Breweries ? Past and Present

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Today, Newton Abbot, has just one brewery and one brew pub. The brewery is the Teignbridge brewery situate opposite Osborn Park and adjoining Tucker’s Maltings. The brew-pub is the Dartmouth Inn in East Street where Kieran Aylward is the brewer. Earlier in the history of the town it had two breweries both of which ceased brewing in the 1920s.
The larger of the two was that owned by W S Pinsent and Sons. Some reference books refer to this as the Newton Abbot Brewery. Historically, William Swain Pinsent, son of the founder, John Balle Pinsent, had close connections to Edwin Tucker and Sons – owners of Tucker’s Maltings. Indeed at one time Tuckers rented a store from the brewery prior to the existing Maltings being built in 1900. The Pinsent family owned Minerva House in Highweek Street. The brewery was to the rear of this property.

Today Minerva House, is used as offices by Farm Accounts Limited. They have been in residence since at least the early 1970s. According to John G Potter’s work, “The Brewery Manual 1955” the Pinsett Brewery had 44 tied houses. Other papers indicate this to be no more than 38 but whatever the number the list includes a number of the town’s favourite inns. Unsurprisingly, they include the Market House Inn which probably backed onto the brewery itself. Others include the Courtenay Arms – the word Arms having been dropped from the title a number of years back. Out of town, the Butchers Arms and Two Mile Oak, both at Abbotskerswell, were part of the Pinsett estate. That estate extended to Teignmouth as well where Pinsett’s owned at least one pub, the Ship. William Swain Pinsett sold the brewery and public houses for £15,700 to Heavitree Brewery on the 16th March 1920. Pinsett died just a few months later on the 4th September. On acquisition, brewing, however, was transferred to Heavitree’s site at Church Street in Exeter but they kept the Newton Abbot site for a few years and used it as a bottling depot.

Towards the end of 2008 Heavitree put the Butcher’s Arms on the market. Apart from that the other pubs mentioned in this article remain in the ownership of Heavitree. Heavitree, themselves ceased brewing in May 1970. Effectively converting themselves into one of the first “Pub Cos” which are so familiar today.

The other brewery was that of Mills Brothers which had premises in Wolborough Street. These stretched back to the River Lemon. This brewery was given the name the “Old Brewery” and had a tied estate of just six public houses.
During the 1800s many scientific advances were made in brewing and those surrounding yeast cultures were developed by Emil Hansen at the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen. In the circumstances to note that a Captain Green, who had day to day control of the Mills Brewery, studied the act of brewing in Denmark is perhaps less remarkable that one may at first think.

The brewery speciality seems to have been Mild Ale. Some books on beer styles describe Mild as “a harvest-time drink, a reward for farmworkers”, but in times past it was more associated with quenching the thirst of workers in heavy industry in the Midlands and North. Usually low in alcohol it is now seen as an old fashioned style. You would probably find it hard to buy a pint of draught Mild in a Newton Abbot pub today.The sons of owner John Mills, never followed in the family footsteps. Come 1924 and the brewery business was acquired by St Anne’s Well Brewery of Exeter who were taken over in 1962 by Whitbreads.

Today, we have Teignworthy Brewery, located adjoining Tuckers Maltings and opened in June 1994 by John Lawton. He learnt the art of brewing in Somerset and Hampshire before branching out on his own account with the launch of Teignworthy. Originally, Mr Lawton, wanted to be a farmer and studied at Seale Hayne Agricultural College on the outskirts of Newton Abbot. He started by installing a 15 barrel plant in the Teign Road premises. In order to increase capacity, the brewery has recently fitted a new Mash Tun, Copper and chilling vessel. The malt for the beer needless to say comes the short distance from Tuckers Maltings. Liquor, the “technical” turn brewers use for what we call water comes from the River Dart.

Teignworthy have a range of four beers; Reel Ale (4% abv*); Springtime (4.3%abv); Old Moggy (4.4% abv); and Beachcomber (4.5% abv). They are supplemented from time to time during the year by seasonal brews. In addition they have a range of bottled beers which can be purchased from the shop forming part of the Tucker’s Maltings/brewery complex.
One of the best places to sample Teignworthy ale, direct from the barrel, is the Wolborough Inn. If you are looking for a good pint, somewhat further afield then try the Boathouse at Dawlish Warren which normally has a Teignworthy ale on sale. Prior to Teignworthy opening, the Mill Brewery, operated in a former leather factory in Bradley Lane, Newton Abbot – only a short distance from the two breweries of Pinsent and Mills Brothers mentioned above. It brewed for some14 years. Three beer enthusiasts Dave Hedge, Paul Bigrig and Simon Swindells set up this brewery which they ran on a part time basis. Appropriately a number of their brews contained the name “Janners” – slang for a Devonian. The brewery changed hands in 1994 and closed three years later. Janners Ale at 3.8% abv was the main brew but along the way were a number of specials including “British Bulldog” created for the VE celebrations in 1995.