Batemans was founded in 1874 by Suzanna and George Bateman, who sold their farm and leased Wainfleet Brewery. Suzannah Bateman was the original brewer (XXXB pale ale commerating this).
In 1880 the railway came to Wainfleet with the brewery coming under Government compulsory purchase. The family bought the existing site and built the brewery, which currently sits under the custodianship of Stuart and Jaclyn Bateman (4th generation). Stuart’s moto being “run by brewers and not accountants”.
The windmill on the site was purchased by Harry Bateman in the 1920s. He removed the sails and turned the windmill into a bottling plant, reemploying a number of staff and using the newly established railway system to distribute. The 1960’s saw the demise of the local railway and distribution via a newly purchased fleet of lorries.
The brewery has invested in a number of establishments over the years, including The Vine Hotel, Skegness and The Court Hotel – a joint venture with Billy Butlin (Batemans also supplied the beer for Butlins).
Harry Bateman received an OBE for services to the country but the family did not know for what services until relatively recently when some old records revealed his involvement with a local resistance group during WWII.
After Harry Bateman came George Bateman – “Mr George” – who purchased 23 pubs in and around Boston. The pubs had a “perpendicular licence”, i.e. the licence was only for the drinking of alcohol whilst sitting down. A court challenge changed all licences to standing licenses and transformed the profitability of the estate.
The 1960s saw the growth in keg beer; 70s the formation of CAMRA and revitalisation of cask beer.
Sadly, the death of Mr George initiated a family divide and, in 1988, £3.6 million was paid to family members in return for their shares in the brewery. Repayment of this money was facilitated by a move into the free trade, supplying 400 pubs in county and surrounds.
2002 saw the installation of a new brewhouse, complimenting the existing Victorian brewhouse.
Covid saw the brewery lose £10million, with a great deal of beer turned into hand sanitiser for the NHS. The number of pubs reduced by 10% and staff numbers also reduced.
Post covid, the new mantra of the brewery has become “Survival; Revival; Development”.
Sister companies of Batemans include J E Riddlington Wine Merchants and the Salem Bridge Bay Company, which showcases new recipes and styles.
The brewery is currently producing 6-7,000 barrels/year with 1/3 going to smallpack and the rest to draught. The visitor centre not only showcases the history and contemporary activities within the brewery but also acts as a repository for beer bottles, hosting more than 4,500 different bottles – mostly UK but some international.
The brewery is one of the few remaining “wet” breweries, providing a beer allowance for staff.
In terms of manufacturing/raw materials, the liquor used was originally sourced from the river, then tanked in from the local reservoir and now from the mains.
Malts are all sourced from the UK. Hops are mainly British but with some American and Czech. Yeast is propagated from the original yeast.
One trip plastic kegs are used for a proportion of their cask beer, lengthening the life of a cask by to 10 days.
2024 will see the brewery’s 150th anniversary and Justin “Buster” Grant, head brewer is intending to brew some brews to their original recipes. I know that we are looking forward to them.
We thank both Trevor and Buster for a fantastic tour of the brewery. For their time and expertise and for showcasing what stands traditional family brewers apart – the heritage, passion and custodianship for a crafted product.