Vaux Breweries Resource

Peter Searle is a Canadian with roots in Sunderland, which to the non-Briton, or non-Briton of a certain age, may connote beer – Vaux Breweries – or the Sunderland Flying Boat.

While I could talk of either with interest, the former is order of the day, via a resource I recall reading in the early days of the Internet but found again recently.

Brewing ceased at Vaux in 1999, but the pubs and hotels continued under a new name, finally to enter the Whitbread fold. The Marriott hotels and some Brewers’ Fayre pubs in UK today derive from the original Vaux connection (see short explanation at Primidi).

Peter Searle has collected extensive information on industries connected to Sunderland (in north-east England), especially shipbuilding and brewing.

His information on Vaux includes interesting photos and reproductions, also two short histories of the business. There is a list too of the many breweries Vaux acquired on its way to becoming one of Britain’s largest independent brewers. One of the best known was Ward’s of Sheffield.

Vaux exists again for beer via a small brewery set up to perpetuate the name. The famous Double Maxim also continues to be made, rescued from the defunct Vaux brewery by a team led by Mark Anderson, its former Finance Director.

Initially they had the brand and others, e.g. Ward’s Bitter, contract-brewed. From 2008 they are made in-house by purpose-built Maxim Brewery*

The 1899 Stout of the new Vaux brewery seems impressive, claiming as it does inspiration from an original Vaux recipe. Below is an image, from the Vaux website linked.

Among the artifacts of Peter Searle’s pages are sample articles from Vaux’s employee magazine. Searle explains the magazines dealt mainly with personnel social activities, promotions and like matters. Certainly this was common of staff house organs at the time.

He notes however that some articles are “general interest”, and includes a half-dozen samples. The two-page explanation of a keg beer filling plant built in the early 1970s is of good interest on this account.

It was built to package both keg ales and lager. All beer was pasteurized with an Alfa Laval heat exchanger, equipment still made by the Swedish firm bearing the name.

The article does not enter on taste differences with naturally-conditioned beer – if Vaux was still making any by then. The virtues of keg ale and lager are taken for granted and pride is expressed in the rate of output for receiving and cleaning kegs, filling, and despatch to the trade.

The cleaning regimen was very intense. Beer et seq wonders if a good rinse of hot water would have been enough, especially as the beer was pasteurized, but the regime was much more thorough.

What else? Lots. A striking 1914 image of the brewery yard shows both horse-drawn and the new motor wagons. Crowded the yard was, and evidently a hive of activity at the time. (Source of image is Peter Searle’s site linked above, in turn he states it was from an eBay listing in 2012).



Note the tiered barrels on the left, some of which contained stout, a noted product of Vaux at the time. Some years ago I recall discussing with another historian, maybe Martyn Cornell or Ron Pattinson, or Boak and Bailey, whether Guinness was ever stored in full barrels outdoors.

The view was communicated that it was not** but I had recalled seeing something that suggested it might have been.

I think it was this image, of course I see now it did not pertain to Guinness, but to an English brewery that did however produce a noted stout – the name is painted on the motor-truck in the image.

The barrels to be sure are not stacked very high. And they were being shipped out on a regular basis, as any barrels would be from the “ale banks” common at some English breweries then.

Still, the look of the yard suggests to me filled barrels were held outdoors for varying times until shipment, perhaps to finish a period of storage. The covered shed on the left appears to have been the regular repository.

I mention this for what it is worth, but this was probably the image I recalled albeit imperfectly.

Note re images: source of each is identified and linked in text. Used for educational and research purposes. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.

*For further background on the phoenix of Maxim in Northeast England, see this 2014 article by beer writer Roger Protz.

**Vs. empty barrels, newly coopered or mended and awaiting transfer for racking (filling). These were stored outside in huge tiers at Guinness and some other breweries.




4 thoughts on “Vaux Breweries Resource”

  1. That looks like a loading bay rather than a beer storage area. Where else are those drays going to load from?

    I’ve been digging a bit into Vaux Maxim Ale. Found some interesting stuff. But I’ve not finished yet.

  2. There’s plenty on Vaux at including pix …

    Vaux was certainly brewing and selling cask-conditioned beers into the ’70s and ’80s and one of my prized certificates is my diploma of membership of the Sunderland Draught Bitter Exclusive Drinkers’ Club, dating from the late ’70s. See this coaster ….

    Lorimer’s Best Scotch Ale, for example, brewed by Vaux in Edinburgh, was freely available though like many breweries it would be either keg or tank beer. As a cask ale in the late ’70s, you’d find it – listed in the 1977/78 Newcastle University Student Handbook – on handpump at the Royal Buffet Grey Street, and the Earl Grey Gosforth High Street.

    Vaux SDB and Samson would also be available, and by the early ’80s increasingly found in some of their pubs in North Yorkshire. CAMRA’s Real Beer in NE England 1977 mentions a few pubs, some serving Vaux cask ales by handpump or electric pumpe.g. in Middlesborough the Zetland Hotel, Zetland Road; North Briton Aycliffe; Coach and Horses Butcher Race; Welcome Cockfield; Firtree Cornsay Colliery; Beehive Fishburn; Dog Inn Heighington; The Bluebell Lanchester; Centurion Langley Park; Black Bull Nettlesworth; Bird Pelton; Lambton Hounds Pity Me …….


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