You are probably aware that Staines has a brewing tradition. 200 or so years ago there were in fact many small breweries in the area, attracted by the pure water in Staines. In the late 18th century records list Thomas Gates and William Harris as brewers and the Harris family went on to be one of the major local brewing families. They actually went on brewing for 100 years and their old brewery, the Oast House, still exists, although today it is used as an adult education centre.

A brewery that you may well have heard of is Ashby’s, which was based in Church Street, Staines. Ashby’s in fact took over Harris and the symbol of the London Stone was used as their trade mark. Ashby’s closed in 1936.

Fast forward two hundred years and the links are still very much there. Earlier this year Staines welcomed the launch of new brewery, Thames Side Brewery – the first in Staines in 80 years. The London Stone is also very much in evidence, now as a pub in Church Street, on the site of Ashby’s. They have a well stocked cellar and bar, serving a great variety of ales, including many supplied by local brewers. For most of the pubs existence it was known as The Clarence, after the Duke of Clarence who laid the foundation stone for Staines Bridge in 1829, and who also gives his name to Clarence Street.

Thames Side Brewery is based in Staines, on the other side of the river and is run by partners Andrew Hayward and Michele Gibson. Owner and Head Brewer Andrew Hayward, came from an insurance background. “I wanted to turn my home-brewing hobby into a commercial operation. I’m now pleased to see a beer that I have made on sale in local pubs.” It was only a short time after launching that Thames Side won their first award, being voted “Beer of the Festival” out of 250 beers at Ascot Beer Festival.

Thames Side Brewery is also passionate about nature. All their ales are named after river birds (Heron Ale, Egyptian Goose, Harrier Bitter to name a few) and for every pint of White Swan Pale Ale sold, a contribution is made to the Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton for the care of injured, displaced Swans and other birds.

Andrew has tried to continue to Ashby’s tradition. He is fascinated not only brewing but also the history. He discovered hat from as early as 1829 Ashby’s brewed a beer for export to “the Australian colonies”. This was described in advertisements placed in the Times in 1842 & 1843 as a beer that “resembles East India Pale Ale (IPA) in flavour and colour, but with rather more body”. Although Andrew could find no surviving recipes from Ashby’s, his Egyptian Goose IPA is based on an old fashioned English IPA in other words with rather more body. This is Andrew’s nod to the past, and an attempt to complete the circle of brewing coming back to Staines, by producing something possibly similar to that last produced by Ashby’s Staines Brewery Limited in the 1800’s.

If you want to find out where to sample Thames Side, check out their website: www.thamesidebrewery.co.uk.

For more information about the history of brewing you can visit Spelthorne Museum in Staines (entrance through Staines Museum). Entry free. Tel 01784 461804.