History of Rhymney Brewery
Rhymney Breweries Ltd was the largest brewery business in the Wales when it was acquired by Whitbread the 1960s and it had a distinguished history spanning over 140 years of brewing in South Wales. The Rhymney Brewery has its origins in the great days of the South Wales iron industry. Working in heavy industry and the hot blast furnaces certainly gave the men a terrible thirst. In mid nineteenth century industrial Wales it was far safer to drink the beer than to touch the water, as many victims of cholera found to their cost. It has been said that even the Mormons drank beer in Merthyr at this time. Many licensed houses at this time had their own brew house.
The Rhymney Brewery began operating in 1839 with Andrew Buchan as its manager. In 1858 a directory for South Wales noted “brewing is carried on to a considerable extent by Andrew Buchan & Co at Rhymney, where the Brewery is considered the largest in South Wales”. Andrew Buchan was noted for his love of children and he financed annual treats for schoolchildren. According to his obituary, “If he saw a small boy with a shabby cap he would toss it over a hedge and then take the boy to his Shop and give him a new one-with a bag of biscuits also”. By 1878 the Brewery called Rhymney Brewery and Co. Ltd. delivered 12,500 barrels a year to its 29 tied houses and also to other public houses. Beers produced at the beginning of the twentieth century included King’s Ale, “The Wine of the Valleys”, which was introduced in 1902 . The long list of beers include: - Empire, GHB, BB, IPA and Stingo in Draught, and Light Ale, Empire Special, Cream Stout and Family Stout in bottle. The famous Hobby Horse trademark of the little man on the barrel, designed by a keen sportsman became well known familiar sight throughout Wales and especially the Valleys. “Where the Hobby Horse Roams” became the phrase used to describe the extent of the Buchan estate. Other slogans over the years included, “The True Brew- always in Good Condition”.
The Taff Vale Brewery, widely known as “The Taff” was the last local brewery in Merthyr. Founded in the 1840s in Georgetown, in 1904 the Taff Vale Brewery moved to completely new premises on the hill above the Penydarren Road. When this brewery was taken over by the Rhymney Brewery in 1936, there was an estate of 25 freehold and leasehold houses. By 1939 the Buchan estate numbered 362 hotels and inns, the vast majority in Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire. In 1951 Buchan’s began an association with Whitbread and Co. and eventually the Rhymney Brewery was taken over by Whitbread. The final closure of Rhymney Brewery came on April 27 1978, a sad day for all concerned. In the 140 years since Andrew Buchan had first built the Brewery, it had improved out of all recognition. Rhymney beer was always true to the slogan: Beer , it's Lovely!