Control, Malt & Repeat

After speaking with Tim Dewey, current Chief Executive of Timothy Taylor’s, it’s plain to see why the brewery has stood the test of time. Whether you start from the ground-up or top-down, the Timmy Taylor’s way is clear, meaning that quality you expect from them never wains. From cask to bottle, their fundamental core principles run through their veins and are wholly transparent, when Tim shows me around the historical and long-standing Knowle Spring site.

My time with Tim starts in an usual way; with a framed email exchange between JD Wetherspoon and the Taylors’ sales team. The former trying to barter down the price they paid per cask of Landlord, the latter standing firm and uncompromising on price, much like their stance on quality. The result? Landlord was no longer to be served in the chain’s pubs, more fool them.

“If they want quality beer, then they should pay for it,” Tim explains to me as we discuss the matter. Of course, Landlord not being in served across the UK in their pubs may have been an initial blow for the Taylor brand, but it meant they could focus on those that were willing to pay for their classic pale ale, look after it and serve it properly. And that’s what they want, because even Tim knows when there’s something not right.

“Cask is having a bit of a crisis,” Tim goes on to say as the price people are willing to pay for a pint differs greatly between cask and keg. We discuss the merits of both serving methods and how, given our un-rivalled heritage for cask beer in the UK, people are unwilling to pay an equal sum for a quality, well-kept and well-made pint of cask. The hoppy stuff, though, most people won’t bat an eyelid if they pay over the odds. But Tim’s stance is strong; there is no compromise.

Not coming from a beer background (working for brands such as Smirnoff, Tanqueray and Drambuie) Tim has studied the business, down to every exacting detail. He even guides people around the brewery, taking on the responsibility of being self-designated tour guide. His passion for the family business is plain to see as he walks me through the brewery from the malt store to the mash tuns and even shows me inside the lab where they test each batch of beer that is produced on site. It’s this knowledge that enables Tim, if he’s out in the field, to know when there’s something not right with their beers.

Having spoken with James Fawcett previously, Tim continues the story of their dedication to quality through their malt. This is grown specifically for them, to their exacting standards only by selected produces, with Fawcett’s being one of them. Much like James, Tim emphasises this strict quality control is what plays an important part in their famous ‘Taylor’s Taste’. It might be Golden Promise that they use, but it isn’t any old Golden Promise that makes the grade. This exacting spec gives them the right amount of sugar and perfect colour for beers such as Landlord. Without a strong foundation, the beer is destined to fail from the start.

It’s fascinating that, when thinking about the brewery, you’d expect the site to be sprawling and a mass hive of activity given their reputation and nationwide availability. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Tim points out where historical expansions have taken place, but he is keen to tell me that there is nowhere else they can expand their Knowle Spring site, the brewery’s second home. Not only is the site itself surprisingly compact, it’s not frantic either. Even visiting during a busy brew day (which is most days, I am told) everyone is working with calming precision, even those completing duties that haven’t been automated either. A lot of work is still done by hand.

Tim then takes me to the open-topped fermenters, where he identifies how long a beer has been in the vessel from just looking at the foam atop the liquid. He does this with frightening precision too. Without looking at the brew sheet hooked on the vessel, he strides along the top of it, gives me an estimation of days its been there, and is accurate to within a day either side. I’d wager there are few Chief Executives out there that can match such knowledge of the business they are charged with.

Whilst there are promising signs ahead as the world heads back to normality, Tim explains that Covid hit the company pretty hard. “Our bottling and distribution is handled offsite, which continued to operate,” Tim explains, “But we were left with a lot of casks which we could not sell.” He describes the painful moment when they had to dispose of them, a moment which will hopefully never be repeated, and he’s certain it won’t. “We’re operating almost back at full capacity now,” Dewey tells me, “And we’re also back experimenting on our pilot kit too, trying new techniques and hop varieties.”

Whilst the brewery has an eye on the future, and how they can bring new products to market, it’s their uncompromising nature that ensures people continue enjoying the reassuring quality that people have come to expect from brands such as Landlord. Hopefully with breweries such as Timothy Taylor’s continuing to back cask beer, hopefully this cherished staple of the UK’s pub scene can continue to not only survive but flourish.

Thanks are to be given to Tim Dewey and the company for allowing me to come and visit their site in Keighley and share their recent experiences during Covid.

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