Camden Brewery: 1859-1926
From 1859 until 1926, Camden Brewery made beer a short distance from where we brew today – the building is still there, on the corner of Hawley Crescent and Kentish Town Road, where you can see an elephant head hanging over the door.
The brewery was started by four men: Richard Garrett and George Grimwood, who provided the money, and Abram Garrett and Thomas Whitaker who joined with a group of 30 pubs.
The brewery grew into a successful business, making a range of beers including stout, strong ale, mild and, later, a pale ale. The brewery also increased their early pub holding, going from 30 to over 70. Looking back at the existing records, we can see a few of the pubs which were owned by Camden Brewery are pubs which we now sell to – the Southampton Arms and Exmouth Arms.
Things started to gradually deteriorate as the 20th century clocked in. The pub market was tough, finance acts made it tougher and the brewery started to struggle. The archives which were saved when the brewery closed show the development of those struggles through minuted board meetings.
During this time, London was the brewing capital of the world, with some enormous breweries positioned around the capital. Two of those were Courage and Barclay Perkins (at one time the world’s largest brewery), both based in south London.
Courage and Barclay Perkins also owned many pubs and they were looking to increase their property at the time when they could see that Camden Brewery was struggling. Camden were making 42,000 barrels a year at this point (about 12 million pints a year!), but Courage and Barclay Perkins weren’t interested in the beer, they wanted the pub estate to broaden their reach across London, particularly in the north. When it came to be acquired, instead of bidding for the brewery, the chairmen of Courage and Barclay Perkins came together and tossed a coin to see who would get Camden Brewery. Courage won (and you can still see their name on the Exmouth Arms today).
That was 1923. Courage took over and kept things going until Camden Brewery went into voluntary liquidation in 1926. Brewing stopped in Camden until 2010. That’s when Camden Town Brewery started.
Now you can try a resurrected beer from Camden Brewery. When looking into the history we found their brewing records and we’ve developed one of them which is being released on Friday 27 July. It’s called Camden 1908 and it’s the beer which would’ve been drunk during the 1908 London Olympics. Taste history with Camden Town Brewery in 2012.
(New photo from here)