Today is the birthday of William H. Worthington (March 21, 1723-1800). Actually, it’s the date of his baptism, but that’s as close as we know, and, strangely, no one seems to have recorded the day he passed away and all we know is it was sometime in 1800. In 1761, he founded the Worthington Brewery in Burton-on-Trent, with the help of his wife Ann Tarratt, when “he purchased a brewery in the High Street for 320 pounds from Richard Cummings of Repton.”
The Worthington brand was purchased from Bass by the American brewing company Coors in 2002, which following a merger became Molson Coors in 2005. Worthington’s White Shield IPA has continued to be brewed since 1829. In 2010, Molson Coors opened the William Worthington microbrewery, which brews historical and seasonal beers.
Here’s the early history of the brewery, from Wikipedia:
William Worthington (1723–1800) was born at Orton on the Hill in Leicestershire, the fourth child of William Worthington (1687–1742), yeoman farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth. In 1744, he moved to Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire where he worked as a cooper at Joseph Smith’s brewery. In 1760, Worthington purchased the brewery from Smith’s successor, Richard Commings, for £320 (equivalent to £50,000 as of 2019).
By the 1780s, the brewery probably had an annual output of around 1,500 barrels, similar to the rival breweries of Benjamin Wilson and Michael Bass. Throughout the eighteenth century, Worthington sales were mostly of porter, directed towards the Baltic market, which was transported via narrowboat through the River Trent to the Port of Hull. Largely as a result of this trade, by the time of Worthington’s death in 1800, Worthington & Co. ranked among the largest of the provincial breweries.
And this account of the brewery is from the Oxford Companion to Beer, written by my friend Tim Hampson.
Worthington Brewery was established by William Worthington in the English town of Burton-on-Trent in 1744. It became one of a handful of companies to trade lucratively with the Baltic states along with the better-known Burton entrepreneurial brewers run by the Wilson, Sketchley, Bass, and Evans families. By the 1820s a worsening relationship with Napoleon Bonaparte soured much of this trade, and an alternative market had to be found.
Since at least the 1780s the East India Company had exported beers to the Indian sub-continent, following in the wake of the administrators and troops who left the United Kingdom to work in settlements there. Records show that some of the first shipments took place in 1697.
The trade was dominated by London brewer Abbot & Hodgsons, but the Burton brewers recognized a business opportunity when they saw one. When the London brewer faltered, the trade quickly became dominated by Burton brewers Bass and Allsop, and, to a lesser extent, Worthington. They first began to imitate the London brewers’ beer but discovered that a Burton IPA had the attribute of arriving in Calcutta pale, clear, and sparkling. See burton-on-trent and india pale ale. Sometime around the start of the 20th century the term “India pale ale” disappeared from White Shield’s label and became known by its heart shield and dagger label design, which was first registered as a trademark in 1863.
Worthington was never one of the big Burton brewers and was subsumed within the growing Bass empire in 1927. Somehow, nonetheless, the beer survived as a bottled beer. It was a curiosity as it still contained yeast in the bottle, long after the practice of bottle-conditioning had largely disappeared from British brewing. Drinkers’ conversations often focused on whether the beer should be poured clear or have the yeast tipped into the glass too. Many beer enthusiasts have commented upon the beer’s ability to age well, gaining character in the bottle over a year or two.