Peter Austin is Dead

Peter Austin, from CAMRA's What's Brewing, March 1986.

We’ve just heard that Peter Austin, founder of Ringwood Brewery, died yesterday. He was 92 years old.

We were lucky enough to cor­re­spond with Mr Austin last year, albeit briefly. He was charm­ing, patient and very kind, despite his frailty. On the phone, he made it very clear that he didn’t have the ener­gy for a long con­ver­sa­tion, before pro­ceed­ing to answer the ques­tions we’d sent him by post with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion:

I was born in North Lon­don and went to the High­gate School, which I left in 1935 when my fam­i­ly moved back to where it had orig­i­nat­ed, the New For­est. I then spent a cou­ple of years on the HMS Con­way on the Riv­er Mersey – the idea was a career at sea. I even­tu­al­ly went to sea with P&O and then joined the Roy­al Navy dur­ing World War II. I was invalid­ed out rather ear­ly in the war… My father was a direc­tor of Pon­tif­ex & Sons who were big in pro­duc­ing steel fit­tings for brew­eries, until stain­less came along, when they were a bit slow off the mark. Going into brew­ing wasn’t my idea – it was through my father’s con­nec­tions. He got me a pupil­lage with Roland Storey at the Fri­ary Brew­ery in Guild­ford in Sur­rey… After my pupil­lage, I went to the Hull Brew­ery as third brew­er.

After retir­ing in the late sev­en­ties, he got dragged back into the world of brew­ing because, as he was hap­py to admit, he need­ed the mon­ey.

His first tri­umph was build­ing and get­ting estab­lished the Pen­rhos Brew­ery on behalf of Mar­tin Grif­fiths, Ter­ry ‘Python’ Jones and writer Richard Boston. He then launched his own brew­ery, Ring­wood, in 1978, and there­after came to be the ‘go to’ guy for advice on set­ting up sim­i­lar oper­a­tions.

When David Bruce was set­ting up his first Firkin brew­pub in 1979, it was Austin who vet­ted his designs for a minia­ture base­ment brewk­it. The two were both founder mem­bers of SIBA, which then stood for The Small Inde­pen­dent Brew­ers Asso­ci­a­tion, and Austin was its first Chair.

He was par­tic­u­lar­ly proud of his con­tri­bu­tions to SIBA’s sub­mis­sion to the Monop­o­lies and Merg­ers Com­mis­sion which fed into the Beer Orders of 1989.

Through­out the eight­ies, as well as run­ning Ring­wood,  Between 1978 and 1986, he installed 32 brew­eries in Eng­land, as well as many more in the far cor­ners of the world, often work­ing along­side anoth­er famous name in UK brew­ing, Bren­dan Dob­bin.

We’ll raise a pint to him at the ear­li­est oppor­tu­ni­ty.

There’s a detailed piece about Austin’s career by Bri­an Glover in the Sum­mer 2013 edi­tion of CAMRA’s BEER mag­a­zine which is well worth read­ing.

One thought on “Peter Austin is Dead”

  1. In Brit­tany, our glass­es will nev­er be full.Peter Austin is in Cor­eff Brew­ery mem­o­ry.

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