Magee Marshall of Bolton is Making a Comeback

Beer advert: Magee Marshall & Co, Bolton

Yet another brewery that closed in the mid-20th century is making a comeback.

We heard this news from an unusu­al source: a librar­i­an in Bolton. He told us, mat­ter-of-fact­ly, that some of the com­pa­ny records for Magee Mar­shall, which oper­at­ed in Bolton from 1853 to 1970, are cur­rent­ly unavail­able because they had been acquired along with the trade­mark by some­one who is start­ing a brew­ery.

We wrote at length about this kind of thing in an arti­cle for Craft Beer Ris­ing mag­a­zine a cou­ple of years back (link to flip­py-flap­py pre­tend paper inter­face) but here’s a rel­e­vant chunk:

At first, Truman’s re-launched with a straight­for­ward, dark­ish bit­ter called ‘Run­ner’, brewed in Essex and using an inau­then­tic yeast. This led to accu­sa­tions that it was mere­ly a logo being slapped on off-the-shelf prod­uct… This is the kind of ques­tion all revived brew­eries must face: is this real­ly Truman’s? Or is it a mere oppor­tunis­tic trib­ute act?

Magee Mar­shall is a par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing case because, if the papers we were able to read in Bolton are any­thing to go by, its beer was­n’t uni­ver­sal­ly admired. It was nick­named ‘crick­ets’ piss’ accord­ing to one note in the Mass Obser­va­tion papers that lay behind the famous book; in anoth­er doc­u­ment, a pub land­lord is record­ed as say­ing, ‘A man who can drink Magee’s mild must be able to feed on rats.’ So we’ll give this new enter­prise some lee­way in regards to authen­tic­i­ty.

Bring­ing back these old names, tram­pled under foot by the Big Six half a cen­tu­ry ago, is, we think, some­thing of a noble cause, regard­less of moti­va­tion. We’d cer­tain­ly have enjoyed the time-trav­el­ling thrill of order­ing pints of Magee’s at the Hen & Chick­ens last week if it had been avail­able. (And if Hen­ry Hall had been on the wire­less, even bet­ter.)

10 thoughts on “Magee Marshall of Bolton is Making a Comeback”

  1. Ter­ri­ble beer, I’m told by the old Bolto­ni­ans. Bit of a mys­tery as to why you’d want to revive it, real­ly. I mean if it’s authen­tic, no one will be both­ered. And if it’s not authen­tic, erm, pret­ty much the same. These revivals, even where there is seen to be a demand-Robin­sons Old­han Brew­ery Bit­ter, for exam­ple, hard­ly set the world aflame. Nice bit of poten­tial pub­lic­i­ty, though.

    1. It’s often prompt­ed by out-and-out sen­ti­men­tal­ism, to which we’re sym­pa­thet­ic – peo­ple who revive old brew­eries often talk about their grand­fa­thers and child­hood mem­o­ries of the logo, and that kind of thing.

    2. I used to drink their bit­ter back in the late 50s/early 60s. I thought it was excel­lent beer. The oth­er main beer at that time was Walk­ers which I was not keen on.

  2. As an old brew­ery his­to­ry buff I think reviv­ing old brands is a love­ly idea. Sure­ly it has to be an icon­ic or fond­ly remem­bered beer, though, and some authen­tic­i­ty does­n’t go amiss. West­er­ham in Kent use the orig­i­nal yeast, pre­served for half a cen­tu­ry, from Win­ston Churchill’s local Black Eagle brew­ery, and pro­duce won­der­ful beer. Lacon’s in Great Yarmouth have revived a famous name and I think use part of the orig­i­nal premis­es, but I’m not sure if they’ve done the yeast thing. I won­der what oth­er famous and defunct brew­eries have their yeasts pre­served. I’d like some Frem­lins Coun­ty Ale and King & Barnes Fes­tive, and their Christ­mas Ale again please.

    1. The Buck­ley fam­i­ly sold both the brew­ery and its name to Brains, but Evan Evans is run by a scion of the Buck­leys – and he’s obvi­ous­ly hung on to the old recipes, because the beer is as good as ever it was. I’ve got a sen­ti­men­tal attach­ment to Buck­ley’s bit­ter – it was the first real ale I drank with­out get­ting too drunk to remem­ber any­thing about it (that would be Lon­don Pride) – and it’s love­ly to see (and taste) it again.

  3. I’ve nev­er heard of this par­tic­u­lar beer, but I have reser­va­tions about try­ing to revive brands long after their demise. In Mersey­side, there have been two sep­a­rate attempts to revive the old Hig­sons beers, most recent­ly by Liv­er­pool Organ­ic Brew­ery who took great care to try to repro­duce the old taste. Their licence to use the name lapsed three years ago, although they still brew it under the name Bier Head. I believe the own­er of the name is going to make anoth­er attempt, but will it be third time lucky? Or is the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the brand now stretched to break­ing point?

    In music, a trib­ute act has to be pret­ty good to be accept­ed. In beer too, in my opin­ion.

  4. The Coop­ers in Bur­ton-on-Trent, across the road from the for­mer Bass brew­ery, is famous for serv­ing Bass, but of course Bass is now made by Marston’s, and the pub is now owned by Joules brew­ery, itself a revival­ist busi­ness using a defunct name. So some­thing of a Franken­stein, but it’s a fan­tas­tic pub.

    In prin­ci­ple I ought to be against this dig­ging up old brands, but I’d rather they con­tin­ued in some form than be gone com­plete­ly.

  5. It’s iron­ic that MM were closed by Greenall Whit­ley, who them­selves had a rep­u­ta­tion for ales that were, let’s say, “vari­able”.

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