Something special is brewing

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It started with a determination to keep alive the name of Barnsley Bitter, which was in danger of disappearing after 150 years.

That’s how friends Tom Gill and Adam Hague ended up opening a brewery in Neepsend in Sheffield and transferring the equipment from the Oakwell Brewery after it closed last year.

Moreover, they brought head brewer Jonny Stancill from Barnsley, deciding to name the business after him. After all, both Jonny and his father, Bob, used to work at the nearby (and now derelict) Stones Cannon Brewery. Bob was head brewer.

Now Stancill Brewery has become part of what many local real ale enthusiasts believe to be the UK capital of beer. “It’s true,” says Tom. “It’s the number of breweries. And Sheffield people have a desire for real ale.”

Even so, it meant taking the plunge to invest in a unit on an industrial estate off Rutland Road, much bigger than for most start-up breweries. “It was a massive step, but it was a step we had to take,” says Tom. “We have been real ale fans for a long time and were both massive fans of Barnsley Bitter, and when we heard it was closing we couldn’t let it go. It was a gamble and it’s paying off.”

In particular, there is something in the water that attracts brewers to S3 - five within walking distance. It’s so soft. Barnsley, it was found, was now taking harder water from the River Ouse and not from the Pennines as before.

Early success has come with the ‘Champion Bitter of Yorkshire’ award at the Magna real ale festival with only their second brew of Barnsley Bitter.

Both Tom and Adam are from Barnsley. Tom studied economics to masters level at the University of Sheffield, Adam went to Sheffield Medical School and is now a doctor at the Royal Hallamshire.

As managing director, Tom is there day to day, Adam helps when he can and Tom’s dad, Tim, is project manager. Forum Cafe Bars is a shareholder.

So Barnsley Bitter is now being produced again, along with a blonde, dark mild, a best bitter and a porter.

Ambitions are growing, with plans for a lager, bottled and canned beer and shop. Brewery tours start next month. There is plenty of competition, but so far there are no regrets. “It’s a dream come true,” says Tom.