Cuffley Industrial Heritage Society

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The company, located in the market town of Hertford, 20 miles north of London, was founded in 1827 by Peter McMullen, a cooper by trade. He had no pubs to his name at that time, so he sold his beers himself, just as he did three years later when he was able to expand his enterprise and buy a riverside property which he converted into a brewery.


1698 Thomas Savery, a Devon man, was the first to combine the force of steam and the pressure of the atmosphere. He was granted a patent in 1698 for "Raising water by the impellent force of fire". Savery's "engine" comprised a boiler and a receiver. Steam from the boiler filled the receiver. Cold water poured over the receiver condensed the steam causing a vacuum. Atmospheric pressure forced water up a suction pipe connected to the receiver, which became full of water. Steam from the boiler at pressure blew the water out of the receiver up a delivery pipe and also refilled the receiver with steam. The cycle was then repeated. Valves were fitted in pipes to control the steam and to prevent the water, which was being raised, from going the wrong way. In time the boiler became empty. To refill it with water meant drawing the fire and relieving the boiler of its pressure.

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McMullens Brewery Page 1of 4


All McMullen ales are produced in a 106-year-old brewery, using the same traditional processes as in the 19th century and with the finest of natural ingredients such as local barley, whole leaf aroma hops and pure water from wells under the brewery

Peter McMullen proved himself to be an astute businessman and his brewing venture was very successful. So successful, in fact, that in 1836 he bought his first pub, the Greyhound, just outside Hertford, which is still selling McMullen beer today as one of the 136 pubs owned by the company in and around London. As the 19th century progressed, so did the company, and in 1891, Peter's sons, Alexander Peter and Osmond Henry had a new brewhouse built.

1827: The Very Beginning

Peter McMullen decides (strongly prompted by his wife, Sarah!) that a life of poaching and failed apprenticeships needs improvement and he founds our business.


Alexander and Osmond McMullen take over from their father and begin a period of expansion. Trading as P. McMullen & Sons, over the next few decades they acquire the Star and Cannon Breweries and a number of pubs. Nearly half of the company's pubs have been owned by us for over 100 years demonstrating an ability to sustainably operate pubs in partnership with tenants.

The ingredients in all McMullen beers are produced from the finest natural ingredients. Whole hops - Colding variety from the hop fields of Kent and Fuggles from Worcestershire - (no hop pellets or hop oils), barley from East Anglia, and water from the brewery's own wells. Natural minerals hundreds of feet deep in the ground produce water with a permanent hardness perfect for brewing beer. Although McMullen beers are produced from old recipes, one - AK Original Bitter - has a history that is shrouded in mystery and probably even pre-dates the founding of the company. It is not known what the initials AK stand for and there are no records of their identity. A few years ago, a campaign was launched among the older AK drinkers in McMullen pubs in an attempt to solve the mystery, but to no avail. There were theories galore including the belief that AK stands for Ale Keeper, the brewery worker who, in the 19th century and early 20th century, acted as a night watchman and kept an eye on the fermenting beers. At the Hertford brewery, the Ale Keeper's room has been restored as closely as possible to the 1891 original as a museum piece and it attracts many visitors, particularly members of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) who regard it as a "beer drinkers' Mecca". The AK mystery may not have been solved, but the campaign research strengthened the company's view that AK is one of the oldest and most historic ales brewed in the UK. It is McMullen's biggest-selling ale and it has what can only be described as a cult following in the pubs. It is often described as "Hertfordshire Champagne".

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