsbrewery.com.