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Brewers & Boozers Tour

Wrexham Lager Brewery

The brewery finally ceased production in 2000 and the modern brewery buildings were demolished during 2002-3. The original brewery building has so far survived as Wrexham Lager Brewery was the first successful lager brewery in the United Kingdom.

The brewery was the brainchild of German immigrants Ivan Levinstein and Otto Isler. They and their colleagues from Saxony and Bohemia did not think much of the local beers and were sure lager could sell here. Eventually they found the right spot in the west of Wrexham: the waters were similar to those of Plzen (Pilsen) in the modern day Czech Republic and the lie of the land was ideal for the deep underground cellars needed to mature the lager.

In 1882 work began on building the brewery and the local brewers were fascinated. Decoction mashing, bottom fermenting lager yeast and double fermentation in the tuns were all techniques that got tongues wagging. The Germans brewers saw exports ready for the taking, while the Wrexham Advertiser thought the brewers might find our winters too warm for their lager.

In 1883 the brewing started but the "told you so's" were right - the cellars weren't cold enough to produce the clear golden lager they wanted. More importantly drinkers are conservative - nobody local wanted this new drink, lager, or at least that what the other brewers ensured.

The Lager Brewery faced ruin till Ivan Levinstein met Robert Graesser on the train to Liverpool. Graesser was an industrialist with a chemical works in Acrefair. He had his own mechanical refrigerator and he felt it could cool the brewery's cellars so he joined the company. However, even though they now started winning brewing prizes, the tied pub system ensured that there were few outlets in the town for Wrexham Lager. In 1892 the company went bust.

Graesser was a stubborn fellow and he re-launched the Wrexham Lager Beer Company. He did not worry about the town instead he went for two big markets: the Empire and the Army. Even the soldiers besieged with General Gordon in Khartoum in the Sudan tried to drown their fears with Wrexham Lager before they were hacked to pieces by the forces of the Mahdi in 1898. More peaceful outlets include the growing number transatlantic cruise liners. Wrexham Lager travelled well over water and the firm boomed.

The Wrexham Lager Beer Company produced 4 main lagers: a golden Pilsener, a dark Bavarian lager, a light lager and an unfiltered dark. The latter was particularly popular with local miners as it was a meal in itself. It was usually available from the "brewery tap" on site.

The Graessers ran the brewery until 1949 and apart from some arguments over the direction of the company, it was a successful family business. The only hassle came during the First World War when the German head brewer, Julius Kolb, was interned on the Isle of Man as an undesirable alien. Anti German feeling threatened sales though the loyalty of the Graessers was never in doubt.

Post war, the story of the brewery was a series of ups and downs. Changing tastes and the internationalisation of the brewing trade led to Wrexham Lager Brewery finally being sidelined. Back in the 1980s Wrexham Lager were still winning awards for their brews but the bottom line is what counts and the brewery closed in 2000. Plans to continue brewing Wrexham Lager on a smaller scale never got off the ground despite strong local support.

Walk back up Central Road. Please take care crossing Bradley Road. To be safe use the pedestrian crossing at the junction with Regent Street. Walk by the side of the Fire Station and make your way through the Island Green car park. You should pass by the multi-storey car park on your left.

You are now passing through the site of the sidings of Wrexham Central Station. Wrexham Lager was shipped out from here to export markets around the Empire. The Great Western Railway also served Wrexham Lager in its restaurant cars.

From outside Argos & Wrexham Central Station Continue diagonally across the car parking area till you reach the site of the former Island Green Brewery. Head towards to the right of the old brewery buildings. If you are looking down at the old brewery across a small water course (aka the river Gwenfro), you are in the right spot.

Use the arrows or thumbnails to navigate through the image gallery. If you want to view more information on the image click the "i" in the top left corner.

Advert for Wrexham Lager Mills for the malted barley Brewery workers, c1900. The last two men on the right, back row, are Francis Boydell and his son Francis. Mick Boydell, grandson of the younger Francis, kindly loaned this photograph. 1909 Wrexham Lager Beer Company invoice A view inside the brewery with various mash tuns on view One of the Wrexham Lager Mash Tuns Information about the Porteous Mill Wrexham Lager Brewery in more productive days No one can forget those famous adverts. Can you read the letters of Wrexham's famous lager in the 1970's and 1980's? Information on the Lauter Tun Memorial to mark the brewery's centenary (in detail) - Loyal Wrexham Lager staff arranged for the window to be made Memorial to mark the brewery's centenary - Loyal Wrexham Lager staff arranged for the window to be made