Tuesday 10th December 2019
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Words: Alan Middleton
Featured in the January 2012 issue

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Make mine a pint…

Few family businesses can claim to have given greater pleasure to the people of Lincolnshire and beyond, or done more to enhance the reputation of the county, than George Bateman and Son Ltd. Batemans ‘Good Honest Ales’ can be enjoyed today in pubs and clubs throughout the UK and can also be found, in bottled form, on numerous supermarket shelves. But like so many successful businesses and with typical Lincolnshire prudency, it started in a modest way.

In 1874 George Bateman and his wife Suzanna decided to sell their farm in the nearby village of Friskney and rent a small brewery in Wainfleet. For £505 10s. (equivalent to around £30,000 today) they purchased the brewery equipment from Edwin Crowe and a year later, with some financial difficulty, bought out the lease for £800.

Neither George nor Suzanna had very much experience of brewing. Fortunately Edwin Crowe passed on all he knew before he retired but his Head Brewer was not ready to retire and stayed on for several more years. Despite being blind, he had an acute sense of smell and taste and would check the temperature of the beer by placing his elbow into the fermenting vessel, much as mothers check the temperature of a baby’s bath water.

The original brewery was close to the railway, but by 1880 the pair decided that they had enough money to buy a Georgian property about 200 yards away, Salem House. The Batemans built a brewery in the coach houses.

The 1920s and ‘30s were very depressed times for beer consumption due to strict regulations and severe taxes; at one point the slump was so bad that all of the workforce had to be laid off. Harry, who had taken over from his father George, was so upset that he re-engaged them all, bought some adjacent buildings and started a bottling plant, thus increasing the size of the business.

Harry was given a pub for his twenty-first birthday and shortly afterwards bought some more pubs which everybody else thought were worthless. People started to wonder if Harry had gone mad. In 1927 Batemans bought the Vine Hotel in Skegness and in 1935 built the County Hotel in the town, on the site of Billy Butlin’s skittle alley. In 1950 Harry’s eldest son, George, joined the business and he took over the reins in 1970.

The 1960s saw many changes in beer drinking with a massive trend towards keg beers and the future for traditional cask ales looked very bleak. Then a saviour appeared on the scene in the form of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). After a period of decline, real ales started to make a comeback. In August 1986 Batemans premium ale, XXXB, was judged ‘Beer of the Year’ by CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival and it is fair to say the brewery has never looked back.

Today, Batemans offers a superb range of beers. In addition to XXXB, there is XB, Dark Mild and a wonderful selection of seasonal ales including Spring Breeze, Summer Swallow and Combined Harvest.

CHEERS!

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