Stalybridge ale trail ends in mystery

THE recipe for a famous local beer, once brewed by a Tameside brewery, remains a mystery despite research into the brewery and its history by a Manchester-based artist.  

Artist Magnus Quaife worked with staff at Tameside’s Portland Basin Museum to create new artwork and discover more about the brewery, once a major employer in the area and well known for producing a strong dark ale called Old Tom.

Magnus Quaife at Millstone Brewery

“I held workshops at the museum where members of the public shared their memories of Gartside’s,” said Magnus of the Brewery which originated in Stalybridge.

“The stories and memories people told me helped to inspire a zine which presents the story of Gartside’s.

“Despite talking to many people who remember the brewery and its beers, mystery still surrounds the exact ingredients of Old Tom and one theory is that the recipe was hidden away by a former head brewer in the 1960s.”

Magnus unveiled the zine he has produced at a special event in Portland Basin Museum’s recreated 1920s pub.

Guests included local brewer Jon Hunt, of Millstone Brewery in Mossley, who worked with the artist to brew a new, limited edition beer called Thomas Bell Ale, based on what is known of the recipe for Old Tom.

“The beer bottled for the museum launch was numbered in the same manner as a limited edition print,” explained Magnus.

“Therefore, visitors have the choice of whether to open it and try it or to keep the artwork intact.

Specially designed beer mats, created by the artist, will be appearing in Tameside pubs over the next few weeks, and the museum will be adding the beer mats, limited edition Thomas Bell Ale beer bottles, and the zine produced by the artist to its collection.

Rachel Cornes, Manager at Portland Basin Museum, said: “We have a number of items in the museum collection which related to Gartside’s, as it is such an important part of our local history.

“It’s wonderful to be able to add new works created by Magnus to the collection, and we’re looking forward to finding out what the Thomas Bell Ale, brewed by Magnus and Millstone Brewery, tastes like.”

Gartside’s brewery, originally of Stalybridge, moved to the Brookside Brewery on Potinger Street in Ashton Under Lyne in middle of the 19thcentury.

The brewery closed in the early 1970s shortly after it was taken over by Bass in 1967.

The name of Gartside’s Old Tom is reputedly either a reference to Captain Thomas Gartside, a relative of John Gartside senior who founded the brewery, or the head horse keeper Mr Thomas Bell who served the company from 1876 until his death in 1907.


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