Express & Star

Tradition and quality are what makes brewery a part of Black Country history

The art of brewing beer is one which is well-known and well-loved in the Black Country.

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People across the region have enjoyed a pint of beer since the Victorian age and breweries have come and gone over the years to provide ales, bitter and pints of mild to thirsty customers.

One brewery which has established itself as a staple of the community and which still brews within the Black Country is Holden's Brewery in Woodsetton, Dudley.

It has brewed from the same site since the freehold of the Park Inn was bought by Lucy Blanche Elizabeth and Edwin Holden in 1915 and has passed down the generations as the business has expanded, taking in the three cottages which were next to the pub and turning them into the current brewery.

Jonothan Holden has been keeping up the standards set by his father Edwin and his predecessors

Anyone who goes into a pub supplied by Holden's will be able to see the fruits of the labours of the Holden family, from the glowing Golden Glow to the flavourful Mild and the very moreish Bitter, while the brewery has also expanded to making ciders and gins.

The brewery is a distinctive sight from George Street in Woodsetton, with white walls and the name of Edwin Holden emblazoned on the side, and the site is a working one, with different beers being brewed each day, including beers from other companies which Holden's brew for them.

Current managing director Jonothan Holden is the fourth generation of the family to run the business, having spent 32 years with the company where he said he had done everything there was to do within the company up to becoming managing director following the death of his father Edwin in 2002.

Jonothan Holden shows some of the malted barley used in the beer

He spoke about the history of the brewery and how the art of brewing had changed over time.

He said: "The brewery started in 1915 in the centre of the Park Inn, but obviously things got a bit too big and so they bought some more pubs to be able to expand the business and the three cottages which were on site and turned them into the brewery.

"After that, they never looked back in terms of expanding and it was my great-grandmother Lucy Blanche who started it all as she got the passion for it and after her son Teddy came back from university, she bought a pub for him and he started brewing in earnest in the brewery itself.

Head brewer John Bradbury works on one of the new brews

"The process has changed over time as we've changed some equipment, although the mash tun and the copper dates back to the 1940s. There's a few adaptation's we've made so that we can keep the yeast in better condition and the quality control is far better and things were very different back in those days."

The brewery has stayed within the family since the first iteration of Holden's Brewery, with Jonothan Holden the fourth generation and his daughter Charlotte and son George are already part of the operations, with 19-year-old George creating an American pale ale called Sun Burst.

The brewery is always busy brewing a new batch

Mr Holden said that while a few changes had been made, the central principle of the brewery had not changed and the work to ensure consistency continued, while also acknowledging that the products may diversify in time as the market changed.

He said: "The main thing is quality and if you can do that and keep that consistency of the quality out there, then that's what people want.

Staff work to supply the orders

"We've taken on what has been done in the past and tried to carry that on because that's been so successful, but moving forward, I think we've got to look at different avenues and different products as the market has changed and pubs have changed.

Jonothan Holden oversees one of the brews as it ferments

"People are wanting different things and while we still have that traditional market out there, there is a whole new audience to satisfy which, hopefully, some of the new beers will do that and fill gap.

"We do still remember that Golden Glow and Black Country Bitter are still very much us and part of our heritage and is something we're not going to forget as that's the way we've always worked."

The brewery has a constant flow of kegs around

The beer brewed by Holden's is unique to that brewery, with the brewing process and the types of yeast used, as well as the water and ingredients a closely guarded secret within the walls of the brewery and the key to its identity.

That identity and that history are very special to Holden's Brewery and to Jonothan Holden, who said that its status as a leading Black Country brewery was one which was very special to him, as well as being a partner to other breweries as they were coming up.

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