The Brewers’ Company were delighted recently to become a Corporate Member of the British Guild of Beer Writers. The Worshipful Company of Brewers, or Brewers’ Company as it is more generally known, was established by a Royal Charter granted by Henry VI in 1438, although the origins of the Guild which preceded it can be traced back to 1292. It is one of the few ancient livery companies that still remains true to its origins, “The Mystery or Art of Brewing Ale or Beer”. In fact, many parallels can be drawn between the Brewers’ Company and another similar organisation from another European nation: Belgium.
The Belgian Brewers’ Guild was founded in the fourteenth century, the Brewers’ Company in thirteenth century London. By the early fifteenth century the Brewers’ Company were occupying a Hall in the City of London, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. The Hall was rebuilt, but was bombed during the Blitz. The current Hall, which stands on the same site, was rebuilt in the post war period and today serves as offices for the Company, as well as a venue for Company, industry and private events.
Today, the Brewers’ House in the Grand Place at Brussels is home to the Belgian Brewers’ Association, reflecting the proud heritage of a formidable brewing nation and a tangible desire to perpetuate and maintain that legacy. The Belgian Brewers’ Association exists to inform, support and advise brewery companies. In the United Kingdom we have other bodies, notably the British Beer and Pub Association, that advise and coordinate response to the initiatives of governments and regulatory bodies. However, the Brewers’ Company remains a proud and tangible symbol of a unique and historic industry. It exists to promote and facilitate interaction between brewery companies and, like its Belgian counterpart, provides an historic venue and a programme of social events for its members. The Company also co-organises the City Beerfest in the Guildhall Yard each July which supports the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.
The Brewers’ Company has an educational remit that extends back to the sixteenth century and has grown in diversity, purpose and relevance over the centuries. It is testament to the industry’s integrity and long awareness of its social responsibility. The Brewers’ Company is the Trustee for eleven separate trusts and administers a number of others. It is responsible for nearly £100 million worth of assets and, in 2015, distributed over £1.7 million. Two principal beneficiaries are schools: Aldenham School in Hertfordshire, founded in 1599 by Richard Platt, twice Master of the Brewers’ Company, and Dame Alice Owen’s School in Potters Bar, originally founded in Islington by another Elizabethan worthy, Alice Owen, who entrusted its governance to the Brewers’ Company.
The Company also provides funding for a number of educational initiatives in Islington which benefit socially disadvantaged children. Music First and Music in Secondary Schools Trust both seek to transform young peoples’ lives through music, facilitating and enhancing academic progress. Upward Bound provides a means to break the cycle of low aspiration and achievement, while Islington Community Theatre supports and trains an ensemble of young people who are referred to them, instilling confidence and self-esteem. A further Foundation – Aldgate and Allhallows – provides grants for educational projects in the City of London and the Borough of Tower Hamlets.
A natural extension of this educational role occurred in 2014, when the Brewers’ Company was appointed Trustee of the Brewers’ Research and Education Fund, whose advisory committee proposes the award of grants for relevant scientific research and education that will benefit the brewing industry.
A final element of the Company’s work relates to its administration of trusts, bearing the names of brewers such as Samuel Whitbread and Richard Platt, specifically designed to provide support for those in need. Some have an emphasis on assisting those who have previously worked in the industry – and the Company is proud to be a partner of the drinks industry charity ‘The Benevolent’ – others extend to all in need. Also supported are three almshouses in the Parish of South Mimms for the benefit of elderly residents, the legacy of another brewer – James Hickson.
In essence, the Brewers’ Company symbolises the proud heritage of the brewing industry and the philanthropic role it has long undertaken. It is fitting therefore that they are able to join hands with the British Guild of Beer Writers to help spread the word about this important work, founded on values that have long been at the heart of the brewing industry.