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Some Views of the Northgate Brewery part I On to part II

brewery logonorthgate dinner aleThe Northgate Brewery was founded in 1760 at the Golden Falcon Inn. A new brewery complex was built on the site in the 1850s and the Chester Northgate Brewery Co Ltd was registered in March 1885 as a limited liability company to acquire the business of the same name at the purchase price of £50,000.
The company acquired Salmon & Co, wine and spirit merchants, Chester in 1890 and the Kelsterton Brewery Co Ltd, Kelsterton, Clwyd with 93 licenced houses, in 1899.
By 1891 the company owned 21 tied houses in Chester and numerous others within a radius of 15 miles from the city. It was the only Chester brewery to survive beyond 1914. In its turn, it was acquired by Greenall Whitley & Co Ltd in 1949 with about 140 tied houses. Brewing ceased in 1969 and it was demolished in 1971.
An unsympathetic office block, Centurion House, now occupies the site in an otherwise unspoiled Northgate Street.

"The Northgate Brewery was a good company to work for... I remember being told to go up to the brewer's office with my best friend Winnie for a spoon full of yeast to get rid of our pimples... it never worked!" May Williams who worked at the brewery during the war years.

You can learn more about the history of the Northgate Brewery here...

northgate brewery
The entrance to the Northgate Brewery on Northgate Street, photographed from the top of the Northgate.
All of the buildings beyond the brewery gates, remarkably, remain with us today but note the lack of a clock on the Town Hall..

northgate brewery 1
The rear of the brewery shortly before demolition, viewed from the City Walls

northgate brewery
The rear of the brewery in Canning Street, viewed from the City Walls. The King Charles Court housing development stands here today.

northgate brewery

A view of the Northgate Brewery from the City Walls. The Northgate can be seen on the far left. What a pity that it is efforts weren't made to adapt this handsome building for housing or business, such as was done at the Steam Mill on Canalside, instead of erecting the hideous Centurion House in its place...

brewery entrance 1972
The entrance to the old brewery from Northgate Street

entrance to northgate brewery
Looking towards Northgate Street from the brewery yard 1969

northgate brewery yard 1969
The brewery yard in 1969

beer is best
Chester College rag mag advertisment 1958
northgate ales

northgate brewery yard

Two rather fuzzy views of the brewery yard and a fine pair of early Scammells.
northgate brewery

northgate ale badgeold chester ale bottleThe Northgate Brewery may have closed forty years ago but Northgate Ale is back, thanks to local brewer John Murray! "Although I am slightly too young to have sampled Northgate, I know of it well and many more senior friends and neighbours speak very fondly of it. I discovered that many of the brewery records had been lodged with Cheshire Archives and Local Studies

One item of particular interest was the 1902 brewery day book, detailing the malt, hops, water treatment, temperatures and gravities. I spent a couple of days there, transcribing these records and converting them into metric units. I decided to have a go.  One problem that I needed to overcome was how to replicate the malts which were no longer available such as Burton Strong and Smyrna.  After some searching, I found detailed analysis of both of these and attempted to replicate them using a blend of modern grains.

During a chance conversation with one of the Falcon regulars, I learned that he had worked at the brewery from 1958 to 1969. He gave me some useful information and also offered to help with the testing. I also discussed the idea with well known local historian Len Morgan, a big fan of the original brew, who gave me some other useful information. All in all I managed to recruit over 40 volunteers, all who drank the original brews, and gave them each a 500ml bottle and a questionnaire.  The feedback was that I had got it nearly right, so some minor adjustments were made to the blend and another test carried out.  Feedback from that was that it was probably as close as we could get, based on people’s recollections.

For interest, at that time, in an average week, the brewery did 4 brews of 40 x 36 gallon barrels.  Beside the Draught Northgate Ale, other beers in the log are Mild, Harvest Ale, the bottled version of Northgate Ale (slightly stronger than the draught), and Old Chester Strong.
It was really your site that inspired the original search for information. The next step may be to try it in a few pubs and see how it goes down."

Northgate Ale goes down very well indeed with this writer and is most definitely his favourite tipple. At ABV 4.9 it kicks like a horse too! It is made at the Spitting Feathers Brewery in the nearby village of Waverton (hit the 'Heritage Ales' link when you visit).

northgate homebrewed ale
northgate harvest ales

A couple of Northgate Brewery advertisments that appeared in the long-defunct Chester Courant in 1903

well room of brewery
One small part of the Northgate Brewery still exists- but not in its original location. Here is the brewery's well room
reconstructed in the beautiful Ness Botanic Gardens on the Wirral. Photograph by the author, April 2014

brewery barrel

beer advertisment

Do you have any photographs or reminisciences of Chester's Northgate Brewery? We'd love to hear from you- email us!

northgate brewery rag mag advert
Above: Chester College rag mag advertisment 1964

Read more about this area in the Bridge of Sighs, Northgate and the Lost Pubs & Breweries of Chester chapters of our Chester Virtual Stroll...

On to Northgate Brewery Part 2

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