Brewing legacy

With a history dating back over more than 250 years within Norfolk’s historic seaside town of Great Yarmouth, Lacons brewery represents an iconic name that has experienced a phoenix-like return to the market in recent years

The Lacons brand was originally established during 1760 as a family-run and highly self-sufficient brewery, with its own malting houses and brewing equipment. “Eventually the company moved to a larger premises located at Fullers Hill in Great Yarmouth. At its peak Lacons brewery sent over 150,000 pints of ale per week to London. The brewery also had more than 350 tied houses, as well as a further 50 in London and at that time was producing 80,000 barrels of beer per year,” elaborates Communications Manager, Simon Baldry.

“The brewery continued to grow from strength to strength as a family run business until 1957, when Whitbread first became involved in the company and started to acquire a shareholding in the business following its insertion on the stock exchange,” Simon continues. “Over a number of years Whitbread continued buying up shares in Lacons and gradually took complete control. Unfortunately the brewery was ultimately mothballed in 1968 with the loss of over 150 jobs in Great Yarmouth, as Whitbread’s main interest was Lacons vast pub estate.” Following its closure the business and the Lacons name laid dormant for close to half a century, until 2009 when the company’s present Managing Director, Mick Carver began to research into the possibility of reawakening Lacons. After several years of negotiation with the modern brewing arm of Whitbread, (Luxembourg based SA Brand Brew, a subsidiary of AB Inbev) the iconic Lacons’ falcon was refreshed with the brewery finally opening its doors again during May 2013. Most recently
the company has further solidified its position by unifying the brewery and its distribution partner as a single entity under the Lacons banner during 2015.

Prior to taking on Lacons brewery, Mick was also the Managing Director of the Lowestoft based company JV Trading. Following the rebirth of the Lacons brewery, JV Trading continued to operate as a leading distributor for Lacons alongside many other iconic drinks brands. The decision to merge the two businesses has enabled both to grow even stronger under the firmly established and fondly remembered Lacons name.

“We have worked in partnership with JV since our return and the relationship they have with the licensed trade in the Anglia region is second to none. As a business, the core values of JV Trading are parallel to Lacons and for us and all involved it makes perfect sense to marry both entities together under the iconic Lacons name and manage them as one,” Mick says. “Lacons as a name carries such nostalgic significance for so many people in this region, it’s a story that began over 250 years ago and was nearly lost forever in the late 1960s. This decision means the name can once again stand proud, not only as a brewer, but as a business that offers a complete drinks and support package to the many public houses that require it.”

Original yeast
The impressive rebirth of the Lacons business has been matched by the quality of the beers the brewery has developed. Once the management team of Mick Carver and Sales Director, Trevor Hourican managed to acquire the Lacons name and intellectual property the company was finally able to secure the original Lacons yeast for beer making from frozen storage in the National Collection of Yeast Cultures (NCYC), based in Norwich. Around this time the multi-award winning brewer Wil Wood joined the business after previously brewing at Scotland’s Fyne Ales and began to develop the next generation of Lacons ales. Today the company crafts a core range of five ales, comprised of Encore, Legacy, Affinity, Pale Ale and Falcon Ale alongside seasonal and heritage ranges.

“We began by developing three core beers, which were trialled extensively before general release and contain the finest whole cone hops and malts. The beers are also crafted in a unique way, using the original Lacons yeast. Most brewers have their own yeast strain that they brew with and each yeast reacts differently and this gives the range its unique flavours, making it fully authentic and therefore allowing the beers to be crafted under the Lacons name,” Simon details. “Further to our core and seasonal beers, we also produce our popular heritage range. This is comprised of nearly ten beers that have been inspired by the original Lacons recipes that we have in our archive and the original artwork that was associated with them. Our head brewer has modernised these recipes and they are now released on a month-by-month basis and are very popular beers in addition to our core range.”

Champion ale
Indeed, the Lacons range has proven so popular that its flagship ale, Encore, has no less than eight awards to its name out of a total of 16 awards across the core range. “These accolades include the recognition of Encore as the World’s Best Bitter under four per cent at the World Beer Awards, as well as being awarded the title of CAMRA’s Norfolk Champion Golden Ale for 2016. We are also very pleased to have been invited by CAMRA to pour Encore on the bar at this year’s Great British Beer Festival at London’s Olympia which is an honour,” Simon exclaims.

With a successful resurrection and many award-winning beers already under its belt, the future appears to be very bright for Lacons. Indeed, the company has recently invested a six figure sum into commissioning new brewing plant, which will allow it to increase its levels of production by at least four or five times, once the equipment is installed. “The level of investment that we are committing speaks volumes about the amount of opportunity in the market for our ales. Norfolk is a hot bed for cask ale breweries at the moment, with over 30 in operation in the region,” Simon concludes. “We are focused on fully restoring the Lacons name to its former glory. Once the new brew plant has been commissioned we will be able to substantially grow our business at quite a pace, through our own delivery network and by going further afield around all over the UK. On the drink distribution side, we are about giving our customers quality and consistency of deliveries and ensuring that our customers have the right products on their bars to serve to their patrons – including Lacons multi- award winning ales.”