University honour raises a glass to beer champion

foodram'Dave Wickett at the Fat Cat.
foodram'Dave Wickett at the Fat Cat.

BUSINESSMAN Dave Wickett - the man who put the city on the real ale map - is to be honoured this month by the University of Sheffield.

He will receive a new award that recognises “outstanding” achievements of graduates to business and community life.

As well as opening the Fat Cat pub and Kelham Island Brewery and co-launching Champs sports bar in Ecclesall Road, Dave was an economics lecturer at the then Sheffield Polytechnic and was one of the first people to recognise the importance of work placements for students. He introduced an exchange programme with the Rochester Institute of Technology that was to see British students working at an English pub, The Old Toad, in New York State in America.

His close connections with the University have resulted in a new postgraduate degree in micro-brewing in conjunction with Kelham Island Brewery to help train the next generation of master brewers.

Dave will receive the Professor Robert Boucher Distinguished Alumni Award - named after Sheffield’s Vice Chancellor from 2001 to 2007 - at the University on July 29. It will be presented by Prof Boucher’s widow, Rosemary.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Keith Burnet said: “We are deeply grateful for all that Dave has done for the University, as a member of the University’s Court and an active supporter of the Alumni Office. Dave’s career has neatly mirrored the renaissance that has taken place in Sheffield over the last 20 years. He is an entrepreneur with boundless energy, courtesy and optimism.”

Dave, aged 64, said the award was “a wonderful privilege. I’m the sort of guy who failed the 11-plus and struggled to get five O-levels. To receive this award is beyond my wildest dreams.”

He, opened the Fat Cat 30 years ago, and the neighbouring brewery followed nine years later. The success of the pub and brewery was the catalyst for the renowned Kelham Island real ale trail.

Dave continues to work at the brewery, despite having bone cancer and being confined to a wheelchair.

Originally from London, he came to Sheffield in 1969 and lectured at the then Richmond College. He graduated with a Masters in Economics from the University of Sheffield in 1976, before working at the old Sheffield Polytechnic.

As Sheffield’s big breweries closed, Kelham Island became the biggest in the city. In 2004, its Pale Rider was named as Champion Beer of Great Britain.

Links with the University were evident in limited editions of a Centenary Ale, which was mashed by Prof Boucher at Kelham Island to celebrate the University’s centenary in 2005, and a University of Sheffield Ale, which was brewed for the Duke of Edinburgh when he visited the University with the Queen last November.

Other alumna have been inspired to set up micro-breweries, notably at Thornbridge Hall, and at Welbeck Abbey, where Claire Monk is head brewer at 24.