Beer history breweries

Kelham Island Family Tree (beta)

Snapshot of the Kelham Island Brewery Family Tree


When we put together our Thornbridge Brewery ‘Rock Family Tree’ a while ago, several people responded with suggestions that we do the same for Kelham Island. Then, last month, we heard the sad news of the death of Kelham Island’s founder, Dave Wickett (and read tributes from Simon ‘Reluctant Scooper’ Johnson, Melissa Cole, Adrian Tierney-Jones and Pete Brown).

That spurred us on and, with help from Stuart Ross, a former head brewer at Kelham Island, now working his magic at, er, Magic Rock, we’ve put together a first cut. We also referred to some old Kelham Island newsletters and Linkedin, which is great source of information on brewers’ CVs. (Though it makes you feel like a stalker.)

Our first thoughts: this format doesn’t quite capture all that Dave Wickett did for beer and brewing. He’s there in the first box as the first head brewer at Kelham Island, but his role as owner was more than just ‘money man’. The consulting, advising and encouraging he did is also not recorded.

Nonetheless, it shows how many brewers passed through Kelham Island and, when put side by side with the Thornbridge chart, the strands connecting Britain’s breweries do become more obvious.

Corrections and suggestions welcome! Off you go.

breweries design

More Visuals: Beer Family Trees?

Extract from the Thornbridge Family Tree
Detail from the Thornbridge Family Tree (PDF link below)

After the more theoretical graphs and charts of the last couple of days (which required all our reserves of bullshit to navigate), today’s experiment is in an altogether woolier mode.

Pete Frame is rightly revered for his Rock Family Trees — vast, sprawling, beautifully hand-scripted charts showing the movement of bass, keytar and Moog players from one band to another, or within particular ‘movements’. This approach doesn’t just work for bands, though — Frame also used it to map the Monty Python crew, hangers on and chums.

Inspired by his approach, we’ve come up with a chart showing the comings and goings of brewers at Thornbridge (PDF, 76kb) and its place in British craft brewing in the last seven years. Is it helpful? Does it help makes sense of the connections between breweries? We think it does, actually — it highlights Italian and Antipodean connections; and not entirely surprising links between Meantime Brewing, Marble, Dark Star, Brewdog and Thornbridge.

But now we’d really like to see an even bigger version covering more breweries. (Narrated by the late John Peel.)


  1. We chose Thornbridge because they seem to have a revolving door, with people coming and going as often as members of Morrissey’s backing band and
  2. because they’re fairly open about who’s arrived and who’s leaving.
  3. With only their blog, press releases and Wikipedia for reference, we’ve probably made some mistakes — sorry in advance! We’re happy to fix them, but it’s the approach we’re really testing here.
  4. If you work at any of the breweries pictured, you’re probably feeling weirded out right now. Sorry. If it’s any comfort, at least you know how Peter Hook felt when he saw this.
  5. Updates: 09:45, 03/05/2012 — added James Kemp; changed David Pickering qualifications to mention Heriot-Watt; corrected spelling of ‘Heriot-Watt’.