Eighteen members of Marple Local History Society enjoyed a very interesting and informative tour of Robinson’s Brewery on Friday 3rd November. We learned that what is now Robinson’s can trace its history back to the opening of the Unicorn Inn on Lower Hillgate in 1722. At that time Hillgate was on the main road from Manchester to London. William Robinson became the landlord of the Unicorn in 1826 and bought the pub in 1838. Like many pubs at that time, it brewed its own beer. The brewing side of the business was run by William’s son Frederic, who started selling to other pubs in the area.
Robinson’s soon started buying up some of these pubs, the first being what is now the Royal Scot in Marple Bridge. From these beginning the business has grown to owning around 250 pubs across the North West and North Wales. It has remained a family business and is now run by the 6th generation of Robinsons.
To supply its growing business, Robinson’s expanded its brewing capacity, creating the brewery that exists today. It is one of the few remaining tower breweries, where water is pumped up to the top and gravity is used to feed the water through the stages of adding malted barley, hops and finally yeast to start the process of fermentation. The brewery draws its water from an aquifer some 600 feet below Stockport. We were introduced to the complex terminology used to identify the ingredients and the various stages of the process.
When the brewery was modernized in 2012, most of the historic brewing equipment – much of it nearly a century old – was left in place, giving a unique opportunity to see the historic equipment alongside its modern equivalent. However not for much longer, as Robinson’s are planning to close the historic brewery and move beer production to their site on Bredbury Industrial Estate.
At the end of the tour we were offered either a free bottle of beer, or a drink at the Ardern Arms at the junction of Millgate and Corporation Street. Most people took their bottle home, but three of us went to the historic pub, and enjoyed discussing all we had seen and done during the afternoon over a leisurely drink.