Our list of British beer clubs and associations continues to grow with two more having come to our attention in the last week. First up, the original ‘Equity for Punks’ — the Young’s 135 Association.
Back before Young’s was a mere sub-brand managed (carelessly) by Charles Wells in Bedford, it was a South London brewery with a stubborn Chairman, John Young, who refused to give up on cask conditioned ale when even breweries such as nearby Fuller’s were on the brink of doing so. As such, Young’s had quite a cult following.
In the mid-60s (we’re still trying to pin down dates) they published a small pamphlet listing every one of their pubs. Later editions were called Real Draught Beer and
How Where to Find It and, if that first edition bore the same name, it’s a candidate for the first usage of ‘real… beer’ in this sense (as in ‘real ale’).
The thing is, the minute you print a list, it triggers the Gotta Catch ’em All impulse in some geeks and so, in 1967, quite unexpectedly, someone wrote to the brewery to announce that he’d visited all 135 pubs. He’d also had his pamphlet signed by the publicans or bar managers to prove it. John Young was impressed and delighted an invited him in for a VIP tour of the Ram Brewery, a slap-up feed, as much beer as he could drink in the sample room, and a pin of beer to take home.
In the years that followed, many others made the same pilgrimage. Eventually, the slap-up feed was dropped, but each of these fan boys still got to meet the boss and, in 1972, John Young presented a specially embroidered tie and pin to a Mr Peter Harris, the 29th person to visit all 135 pubs (Morning Advertiser, 24 October 1972). A loose association of ‘135ers’ was founded at the Buckingham Arms in Westminster, and met at various Young’s pubs thereafter with twelve members gathering as recently as 1999.
We’d love to find out more. If you were a member, know a member, or can point us towards any more information, please comment below.
Most of the information above came from our conversation with CAMRA-founder Michael Hardman who worked for Young’s for many years after leaving the Campaign.
UPDATE 04/11/2014: A member of the 135 Association, Colin Price, got in touch with some more information. We won’t reproduce it all, but these are two key passages:
I was a member of the 135 Association. Rather than ‘a loose association’ the 135 Association was a proper organisation with constitution, committee membership fee and quarterly newsletter… The Association had no official connection with Young’s and was completely independent of them although when people were sent their ties they were sent an application form. No doubt some people did the tour and got the tie but didn’t join the association.
By the late 1990’s interest was declining. The wider availability of real ale meant that Young’s had lost some of its cachet so fewer people were doing the tour and coming forward to replace members who were dropping out due to old age or moving away from London. Also some of the more traditional members were unhappy with the direction Young’s were taking… In the early 2000s the Association was formally wound up. The remaining funds were used to pay for a farewell social and the balance left donated to a charity John Young was a trustee of.