Two centuries of beer brewing in Northamptonshire will be celebrated at this year’s County Beer Festival in Northampton next month.
Beer has been continuously produced in the county ever since Pickering Phipps opened his Northampton brewery on a parcel of land with a riverside wharf at the bottom of Bridge Street in 1817.
Phipps brewed there until May 1974 as Carlsberg gradually took over from them from late 1972 onwards.
“Everyone knows shoes in Northamptonshire, but they don’t know food and drink,” said the festival’s organiser Alaric Neville of Phipps NBC.
“Microbrewing started in Northamptonshire and it is one of my hobbyhorses to tell people about Bill Urquhart and Litchborough brewery.
“And we do that every year at the beer festival and gradually people ar picking up on the fact its our contribution to culture and the world, because microbrewing has become a ‘thing’ all over the world.”
Bill Urquhart founded the world’s first microbrewery in Litchborough in 1974 as a result of the gap left in the local beer market after Phipps demise.
This beer vacuum has been filled by many smaller, independent brewers over the years and has grown to include five cider producers, two gin distillers and a vineyward.
“Northamptonshire is under the radar, it’s the home of the independent artisan British drinks industry,” said Mr Neville.
This year’s beer festival is at the town centre site of Becket’s Park from June 2-4.
The event began in 1974 and has grown to showcase the wide range of county drink producers, ale, lager, craft beer, cider and gin.
This year will see beer writer and historian Roger Protz, author of the World Guide to Beer, give a talk on Saturday, and a horse-drawn dray will be delivering Phipps ales to town centre pubs in the afternoon, likely the first time in over 100 years.
On Sunday there will be a demonstration of the ancient art of cooperage, one of the two remaining brewer’s coopers Alastair Sim will be building and maintaining wooden casks on site during the afternoon.
The festival will also feature two stages of live music from the best local bands around and a tempting array of food stalls.
Northamptonshire has one of the highest number of breweries per head of population in the UK. There are 23 commercial brewing businesses in the county.
With a population of approximately 725,000 that means a brewery for every 31,500 people in the county.