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Brewing legend steps down at Black Sheep

Outgoing Black Sheep Brewery chairman and founder Paul Theakston with sons Jo and Rob, who will continue to run the business as sales director and managing director respectively, following his retirement in September 2018.
Outgoing Black Sheep Brewery chairman and founder Paul Theakston with sons Jo and Rob, who will continue to run the business as sales director and managing director respectively, following his retirement in September 2018.

Paul Theakston, the pioneering founder of the Black Sheep Brewery plc at Masham, has officially retired from the company’s board.

Mr Theakston established Black Sheep in 1992, as an attempt to return to a more traditional brewing heritage. He had previously left his family’s brewery, T&R Theakston, in the late 1980s, when it was in the corporate hands of Scottish & Newcastle.

The venture was a success and his ethos has proven highly influential in the now-thriving ale industry.

Andy Slee, chairman of the Black Sheep Brewery, said: “The entire board and I would like to wish our pioneering founder Paul Theakston all the very best in his well-earned retirement.

“Paul has overseen the development of this iconic brewery over the last 26 years and been instrumental in making Black Sheep a household name that is exported throughout the world.

“His sons, Rob and Jo, the wider management team and the board will continue to uphold the values and legacy he has left behind, producing great Yorkshire beers day-in-day-out.”

News of Mr Theakston’s retirement came as Black Sheep announced it had moved back into the black after reporting sustainable growth in turnover and a significant increase in operating profit for the year to March 31, 2018.

The company saw a 3.3 per cent increase in turnover to £18.6m, from £18m in 2017.

Operating profit rose sharply by £697,000, from a £437,000 operating loss in 2017 to a £260,000 profit in 2018.

In its annual results, the Masham, North Yorkshire-based brewery announced:

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A continued commitment to brewing innovation with the creation of seven* new beer brands in a variety of pack types, including the launch of its first-ever lager, 54° North;

In March 2018, 24% of the beer Black Sheep brewed came in brands it hadn’t thought about just two years ago;

National recognition across the beer and pub industries for its commitment to brewing in the UK, as Black Sheep was named The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) Beer Champion 2017;

Plans to develop Black Sheep’s own £2m packaging facility for its bottled products, as well as the potential to diversify the company’s retail operation;

Paul Theakston, Black Sheep’s respected founder, will step down from the Board after the company’s AGM (September 27)

2017/18 was a year of progress for The Black Sheep Brewery plc as it posted a profit for the first time in five years, and an increase in revenues from the previous financial year.

The positive performance was on the back of a declining cask ale market, which fell by 7% year-on-year.

has been instrumental in the development of Black Sheep, which brews beers that are full of character and enjoyed throughout the world.

July 2017 marked a significant moment in Black Sheep’s 26-year history as it launched its first-ever small batch craft lager, 54° North, a brand created in homage to the brewery’s hometown of Masham, which sits on the 54th parallel.

Black Sheep’s brewing innovation and diversity continued with the creation of new products to the on and off-trade markets. This included securing national off-trade distribution for 54° North and scaling production up to bottled and canned format, while launching several new seasonal and bottled brands, including Flying Circus and award-winning beers Venus & Mars and Choc & Orange Stout.

The brewery’s reputation across the beer and pub industries was further strengthened as it was recognised by the BBPA with its prestigious ‘Beer Champion 2017’ annual award. Black Sheep also built on its Yorkshire roots as it became the official brewery of the Tour De Yorkshire – one of the UK’s premier sporting events – and renewed its sponsorship with Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC), cementing its position as one of the region’s leading brewers.

The Board is actively looking into developing a sustainable packaging solution for its bottled products, while also exploring investment in Black Sheep’s retail presence, as strategies to deliver potential long-term growth.

Rob Theakston, Managing Director of The Black Sheep Brewery, said: “This has been another year of progress for Black Sheep as we demonstrated our ability to adapt to the challenging market and trading conditions to deliver positive results and an award-winning year. The day-to-day running of the brewery and the collaborative efforts of our team has contributed massively to this year’s success, executing the Board’s strategy to reshape and make Black Sheep even more competitive.

“We have continued to diversify the Black Sheep brand with the development of several new products to the on and off-trade that complements our existing, core range. The launch of 54° North, our first-ever lager, was one of many well-received new additions to the Black Sheep range.

“Our innovative brewing approach is helping to set Black Sheep up for the future as we continue to face a shrinking cask market, and this diversification will be crucial to our future success.”

Andy Slee, chairman of The Black Sheep Brewery, said: “We have enjoyed a positive year, despite varying challenges facing brewers, including the disproportionate tax burden on the sector. Black Sheep currently pays five and a half times more in beer duty than eBay pays in UK corporation tax which strikes me as wholly unfair. Beer duty and business rates remain the issues focusing the sectors time at present, especially in dialogue with Government.

“I am delighted that we have been able to meet our targets and deliver encouraging results. Our priority remains building on this positivity and delivering a sustainable future.

“Third party packaging continues to be a high cash commitment and plans are in place to provide a cost-effective solution that has the potential to deliver long-term profitability for Black Sheep. We are also exploring the possible investment in developing our retail operation that could drive further growth, as the industry continues to diversify.