Lowestoft: Drinks distributor JV Trading embarks on mission to bring Lacons brewery back home
PUBLISHED: 11:01 21 May 2013 | UPDATED: 11:01 21 May 2013
In a quiet corner of East Anglia, a team of dedicated workers have been faithfully and painstakingly resurrecting an icon of the region’s brewing heritage.
Known for its feathered emblem – a proud falcon that stood sentinel at hundreds of pubs across the county – Lacons was a much-loved brewery with a proud history that dated back to the 1700s.
Run by the Lacon family and sited in a prime location in Great Yarmouth, the brewery employed 150 people and produced a wide-ranging and far-reaching line of ales, that were supped in pubs as far away Newcastle.
Its long lineage – which made Great Yarmouth a prime location for beer lovers – came to an end in 1968 when its then owners Whitbread shut it down.
Since then it has remained in the history books, its memory stirred only by mementos, such as the famous falcon pub signs that have remained in situ at some of its former pubs.
But after a 45-year hiatus, a pair of passionate enthusiasts have refreshed the famous Lacons brand and has launched the revived brewery back into the region’s eager – and thirsty – pub scene.
Mick Carver and Trevor Haurican, who make up Lowestoft-based drinks distributor JV Trading, have embarked on a lengthy personal mission to bring Lacons back home, and mixed old and new to write the next chapter in the famous brewery’s history.
The pair first began discussing the possibility of bringing the popular brand back to life four years ago, after being inspired by the memories of Lacons that lived on in the pubs they delivered to.
Mr Haurican, director of Lacons, said: “We were looking at our business and just thought about Lacons. Mick, being a local guy, had a massive affinity with Lacons and said wouldn’t that be a fantastic idea.”
Managing director Mr Carver, from Lowestoft, has fond memories of the brewery, particularly its stores in North Quay, which was the last of Lacons buildings to survive.
He added: “We’re very fortunate. We have got a cracking brewer, who is very well acknowledged and respected, and our job has been made so much easier with regard to the name Lacons itself, because it’s so high profile and still in recognition.”
Reviving the brand was not a simple task, however.
Tracking down the brewery’s registered trademark took them on a paper trail all the way to Luxembourg and 18 months of negotiating with the world’s largest brewer, AB Inbev then followed to secure the name and its intellectual property – including the historic yeast strains that provided the DNA for Lacons’ famous beers.
Thankfully JV Trading’s relationship with Inbev – which took over the brewing arm of Whitbread – as the firm’s representative in East Anglia helped pave the way.
“It was quite a journey we went on,” Mr Carver said. “A dormant trademark had never been sold by InBev; they had to write a policy, hence why we spent 18 months in discussions.
“But it was our relationship with them that meant we were able to buy a registered trademark.”
And their custodianship of Lacons represents the famous name coming full circle.
“Whitbread closed it down, we became Whitbread’s representatives and now we’re bringing it back,” Mr Haurican added.
After this work the pair then set about finding the perfect premises and there was only one location in mind – Great Yarmouth, where they discovered an old Victorian courtyard in Main Cross Road, which is soaked in historical spirit.
Mr Carver said: “Lacons had to be reintroduced in Great Yarmouth and the courtyard is the ideal setting; it’s a lovely place.”
As well as being home to the brewery, which within a year will produce 28,000 pints a week, the site has also been kitted out with a tap room, brewery shop, a museum stuffed full of Lacons’ antiquities and artefacts and importantly, a set of custom made gates.
“They were a key component for us, it’s about presenting it properly,” Mr Carver added.
“The thing for us is not only are we looking to reintroduce Lacons into Anglia, but we’re aware we’re custodians of 250 years of history and that’s something we take exceptionally seriously.
“It would be wrong for us to reintroduce Lacons beer without acknowledging its rich tapestry of history.”
The team have also been keen to keep a flavour of Lacons’ important past in its new brews.
Working with the original yeast strains, which, by a “mere coincidence”, were stored in Norwich at the National Collection of Yeast Cultures, head brewer Wil Wood has handcrafted a range of ales that mix old recipes with new ingredients.
Mr Haurican said: “Lacons beer 45 years ago was very different to beer today.
“The beer that Wil has crafted now is for today’s drinker and today’s palate. We’ve used the original Lacons yeast, which adds authenticity to the beers and we think it adds to the story.
“We’ve got a wealth of recipes from Lacons’ rich history, so Wil will contemporise them.”
To begin with the brewery will be producing three new permanent beers both bottled and on tap – Encore, Legacy and Affinity – but more seasonal tipples from the past are set to be added to the menu.
The brewery’s return has been given the seal of approval by the Lacon family – with whom Mr Carter has been working alongside – and word of its rejuvenation has also received enthusiastic backing from locals who remember its heyday.
Speaking at the new brewery site, Mr Carter said: “We had a guy come up recently who said he was an ex-Lacons worker, which was great. We have been overwhelmed by the local interest and the reception, which has been absolutely fantastic.”
The famous falcon brand will be coming in to land at pubs across the region, but Mr Carver and Mr Haurican hope that in time they can spread the brewery’s wings further and distribute Lacons beers nationwide.
For now, however, they are concentrating on getting the new brews firmly re-established among beer fans old and new, and as one of their first homecoming activities they will be taking part in the 2013 Norwich City of Ale celebrations, which begin on Thursday.
Mr Haurican added: “We have got a fantastic facility here but ultimately, for us, it’s all about the beer.”