Beer history real ale

Local beer for local people

Beer mat detail: Tisbury Local Bitter -- a Local Authority.

We think we’ve identified one of the earliest examples of ‘local’ being used as marketing schtick for a post-CAMRA ‘real ale revolution’ beer.

In 1980, a Victorian brewery building at Tisbury in Wiltshire was taken over by a civil servant, Alistair Wallace, and an ‘executive’, Christopher Baker. With a former Whitbread brewer, John Wilmot, who also had connections with Godson’s in East London (aka Godson, Freeman & Wilmot), they started turning out a beer aimed at the local market. They called it Local Bitter.

Their marketing, handled by a local agency, emphasised that the ingredients were local (‘except the hops’), and that is was brewed to local tastes, to be drunk in local pubs, at a price local people could afford — they undercut the bigger brewers by between three to five pence a pint.

The problem with making a specific location your ‘unique selling point’, however, is the lack of flexibility that comes with it. Like a lot of breweries founded c.1980, they struggled for various reasons, and, for a time, Local Bitter had to be brewed about a hundred miles away at Godson’s, in Bow. The name, during that period, must have seemed a little unfortunate.

Tisbury ceased operations in 1985.

Sources: ‘The local brew adds strength to the village’, Trevor Bailey, The Guardian, 11 September 1981, p.16; Twenty Five Years of New British Breweries, Ian Mackey, 1998.

4 replies on “Local beer for local people”

Tisbury is a great little village and well worth stopping at for an hour or two if you’re training it down to Cornwall from that there London.

The Boot Inn, run by the irascible Ron is at the top of the hill and serves pints direct from the bar-top barrels.

The Bennet Arms next down always has really interesting guest beers.

The Crown is a good spot for lunch with a decent selection of ales.

And finally The South Western Hotel next to the station is run by a local institution called Pat Ost MBE. Nice lady,Nice pub.

And just to throw in an observation on price: undercutting the big breweries does not a sustainable business strategy make. They only have to re-undercut you, in a small area, for the time it takes to put you out of business.

I was going to say what Mudgie said, but will add that it was a sustained campaign over a long time and probably pre-dating your example.

I lament them. I supped a shed load of their bitter.

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