Writing Style Guide: Family Brewers

Ward's sign, Sheffield.

We need to compile notes on how brewery names ought to be treated for whoever is lucky enough to get the job of copy editing and proofreading our book, and thought we might as well share them.

If you are a blog­ger or beer writer who frets over your apos­tro­phes, you might dis­agree with our judge­ment: let us know if you think we’re way off the mark, but bear in mind that ‘style’ (as opposed to gram­mar) is to some extent a mat­ter of taste.

If you are not in the habit of writ­ing about beer, or like to do so in a free-form, con­ven­tion-defy­ing way which push­es the bound­aries of tra­di­tion­al gram­mar and spelling, you’ll prob­a­bly find this extreme­ly bor­ing. Sor­ry.

1. Legal names

Most brew­eries have for­mal com­pa­ny names which are rarely used, e.g. Young & Co is almost always referred to as Young’s. The only time most writ­ers will need to use the for­mal name is if mak­ing very pre­cise dis­tinc­tions between dif­fer­ent phas­es in a company’s his­to­ry, or when describ­ing the foun­da­tion of a new legal enti­ty, e.g. after a takeover.

So, Young’s Bit­ter is still Young’s Bit­ter, even though it is now actu­al­ly Wells & Young’s Ltd’s Bit­ter.

2. Apos­tro­phes

If the fam­i­ly name is Wat­ney, and if the com­pa­ny and any indi­vid­ual beers are sup­posed to belong to an unspec­i­fied, almost sym­bol­ic Mr. or Ms. Wat­ney, then they are Watney’s.

The famous brew­ing com­pa­ny was Watney’s. The beer was Watney’s Red Bar­rel. It was sold in Watney’s pubs.

You might just about get away with refer­ring to ‘senior fig­ures at Wat­ney’, but  Watney’s is bet­ter. Wat­ney Red Bar­rel just seems stu­pid. (The under­ly­ing base rule of style guides in action, there.)

3. Brand style

Brew­eries some­times insist on alter­na­tive styles for the sake of brand­ing: Wat­ney’s was almost always writ­ten as ‘Wat­neys’ on labels and in mar­ket­ing mate­r­i­al, prob­a­bly because design­ers thought the apos­tro­phe looked ugly.

You might feel more com­fort­able writ­ing the name of a brew­ery and its beers as they appear on labels, and that is also a legit­i­mate approach.

4. Fam­i­ly names end­ing with S

We were shocked when we realised yes­ter­day that the brew­ing fam­i­ly is Adnams, and that it is there­fore Adnams’ Broad­side. Or per­haps Adnamss, depend­ing on taste. Either way, it is not Adnam’s Broad­side, because there has nev­er been a Mr Adnam.

There are a hand­ful of oth­er brew­ing fam­i­lies whose names also end with S, and who ought to be treat­ed the same way:

  • J.W. Lees | Lees’ Bit­ter
  • Thwait­es | Thwait­es’ Nut­ty Black
  • Jen­nings (not Jen­ning) | Jen­nings’ Cum­ber­land Ale

5. Place or fam­i­ly name?

Devenish is a fam­i­ly name, not a vil­lage in the West Coun­try as we once thought, so, for con­sis­ten­cy, should we ever need to, we will refer to Devenish’s Bosun Brown Ale. We’re not sure if there are oth­ers that might cause sim­i­lar con­fu­sion, but it’s worth check­ing if you have any doubts.

6. Brew­eries with mul­ti­ple fam­i­ly names

In the rare instances where a brew­ery owned/run by sev­er­al fam­i­lies has not come to be known by one name (Fuller, Smith & Turn­er is almost always called Fuller’s). This is about the only time you ought to use ‘&’ in prose, and only the final prop­er name in the list needs an apos­tro­phe to indi­cate pos­ses­sion. In this instance, you might also do away with the pos­ses­sive apos­tro­phe alto­geth­er, treat­ing the brew­ery name as an adjec­tive, as in ‘Nike (brand) train­ers’ (a mat­ter of taste; be con­sis­tent).

  • Com­pa­ny name: Eldridge Pope & Co.
  • In prose: Eldridge Pope’s Crys­tal Ale; Eldridge Pope Crys­tal Ale.
  • Not: Eldridge’s and Pope’s Crys­tal Ale.
  • Com­pa­ny name: Starkey, Knight & Ford Ltd.
  • In prose: Starkey, Knight & Ford’s Tivvy Ale; Starkey, Knight & Ford Tivvy Ale.
  • Not: Starkey’s, Knight’s and Ford’s Tivvy Ale.

If you’ve got any ques­tions (‘What about Brodie’s, found­ed by two peo­ple called Brodie?’) or sug­ges­tions, leave a com­ment below.


10 thoughts on “Writing Style Guide: Family Brewers”

  1. Quite a num­ber of brew­eries are not nor­mal­ly giv­en the pos­ses­sive “s” even though they have fam­i­ly names – Vaux and Greene King for exam­ple. It was Greenal­l’s Mild, but Greenall Whit­ley Mild. I think Devenish falls into the same cat­e­go­ry. Off the top of my head I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule as to which do and which don’t, although the ones such as Bur­ton­wood and Don­ning­ton which are place names don’t. In gen­er­al the ones with two names don’t seem to, Eldridge Pope and Shep­herd Neame being two more exam­ples.

  2. Yeah, no hard and fast rule, as you say, and the Orwell mas­ter-rule applies: if it sounds naff, don’t do it, log­ic be damned.

    You’re right about Greene King: seems weird to say Greene King’s.

    Not sure about Vaux – Vaux’s seems quite nat­ur­al to me, in writ­ing at least.

  3. I always check the web­site of the com­pa­ny for this one, which is why I know it’s “Wells and Young’s”!

    1. It’s tra­di­tion­al to include a typo in these kind of guides to keep the green pen types amused. (Fixed.)

  4. Lees is inter­est­ing. No apos­tro­phe need­ed in any for­mat would be per­fect­ly accept­able – Lees Bit­ter. Prob­a­bly. Local­ly you might say Lees’ s bit­ter (note no cap­i­tal) or that a pub is Lees’ s. Most­ly peo­ple would say it’s John Willie’s bit­ter.

    Odd­ly too I have a Hig­sons poster which shows Hig­son’s much in the style of the mar­ket trad­er using egg’s.

    What is right in apos­tro­phes often does­n’t look right.

  5. Think you may have not con­sid­ered the legal sta­tus of the cor­po­rate per­son but the degree of nerdish­ness in your post has left me with no will to go on. I need a nap.

  6. Nev­er knew that about Thwait­es, or Thwait­es’. In the super­mar­ket today I noticed that it was Rud­dles with­out an apos­tro­phe; also a cou­ple of beer names, e.g. Bish­ops Fin­ger. And of course the cor­rect British usage is Guin­ness, not Guin­nes’s.

  7. One of the Newark brew­eries always referred to itself as War­wicks and Richard­sons, but its labels would say things like War­wicks’ India Pale Ale.

  8. What about the brew­ery found­ed by SA Brain – but should it be Brains, Brain’s or Brains’ (they seem to use “Brains”)?

    Mmm, Brains…

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