Aston Manor Brewery and Cider
Thimblemill Lane, Aston, Birmingham B7 5HS: 0121 328 4336
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Birmingham based Aston Manor Brewery produces beer and industrial cider. It claims to be the UK's third largest producer of cider by sales value. Most appears to be sold as supermarket "own brand" product, though it does sell under a number of its own brands as well.
Its plastic-bottle products are widely available in supermarkets with names like Hereford Orchard, Amber Harvest, and Golden Valley. Its Kingstone Press keg cider is reasonably common in West Midlands pubs, particularly the Worcestershire/Staffordshire area, and surprisingly, in the North-West through Thwaites Brewery.
Principal brands are:
- Kingstone Press (dry: marketed as a premium product, but decidedly less pleasant tasting than its nearest competitor, Weston's Stowford Press. Made from a blend of Michelin and Dabinett apples)
- Frosty Jacks (white)
- Druids Celtic Cider
However, a very large part of Aston Manor's output is sold as supermarket own-label drinks, or under fairly anonymous brands ('Hereford Orchard', 'Harvest Oak' etc.) whose origin can only be discerned by looking at the address on the label.
Other brands include
- Golden Valley Cider
- Chardolini Perry.
- Kingstone Press Pear Cider
Aston Manor's shady history
In 2001, Michael Hancocks, a major shareholder (12% of the shares), whose family owns 44% of Aston Manor, organized a conspiracy to contaminate the cider products of the company's rival, H. P. Bulmer. He recruited a former Aston Manor employee, chemist Richard Gay, to produce a yeast that he planned to introduce into Bulmer's production line, recruited his daughter's partner, Paul Harris, to transport the contaminant, and paid a Bulmer's employee, Russell Jordan, £16,000 to introduce the contaminant. Jordan did not introduce the contaminant, but reported the plot to Bulmers and to the police, and the plot was foiled. If the plot had succeeded anyone drinking glasses of the contaminated cider would have suffered nausea and diarrhoea.
The company also incurred the wrath of real cider enthusiasts by attempting to stop Herefordshire cidermaker Dennis Gwatkin of Gwatkins Cider from using the name 'Kingston Black' to describe his cider made from the Kingston Black cider apple, on the spurious grounds that it was too similar to Aston Manor's Kingstone Press cider. Malicious bullying of a small producer? Naive stupidity? They backed down in the end.
On 6 October 2006, Aston Manor Brewery pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates court to two charges relating to failing to securely dispose of a radioactive substance. The charges were brought by the Environment Agency under Section 32 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993. The company was fined £ 10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,240. The court was told that in December 2004 Aston Manor Brewery Limited contacted the Environment Agency to inform them that they no longer held any radioactive sources on site. They stated that they would like to revoke their registration permitting them to keep and use two radioactive sources. On 14 April 2005 Environment Agency officers visited the company and found that whilst one radioactive source was properly accounted for, the whereabouts of the other could not be determined. The missing Americium 241 source, used in a level gauge, had not been seen since 2001/2. The disposal route of the radioactive substance is unconfirmed, however it is likely to have entered into the scrap chain as stainless steel. The substance could have been melted down for steel making, causing contamination of slags and resulting in possible releases of radioactivity to air and water.
If anyone wants to know what a gamma radiation source was doing in a brewery, read here: Level Gauging
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