Our Brewing History

O ur story began in 1851 when founder Walter Hicks mortgaged his farm for £1,500 to set up a new family business in St Austell. Discover our fascinating history below.

A humble beginning

Walter started out as a modest wine merchant and maltster before buying the local Seven Stars Inn in 1863. Nestled on East Hill in St Austell, it was here where he learned the art of brewing.

The business rapidly outgrew its original site, leading to relocation on Tregonissey Lane in 1893, where St Austell Brewery remains to this day. There have been many alterations and improvements over the years, but the essential brewhouse of 1893 still sits firmly at the heart of it all. Read more about our brewhouse here.

 

Expanding horizons

Tragedy struck the family in 1911 when Walter junior sadly died in a motorcycle accident in Helston. Walter Hicks returned to the helm at the age of 82 and oversaw the running of the business until his death in 1916. He was succeeded by his daughter, Hester Parnall.

Hester, who went everywhere with her pair of Pekinese dogs, would have a significant influence on the business, shaping it into what it has ultimately become today through expanding the hospitality offering. She was a driven businesswoman with a fierce reputation. So much so, that the first person to spot her chauffeur-driven Daimler arriving in the brewery yard would tap on the water pipes, telegraphing a message across the brewery to alert everyone to be on their best behaviour. Hester was Chairman of the company until she died in 1939.

 

A new beginning

St Austell Brewery celebrated an exciting new chapter in 1999 when Roger Ryman joined as Head Brewer, inspiring a newfound enthusiasm for beer quality and innovation. Tasked with crafting a small batch beer to mark the Solar Eclipse, he made an instant impact with Daylight Robbery – an incredibly popular pale ale that was rebranded as Tribute in 2001. Of course, his debut brew has since gone on to become our most famous and successful beer to date.

Roger’s skill and thirst for trying new things, with help from a passionate team of talented brewers, brought life to a series of excellent beers that have since become permanent fixtures. The likes of Proper Job IPA, korev lager, and Mena Dhu stout continue to be enjoyed far and wide.

 

Championing innovation 

The company acquired Bath Ales in 2016, and quickly invested in Hare Brewery – a £7 million state-of-the-art production site that opened in 2018. Bath’s award-winning range of beers includes Gem amber ale, Lansdown IPA, and Wild Hare gluten-free pale ale.

St Austell’s Small Batch Brewery opened the same year. Forming the centrepiece of the Visitor Centre in the Brewery’s Cornish heartland, the Small Batch Brewery has been the source of unique and innovative limited-edition beers ever since. Read more about the Small Batch Brewery here.

 

Where we are today 

Roger Ryman sadly passed away in 2020, following a brave battle with cancer. Georgina Young, his long-time friend and then Head Brewer at Bath Ales, took up the reins the same year. Boasting a glittered career of her own, Georgina’s appointment was a natural fit and she has steered the company to continued successes ever since. Meet our Brewing team here.

Hester’s influence spearheaded the ever-growing hospitality arm of the business. Today, we have a portfolio of more than 190 pubs, inns, and hotels across the West Country. We take great pride in our food offering, something that has recently been significantly reimagined.

The fruits of Walter Hicks’ early years also continue to shine in the modern era of the business. We are the region’s leading wholesale drinks supplier to the hospitality sector, with St Austell Wines bringing the best of the world’s produce to our customers across the South West.

St Austell Family Group remains proudly independent and family-owned. Nearly all of Walter Hicks’ descendants have a hand in the Brewery as shareholders, with some being more actively involved as directors and employees.

STEP BACK IN TIME

Beginning life as an ambitious maltster and wine merchant, Walter Hicks' vision has grown remarkably into what it is today. Get behind the scenes and immerse yourself in this historic part of Cornwall with one of our three tours.