Harveys Brewery, Lewes - a short history 1790 to present
With its Gothic towers and river Ouse frontage, Harveys Brewery dominates the heart of Lewes, the county town of East Sussex. Despite 200 years of change and challenge, flood, fire and the fall and rise of traditional draught ales, it remains one of the country's foremost independent breweries..
Harveys Brewery and Lewes at times seem synonymous. The association dates back over 200 years when John Harvey established himself as a Wine and Spirit Merchant at the foot of Cliffe Bridge. He later started brewing and, in 1838, built a new brewery on the Bridge Wharf.
Subsequent generations took on the business and, in 1881, the original Georgian brewery was extensively re-built from designs of William Bradford – a very eminent brewery architect. These premises dominate the view from Cliffe Bridge and are a beautiful example of a Victorian tower brewery in industrial Gothic design.
In 1985 an additional, smaller tower was added to the façade thereby doubling the brewing capacity. Meticulous care and attention ensured that the extension matched the original building and this was rewarded by a Civic Trust Commendation as well as a Grade 2 listing. It seemed a fitting status for a building which is affectionately known locally as 'Lewes Cathedral'.
Harveys Brewery has remained a 'local brewery'. Over the years they have acquired some fifty pubs within a sixty mile radius of Lewes. This 'tied estate' represents a wealth of heritage – from the country cottage where beer is served from the pantry to the medieval inn with its cellar in a vaulted crypt; from the backstreet 'local' to the Victorian 'Gin Palace'.
Their beers are distributed within similar geographical confines and the brewery actively pursues a policy of 'local sustainability'. Hops are purchased from Sussex, Kent and Surrey while 'spent hops' find their way back to the land as fertiliser. Similarly, Harvey's 'spent grains' are fed to the dairy herd at Plumpton College. Spring water for brewing is drawn via an artesian well from 60 feet below their premises. This, together with a yeast strain used for half a century, combines to produce a range of beers encompassing every style from Porter to Light Milds. Their flagship "Sussex Best Bitter" evolved in the postwar period and is most closely associated with their public persona. It has recently been voted "Champion Best Bitter of Britain" for two consecutive years.
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