Until the late 1980s beer in East London was synonymous with Truman's brewery until the company folded and disappeared from our pubs. It was thought that the black eagle on the pump clips would never been seen again until 2013 when in Hackney Wick they started brewing once again. Theirs is a story just like any great drama containing elements of success, failure and now renewal just like a modern day Lazarus.
Truman's was first founded in 1666 on Brick Lane in East London and based on the demand for its Porter it steadily grew in size till the 18th century when Ben Truman came to take the reigns and under his direction and shrewd business ability they soon came to be the largest brewery in London producing porter on a scale that wasn't possible for other beers of that era. After his passing the ownership passed to the head clerk James Grant whose share was then bought by Sampson Hanbury who is arguably one of the most important figures in the history of brewing. He brought levels of efficiency and professionalism to the industry that were totally unprecedented for the time. During the second half of the 18th century the demand for Porter was decreasing and Pale ale was increasing. This triggered the purchase of Phillips brewery in Burton where the water enabled brewing of this new style of beer which was not possible in London. The acquisition made Truman's the largest brewery in the world with their beer being exported across Europe as well as supplying the British Army. Truman's continued to grow until the 1960s, the dark years for the British brewing industry, when they struggled to compete with imported lagers and fight off potential mergers making them the last major independent brewery in London. In the 1970s Truman's was then taken over by Grand Metropolitan for their pub network but neglected to help build the brewery. This eventually led to their closure in 1989 and what was thought to be the end of legendary brewery.
This was the reality till 2013 when they opened a new brewery, as they were historically known as East London's beer location was very important to them so they decided on opening in Hackney Wick. Wanting to tap into the rich heritage of the Truman's breweries past they embarked on a mission to try and make a product that was as true to the past and as authentic as possible to what the original brewery stood for; quality and flavour. Their belief that the Truman's yeast truly made Truman's beer led them to the National Collection of Yeast Cultures where they found six of the original Truman's yeast strains in storage. After a series of test brews they settled on one of the strains, a top fermenting ale yeast, which they are now using to produce their new concoctions. Their current brewery is a very impressive facility containing seven fermenting vessels, six 40 barrel vessels and one 20 barrel vessel, which enables them to supply pubs and bars within the M25. They are now in the process of installing a keg line to compliment the main part of their business cask storage enabling them to sell their beer to restaurants and other venues without cellars and try new styles and recipes. Future plans include installing a bottle or canning facility to support further growth of their business into areas where they currently don't have a presence.
A strong sense of community is evidently present when you talk to the people at Truman's they are passionate about engaging the locals in creating a scene where everyone is welcome and they collaborate with local artists to design their pump clips as well as host a monthly party where everyone is welcome to visit and celebrate with good beer and company. This is one of their core beliefs and something that are determined to have present in everything they do.
Their range is a nod to the past, present and future with them offering a core range of sessional beers, Swift, Runner and Zephyr, of ~4% ABV which are a mixture of best bitter and pale ales. A seasonal range of pale, hoppy, golden and rye ales as well as special release archive beers such as London Keeper from 1880, Original Porter and Ben Truman 1883 export ale which bring the rich past of the brewery to the present day.
With such a strong history and sense of identity it is fantastic to see this legendary brewery re-inventing itself for the 21st century by staying true to the principles that made it once great; professionalism, innovation and a strong connection to the local community. These will surely enable Truman's to move towards taking its rightful place back in our British beer culture.