Yorkshire’s multi award-winning Acorn Brewery is set for growth with a change of ownership at the 20-year-old Barnsley brewery.
Launched in 2003 on an ex-Firkin 10-brewers-barrel plant, Acorn’s cask-ales quickly gained renown to see expansion to a 25-barrel brewery in Wombwell. Today there is the capacity to produce 170 brewers-barrels (278 hectolitres) a week with annual turnover of some £1m.
Now, directors Dave and Christy Hughes have decided that new ownership is needed to take the business forward. The brewery has been sold to Sonas Capital; a Greater Manchester based company specialising in developing successful small businesses (SMEs).
Over the years, Acorn has been much celebrated for its traditional Barnsley Bitter (3.8%abv) and Old Moor Porter (4.4%abv) in its core range.* Most recently Barnsley Bitter took overall champion at the SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) North Beer Competition.
With the sale, the employment of the seven strong brewery team has been secured and a general manager will be recruited. Founder Dave Hughes will continue in a consultancy role for the forseeable future while Christy will take retirement, due to recent ill-health.
Dave Hughes said: “We have enjoyed 20 successful years since launching in Barnsley with just my late first wife Judy and our current brewer Steve Bunting. In recent years, with Christy heading marketing and sales, we have continued to drive the brewery forward, despite being badly hit by the Covid pandemic. Throughout lockdowns we continually brewed, pouring the beer away, to regularly refresh our unique original Barnsley Brewery yeast strain from the 1800s, so we recovered quickly. Now we feel we have taken the business as far as we can and we are handing it on in very good shape to Sonas.
“We wish to thank the team for their loyal support across the years. I look forward to continuing to work with them in my consultancy role. We must also thank our valued suppliers, loyal trade customers and, of course, our ever-faithful fans for their ongoing support for our beers.”
“This is a very exciting time for Acorn and we would like to reassure those suppliers, licensees and beer fans that the brewery is going into good hands. We are confident that Sonas will continue to reflect our passion with the energy and impetus to take the business forward, maintaining our highest standards of products and service under our banner of Tradition and Innovation.”
Acorn directly supplies outlets across the North of England and further afield through wholesalers and pub companies. The core of the business remains cask-conditioned ale but bottled and keg beers are also produced. Barnsley Bitter and Old Moor Porter are exported to Italy in keg and bottle in summer with some supplied in cask for the winter months.
Brendan Fitzpatrick of Sonas said: “Acorn has an outstanding reputation for their product quality and great service and we see the business as a perfect fit for our portfolio. We are dedicated to empowering companies through investment and strong marketing to realise their full potential.
“Dave and Christy Hughes are delighted to be working closely with the founder of Sonas Capital, a boutique investment business who just also happen to love beer, as they begin their transition away from the business. Dave will move to a more technical and creative role alongside the brewing team whilst the Sonas team will focus on the development and growth of the business in what are challenging times for the industry.”
Acorn was advised on the deal by Brian McCann and Angela Downey from Shareholder Strategies as well as Ryan Marr from Jolliffes Solicitors. Sonas Capital was advised by Guy Bartlett from Fidelis Advisory and Tom Sutcliffe from Excello Law.
Acorn is acclaimed for brewing more than 150 single hop variety IPAs (India Pale Ales) since 2006 – only the hops change for each carefully crafted cask brew and each release has been warmly welcomed. To mark the brewery’s 20th anniversary a celebratory pale ale ‘Two Decades’ (4%abv) will be brewed for the Wetherspoons annual beer festival in October.
Ends/ref: Acorn Sale
Notes to editors: *Acorn core beers are:
Barnsley Bitter (3.8%abv) – Acorn’s first brew marries the yeast strain used by the famous original Barnsley Brewery of the 19th century with Maris Otter malt and English hops and has frequently been a finalist in the Camra (Campaign for Real Ale) Champion Beer of Britain (CoB) competition at the annual Great British Beer Festival. In 2006 it scooped a CoB silver award. Top beer author Pete Brown, a son of Barnsley, has described Barnsley Bitter as: ‘the drinkability of session beer with a dark richness, a hint of chocolate and red berry fruit – beer that Yorkshire does better than anywhere else.”
Old Moor Porter (4.4%abv) was a pioneer in the revival of this style. A splendidly full bodied dark brown beer there’s chocolate on the nose and then hints of liquorice, coffee and caramel on the tastebuds from crystal, black and pale chocolate malts joining with a Maris Otter malt backbone. English Challenger hops deliver a teasing hoppy bitterness before a long and rewardingly mellow finish. It has scooped brewing accolades a plenty including voted a SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) National Champion.
Acorn Gorlovka Imperial Stout (6%abv) – Gorlovka, named for Barnsley’s Ukrainian twin town, is full bodied stout, rich in roast malts and dark fruits with chocolate and coffee notes delivered in both the aroma and taste. Challenger hops add a bitter spiciness and dry finish to the fruity aftertaste. At the National Winter Ales Festival 2010 it claimed gold for its style and took the festival’s bronze accolade.
Barnsley Gold (4.3%abv) – this award-winning golden beer has good bitterness levels, with a fresh citrus and hop aroma. A hoppy flavour throughout with a well hopped clean, dry finish. A CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain Finalist in 2004.
Yorkshire Pride (3.7%abv) – is a straw-coloured session golden ale with well balanced with creamy malt and good bitterness level. Acorn Blonde (4.0%abv) – well-balanced pale ale with fruity, caramel notes and a crisp finish.
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