Blackburn's Three Bs brewery takes over historic pub

PUBLISHED: 01:16 06 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:30 20 February 2013

Blackburn's Three Bs brewery takes over historic pub

Blackburn's Three Bs brewery takes over historic pub

Blackburn's Three Bs Brewery is enjoying success by the pint. John Lenehan paid a visit

Robert Bell has a new room with a brew. Almost 20 years after
he poured his first pint, Robert has become landlord of his own pub.

After impressing friends and family with his first home brews, Robert began to experiment with different malts and hops, sugars and yeasts - and the results were encouraging.

By the late 1990s, Robert, then a full-time engineer at Corus Steel in Blackburn, had a two barrel brewery based in a small industrial unit which was producing a growing range of beers. The names of his first beers reflected the textile heritage that once dominated the town - Bobbins Bitter, Tacklers Tipple, Stokers Slake and Shuttle Ale - and the New Inn at Salmesbury became the first pub to serve Roberts beer.

In 2001 he bought equipment from a brewery that was closing down and a short time later he lost his job at Corus.

I was free to follow my dream, said Robert. In fact they made their Production Manager John Harper redundant as well and he just happened to be very good at helping to build ten barrel breweries. John still works with me at the brewery.

Production moved to Feniscowles and word began to spread - Roberts father-in-law Brian clocked up hundreds of miles as the brewerys delivery driver and he was later joined by Mick Amos, a retired police officer who visited the brewery to buy a barrel and left as their new driver.

In 2003 he decided to build a bottling plant and bottles of Tacklers Tipple, Knocker Up and Stokers Slake soon started to appear on the shelves of local supermarkets and beer retailers. Robert also strived to produce even more beers with imaginative names and flavours, including Pinch Noggin and Doff Cocker.

Robert also began giving tours of his brewery, usually on Friday nights so visitors can enjoy the fruits of his labours without the worry of work the next morning. It is obvious from the moment he begins his talk that here is a man passionate about his subject. Words like mash, wort, yeast, and coppers are brought to life as he explains how he arrives at certain flavours and strengths from nice sipping beer to potent power pints.

The premises were getting a bit small, said Robert. And I realised that a good way to combine brewing and meeting and serving customers was to buy a pub and build a brewery around it.

Just over a mile from the brewery on the crossroad that leads to the picturesque village of Tockholes stands the Black Bull public house. A stone plaque carved into the wall says it has been in the Blackburn based Thwaites Brewing family since 1839 and coincidentally it was being
offered for sale after being closed since 2009.

It looked a sad sight with boarded windows and deteriorated paintwork but to Robert it was perfect - an old established brewing family selling a pub to a young brewing family.

He decided to open the pub for business on Easter Saturday this year. That was just eight weeks after we bought it and, given the run down condition of the building, actually seemed impossible.

But Robert was reckoning without the depth of feeling and support the Bell family had generated in friends, family and customers. People arrived unannounced to clean, to paint, to rip out old furniture and fit new. They worked days, weekends, evenings and sometimes late at night but they did it. Now all Robert has to do is build his new brewery.

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