The Diary: We’re not bitter over ale re-launch

Dave Hughes of Wombwell's Acorn Brewery.
Dave Hughes of Wombwell's Acorn Brewery.
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Could there be a storm brewing over the ‘re-launch’ of a legendary local ale?

Barnsley Bitter - probably the best name for a beer ever - has been put ‘back’ into production by the Stancill Brewery in Neepsend, Sheffield of all places.

Former Oakwell Brewery head brewer, Jonathan Stancill, insists the softer water in Sheffield makes for a better taste.

The big-hitting bitter ceased production in 1976 from the old Barnsley Brewery but has come back in several incarnations since.

Including the one made by Acorn Brewery - in Barnsley - that’s been winning gongs and awards for excellence since 2003.

But now the Sheffield version of Barnsley Bitter - it’s getting confusing I know, pour yourself a drink - is winning awards all of its own.

We featured the Stancill success story at the Rotherham CAMRA Ale festival at Magna winning the Champion Bitter of Yorkshire category and it prompted Acorn Brewery boss Dave Hughes to contact us to put the record straight.

“It is great to see the craft beer industry thriving in South Yorkshire and we were interested to read an article in The Star about a new Sheffield brewery that is apparently ‘keeping Barnsley Bitter alive’, said Dave.

“However, we do need to reassure your readers that Barnsley Bitter is very much alive and still brewed in Barnsley by us – at Acorn Brewery.

“Our small team have been lovingly producing this distinctive traditional ale since we established our brewery in Wombwell in 2003. At that time we were very fortunate to obtain the original strains of yeast which have been used to make the local pint for a great many years – a very carefully preserved treasure.

“Production of Barnsley Bitter at the old Barnsley Brewery ceased in 1976 after it had been acquired by John Smiths and turned into a distribution depot. Since that time there have been only a few versions of the famous legendary bitter produced.

“The Barnsley Bitter we produce has won numerous awards and reached the finals at CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival three times. It is the most popular beer we make. We had an order from a pub in the Shetland Isles and we’re about to start sending our bottled version to Italy.

“Whilst we wish our new fellow brewers over the hill in S3 all the very best, we are keen to point out that Barnsley Bitter is alive and positively thriving and still definitely ‘brewed in Barnsley’ …where else!”

Despite the Diary’s best attempts on Friday afternoon we were unable to contact anyone at Stancill Brewery for a comment.

Sheffield CAMRA social secretary Richard Ryan shed some light: “Going back in history when John Smiths started releasing beers with old names there was a ruling that any beer named after a town couldn’t claim the name for itself.

“If it’s bitter brewed in Barnsley then they can call it Barnsley Bitter.”

But Stancill Brewery’s Barnsley Bitter is made in Sheffield?

“Well, perhaps he’s from Barnsley and wants to keep the name.”

Time gentlemen please...