Samuel Smith's Brewery and Pubs
Words by James Roberts
May 30, 2019
It’s a relief to walk into a Samuel Smith’s pub. A little ping of excitement is released when you push open their heavy wooden doors and a dense wave of beer and conversation hits you. This is the pub to be in. You have made it.
Friendly staff. Victorian. No music ever. Grand yet homely. And a pint cheaper than most others (especially within the M25). It all comes together perfectly in a Sam Smith’s boozer.
An uncle and a nephew. The former makes a pint worthy of Peter Kay. The latter has dotted the country with some very fine drinking establishments (which serve some very fine beers). A matter of inheritance and dodgy-dealings left the Smith family split. The crafty John Smith side built a new brewery, taking with them the expertise established at the original brewery. The aptly named Old Brewery, was taken on by Samuel. This mark of authenticity still graces their beers and pubs: Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery. The family split is evident in the business-style of each brand. John Smith grew large, modernised and became part of the Heineken Group. Whereas Sam Smith’s stayed small, local and independent.
The old Tadcaster brewery is still very much ingrained into its community. Behind the pub next to the brewery, they keep magnificent white Shire horses which are still used five days a week to deliver casks around the town. Surely unnecessary. But it’s all part of the wonderfully idiosyncratic method of operating Sam Smith’s chooses to employ.
Similarly distinct is the new ‘law’ of their pubs which states that phones, tablets and laptops are not to be used within the premises. They claim it’s a way of fostering “social conversation.” It could work, but many dismiss it as another attempt by the brewery to control its patrons. Let them drink. And let them text.
That attempt to create the perfect drinking environment echoes across all their pubs. Everything in a Sam Smith’s is made by Sam Smith’s: from the lager to the bitter, the gin to the ginger beer. They have created a whole world in which all bears the name of its creator. It’s something to marvel at and can feel comforting too. On the other hand, it can feel like there’s a little too much control implemented. Its current boss, Humphrey Smith, has achieved a near mythical status thanks to his strict rules and reclusive attitude. He shapes the pub in his own vision from afar. He is its Creator.
The Princess Louise in London is my favourite Sam Smith’s pub. Located a short walk from Holborn station, the Princes Louise is a stunning experience. Ornately gilded mirrors decorate every wall. Snob screens provide snug spaces next to the bar for five or so friends. And an intricate ceiling is somewhere to get lost in if you find yourself bored by your companion’s conversation.
It was the Princess Louise that cemented my love for Sam Smith’s. Now, when I see that gold rose and glorious name emblazoned above a pub, I know that I’m in safe hands (even if those hands have exercised a little too much control for some). Whether I’ve been to that establishment before or not, I trust in that name. I trust in Samuel Smith’s.