Harvey & Son (Lewes) Ltd

Local flavour

Harvey & Son (Lewes) Ltd. has a heritage dating back to 1790 with a rich history of excellence within the brewery and pub industry

Harvey’s is an historic brewer, wine and spirit merchant and pub operator with a reputation for brewing several award winning beers. Today, the company produces a range of over 20 beers and also owns 48 pubs across South East of England. “Harvey & Son established itself in Lewes during the early nineteenth century, extending its original business as wine and spirit merchants to include brewing. After more than 200 years in the County Town, Harvey’s has become synonymous with Sussex,” elaborates Joint Managing Director & Head Brewer, Miles Jenner. “The company’s Victorian Tower Brewery sits on the banks of the River Ouse in the heart of the town and is irreverently known locally as ‘Lewes Cathedral’. The philosophy of the company perpetuates the core values of a bygone age where local sustainability was paramount.”

As part of its philosophy of local sustainability, Harvey’s maintains longterm contracts with local hop growers, which provide support for the local farming community. Traditionally, the company’s trade was within a 60-mile radius of the brewery but with changing market conditions it acquired its first London pub during the 1990’s. It is also selling through distribution channels, which stock establishments such as Bill’s Restaurant chain. The local sale of its popular beers is an important factor in further demonstrating a tangible interaction between Harvey’s and the community. “Our malted barley is sourced within the UK,” Miles adds. “The brewery’s ‘spent grains’ are collected by the local agricultural college and fed to their dairy herd, while the ‘spent hops’ are used as mulch and compost in the nearby market gardens. Harvey’s is regarded as ‘the beer of Sussex’ and the company is woven into the very fabric of society.”

Modern and relevant
Today, Harvey’s beers continue to be produced on the original brewery site. The brewery itself was rebuilt in 1881 although parts of the original structure still stand, major additional works have doubled the capacity of the brew house, while retaining the site’s flexibility and maintaining the same architectural style. “Harvey’s have a range of 25 bottled beers covering most styles. By bottling ‘in-house’ even our speciality niche products can be produced viably. Recently the company has invested in kegging plant and has branched out into canning. It has always been the philosophy of Harvey’s to remain both modern and relevant while maintaining its heritage,” Miles says. “Sussex Best Bitter (4.0 abv) is the flagship beer of the company but the core range of traditional draught beers also includes our Dark Mild (3.0 abv), IPA (3.5 abv), Wild Hop (3.7 abv) and Armada Ale (4.5 abv). Additionally, Old Ale (4.3 abv) is available in Autumn and Winter, while our Golden Ale is brewed for the Spring and Summer months.”

Harvey’s was the first brewer to publish a programme of 12 speciality ‘seasonal beers’ that are available for one month at a time. Each beer is brewed uniquely to provide different styles ranging from porters and ruby ales to wheat beers and barley wines. Many of these speciality beers have a local provenance; the company’s Tom Paine (5.5 abv), for example, is named after the celebrated Georgian radical and sometime resident of Lewes who wrote ‘Rights of Man’. “Southdown Harvest (5.0 abv) is brewed using freshly harvested ‘green hops’ that are picked from the bine that morning and all beers are available in bottle throughout the year. Our newly devised Gold Bier, Malt Brown and Black Stout are served chilled from keg and can to meet the growing demand of a new generation of beer drinkers,” Miles reveals. “There are also two niche products that are worthy of mention: Elizabethan Ale (7.5 abv) barley wine was first brewed for the coronation in 1952 and has remained in production ever since, while Harvey’s Georgian ‘Imperial Extra Double Stout’ (9.0 abv) was created in 1999 and has been the recipient of a national or international award every year since its inception.”

Further to its award-winning range of beers, Harvey’s manufactures and sells different lines including wines, whiskies, foods, condiments and various merchandise. The brewery also procures its own ‘Lewes Blend’ Whisky and recently produced a ‘Malt Gin’ in collaboration with a UK distillery. The company’s brewery shop fronts Cliffe High Street in Lewes, which is the original premises occupied by John Harvey in 1810. The shop sells a large selection of local and foreign wines, some of which it imports, as well as a range of spirits from newly emergent distilleries. The company also sells souvenirs and local foods, including an award-winning marmalade made using Harvey’s Wild Hop beer. “The Brewery Shop is well supported by the local community and is extremely popular with tourists. Harvey’s is the last brewery in the UK to use returnable bottles, thereby forestalling the bottle bank, and the shop charges a returnable deposit to encourage their return,” Miles details. “Draught beers are drawn from the brewery cellars for customers in containers ranging from four pints to nine gallons.”

Local provenance
The reputation of Harvey’s beers has resulted in enquires from further afield in recent years. As the market has continued to evolve, Harvey’s has developed as a locally focused business with a growing reputation. “With changing market conditions, all options are now being considered and wholesalers with a proven reputation for beer management are distributing Harvey beers where new markets are identified. We have also recently undergone a rebranding exercise, redesigning our logo and all pump clips and labels for our core range products.” Additionally, a local artist has redesigned the point of sale for its range of seasonal brews, thereby further strengthening the company’s local provenance. It is a move to engage with a new generation of consumer, confident in the knowledge that the existing customer base will remain loyal to the brand regardless of its packaging. Miles concludes: “Our long-term goal is to retain market share and develop new markets for both established and new products. Within the pub portfolio, more houses are likely to come under direct management but investment will continue within existing outlets and new opportunities to purchase licensed estate in town centres will be examined. Within the production and distribution areas of the business, investment and programmed maintenance will continue to ensure maximum flexibility and quality assurance.”