The Ram Brewery
Young's is Britain's oldest brewery and one of the best known and best loved in the world. It produces a stunning variety of ales, stouts and lagers, which have won countless prizes, including three world championships.
Small but feisty Young & Co.'s Brewery, P.L.C. (better known as Young's) consists of the oldest continuously operating brewery in England as well as a chain of 200 pubs and hotels. Brewing a variety of some 20 house label lager beers, ales, stouts, and bitters, but also producing a limited number of wine and spirits labels, Young's also brews under contract to a number of national and international brands and distributors, including Bass and Whitworth. Such third-party brewing contracts help to boost production output in its Wandsworth brewing facility while helping to reduce its own operating costs. Nonetheless, the company has been hampered throughout the 1990s by under-production; the company has seen its production drop to as low as 60 percent of total capacity. The company's chain of pubs and hotels feature Young's' own beer labels as well as third-party labels; many of its pubs and restaurants include full restaurant service. Traded on the London stock exchange for more than a century, Young's has resisted a growing insistence toward consolidation within Britain's regional brewing industry, which has seen declines in the face of the rising clout of national and international brewing companies. Nonetheless, the company is pursuing a strategy of individual and small group purchases, including the November 2000 acquisition of 17 pubs from fellow brewer Smiles Holdings Plc. With some 34 percent of voting stock controlled by the Young family--including John Young, chairman--the company has also resisted pressure from its minority shareholders to simplify its shareholding structure. Much of the company's voting stock remains unlisted, as part of a three-tier share structure, leaving the Young family's control more or less unchallenged. In its fiscal year ended in April 2000, Young's' sales, which reached £91.7 million, reflected a 26 percent rise in production, including a five percent gain in production of the company's own labels.
More Than 400 Years of Brewing
The Ram Brewery remained England's oldest continuously operating brewery at the start of the 21st century. The company that grew up around the Ram Brewery's ales, stouts, and lagers, later built up an extensive portfolio of public houses and hotels that themselves reflect much of English history. Brewing on the Ram Brewery's premises most likely extended beyond 500 years of history, but the earliest records of a commercial brewery at the site date back to the year 1581. At the time, the brewery was owned and operated by one Humphrey Langridge, who was listed as the brewer at the Ram Inn in Wandsworth. The Ram Brewery remained in the Langridge and related Cripps family for more than 90 years.
The Draper family bought the brewery in 1672. Operated at first by brothers Somerset and Humphrey Draper, the brewery was kept in the Draper family until 1763, when it was sold to Thomas Tritton. Tritton operated the Ram Brewery until his death in the mid-1780s. Tritton's son, George Tritton, took over the brewery and kept it in the family until the beginning of the 1830s.
By then, the Tritton family had come into contact with the Young family. The establishment in 1803 of the Surrey iron railway--originally featuring wagons pulled by horses&mdash′ovided a link between Wandsworth and Croyden. George Tritton became one of the shareholders in the project, and was joined by Florance Young, who manufactured brewing equipment. The relationship between the Trittons and Youngs deepened when Young's son, Charles Allen Young, joined with Anthony Bainbridge to purchase the Ram Brewery from the Tritton family in 1831.
Yet the Young family's initial participation in the brewery nearly ended in disaster; a year after Young and Bainbridge acquired the brewery, much of it burned. The partners quickly rebuilt their business, however, and began the first of a series of modernization efforts, installing a steam engine in the brewery in 1835. The Ram Brewery was able to step up its production of ales, stouts, and porters, in order to supply a growing number of customers--both the company's own customers and those of other pubs.
Like most of England's brewers, Young and Bainbridge kept its own public houses as retail outlets for its products. The company's earliest pub was the one attached to the brewery itself. Originally called the Ram, later renamed as the Brewery Tap, the pub most likely dated back to the 1670s, and was definitely in existence by the 1690s. Under the Tritton family, the Ram had acquired another outlet for its brewery products, the Dog and Fox at Wimbledon. The Dog and Fox--which had been in existence since at least the early 1600s--included eight rooms and other amenities, and was transferred to Young and Bainbridge in 1834. By then, Young and Bainbridge had also acquired another lease, to the Duke of Devonshire, originally assigned to the Ram in 1827 and then given to Young and Bainbridge in 1832. This pub, which initially served only beer, was granted a spirits license in the late 1850s. The company purchased the pub outright in 1925.
Young and Bainbridge went about acquiring other pubs, whether on a leased, purchased or freehold basis, for its growing production. In 1848, the company added the lease to another pub, the Windmill, which had been in operation since the late 1600s. Young and Bainbridge bought another pub in 1857, the Duke's Head, located in Wallington, which had been in operation since as early as the 1720s and which had been supplied with the company's beers since 1832.
Not all of the company's pubs came complete with 200-year histories: in 1864, Young and Bainbridge added the newly built Duke of Cambridge, located on the growing Battersea district of London. In order to support its growing network of publican houses, Young and Bainbridge installed a second steam engine in their brewery in 1867. The following decade the company built a new pub, called the Alexandra, for the expanding Wimbledon district. The company began construction of the Victorian-style building in 1876. Several years later, the company once again faced disaster, when in 1882 a fire destroyed much of the brewery and the Ram Inn. Young and Bainbridge carried on, however, rebuilding in 1883.
The following year saw changes in the company's leadership. The transfer of the company to Charles Florance Young, son of the founder, and the exit of the Bainbridge family from the brewery's interests, led to the ending of the Young and Bainbridge association and the founding of Young's in 1884. The company was formally incorporated as Young & Co.'s Brewery Limited in 1890. Young then took the company public in 1898.
Guarding the Tradition for the 20th Century
Young's continued adding leases, freeholds, and purchases of pubs into the 20th century. At the turn of the century, the company acquired the freehold to the Windmill, replacing its former lease on the property. In another transaction, in 1925, the company purchased one of its earliest leased properties, the Duke of Devonshire. Also, after acquiring the freehold to the Alexandra pub in Wimbledon in 1923, Young's began an extensive remodeling of the site, which was completed in 1927. The company continued to look to add more pubs to its network. In 1929, the company bought the freehold to the Spread Eagle, in London, which had originally opened in 1858 and then expanded by adding a number of adjoining buildings.
In the 1930s, the Alexandra received yet more attention, when Young's acquired the adjoining property and added it to the pub. At the same time, the company was granted the lease to a land site in the quickly developing town of Greenford, just outside of London, as the city's infrastructure of road and rails began to bring industrialization to the outlying areas. Development of the property ran into snags, however, and the company was not able to open its pub on the site until 1937. A mix-up in the application forms for the operating license also resulted in the pub receiving the name The Bridge--even though the pub was located nowhere near to a bridge.
The bombing of London during World War II also brought devastation to Young's when many of the company's properties, and especially the brewery itself, suffered major damage. By the end of the war the company was faced with rebuilding its cask shed and repairing the damage to the Ram Inn.
In the 1950s, Young's continued to expand its operations. While other breweries, such as Guinness and Bass, operated at the national and even international scale, Young's remained committed to its status as one of England's preeminent regional brewers. Nonetheless, the company's beers, stouts, ales, and porters attracted growing numbers of foreign customers. Meanwhile, Young's strengthened its list of pubs and hotels, adding the Holly Lodge, a small hotel located near to the Windmill. In 1958, the company added the Marquess of Anglesey, a site operated as a coffee house or pub since the mid-1600s. Helping the company in its expansion was the listing for sale of it's a shares for the first time in 1955. The A shares were the first to grant voting rights to shareholders, joining the unlisted B shares&mdash-tirely held by the Young family--and the previously listed non-voting shares. This three-tier structure later became the target of criticism; however, the method allowed the Young family to raise capital, while maintaining control of the company that bore the family's name.
A new generation of the Young family took the company's lead in 1962, when John Allen Young was appointed chairman. The great-great-great grandson of the company's founder quickly made his mark on the company--which he continued to lead into the 21st century--by instituting a policy of promoting draft beers in all of the company's growing list of pubs. The importance of the company's export sales and its sales to pubs beyond its company-owned circuit was underscored, however, by the acquisition of bottling company Foster-Probyn Ltd., one of the largest bottlers in England in 1962.
As consumer tastes changed during the 1960s and 1970s, expanding beyond a traditional thirst for beers to include wines and other drinks, Young's saw a new opportunity to diversify their beverage range. In 1973, the company acquired wine merchant Cockburn & Campbell, which had been in existence since the turn of the 19th century. Celebrating its own 150th anniversary in 1981, Young's' importance in British brewing history was recognized by a visit to the Ram Brewery from the Queen of England.
The company expanded its brewing operations in 1984, building a £5 million brewhouse. The new facilities also included new equipment--some of the company's equipment had already been in use for more than a century. The company also continued to acquire single pubs, such as the Lamb Tavern in 1985. The Lamb was arguably the oldest pub in London--since it was located on the site of the Londinium Basilica, originally built by the Romans in the year 50. The Lamb itself dated from around the beginning of the 1800s, and had been independently run up until its acquisition by Young's The company carried out an extensive renovation of the Lamb in 1987 and instituted a no-smoking rule, making the Lamb the first no-smoking pub in the company's network.
At the start of the 1990s, Young's moved into a new direction when it began building hotels. While the company had operated hotels and inns as a traditional part of its network of pubs, the new strategy more forthrightly committed the company to the hotel business. The first such hotel was added to its Greenford pub site and called the Bridge Hotel.
The following year, Young's moved up the ranks of England's largest regional brewers when it agreed to acquire the pub operations from HH Finch Ltd. These acquisitions, which included Dirty Dick's, a pub in operation since 1804, became part of an overall industry trend toward consolidation. The United Kingdom's many regional brewers, hampered by the recession of the early 1990s and the lasting economic downturn of the British economy in general, had begun to seek mergers in order to cut down on high operating costs. Others, including Young's, sought to boost their production closer to capacity by adding contracts to brew beers for third-party brands. Among Young's' customers were Bass and Whitbread.
By the mid-1990s, Young's had built up a network of more than 150 pubs and hotels, serving some 20 internationally recognized and award-winning brands. The company continued to introduce new brands, such as the successful Double Chocolate Stout, and the bitter, Dirty Dick's, both launched in 1997. In the late 1990s, the company dodged attempts from a minority shareholder, investment group Guinness Peat, to force the company to streamline its shareholding structure and give its minority shareholders more voting rights. The company refused, yet nonetheless granted a number of concessions, including the retirement of John Allen Young, aged 77, to a position as executive chairman, and the resignation of Young's brother Thomas from the company's board of directors.
Analysts continued to call for a consolidation of the United Kingdom's regional brewing industry. Largely protected from a possible takeover, but suffering from low production levels that saw its brewery operating at just 60 percent capacity, Young's itself began to consider stepping up its acquisition pace. In 1998, the company was among those in the lead to acquire the 132-pub chain of tenanted pubs operated by Oxford-based brewer Morells. That deal never came through, however. Instead, the company continued to piece together small-scale acquisitions, such as the purchase of the freehold for the Fox & Hounds, a 170-year-old Ale House near Sloane Square in London, completed in 1998.
At the beginning of 2000, the company acquired four new pubs, including the Court House, in Dartford, Kent, from the Whitbread group; the Red Lion in Radlett, Hertfordshire, and the Cock Inn, in Boughton Monchelsea, Kent, both from pub operator Crowded House; and the Ship, in West Sussex, which had been independently operated. At the same time, Young's opened a new pub, the Bar Verve, in Slough, Berkshire.
The company boosted its holdings again in November 2000 when it reached an agreement to acquire 17 pubs from Bristol brewer Smiles Holdings Plc. The purchase, for £5.8 million, raised Young's' pub holdings to 200. Meanwhile, the company was said to be interested in acquiring properties from international brewing giant Interbrew, as the Belgium-based group was faced with shedding assets following its acquisitions of both Bass and Whitbread. Despite the continued expansion of its pub network, Young's remained committed to its position as one of the United Kingdom's most prominent regional brewers.
Principal Subsidiaries: Foster-Probyn Ltd.; Cockburn & Campbell Ltd.
Principal Competitors: Ann Street Group Limited; Bass PLC; Diageo Plc.; Fuller Smith & Turner P.L.C.; Greene King plc; Heineken N.V.; The Nomura Securities Co., Ltd.; Punch Taverns Group Ltd.; Scottish & Newcastle plc.