McMullen’s, known locally as Mac’s, is a regional brewery founded in 1827 in Hertford, England by Peter McMullen, and since then we have continued brewing in Hertford without a break.
McMullen’s was founded in 1827 in Back Street (now Railway Street) Hertford by Peter McMullen(1798-1881), the son of an Irish nurseryman (strongly prompted by his wife, Sarah!) that a life of poaching and failed apprenticeships needs improvement. The passing of the Beerhouse Act in 1830 enabled Peter McMullen to open his own beerhouse named after William IV in Mill Bridge, Hertford. The passing of the Beerhouse Act acted as a stimulus to common brewing and led to an increase in the number of breweries in Hertford, peaking at eight in Hertford in 1838.
In 1860 Peter McMullen passed the business onto his sons Alexander Henry and Osmond Henry 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. As the business grew it moved to Old Cross, Hertford in 1891 and a new brewery was built. The new brewery was designed by William Bradford and is now a grade II listed building.
In 1897 the brewery business is incorporated and becomes a registered company, McMullen & Sons Ltd, when it owned 90 pubs. Osmond Henry became Chairman of the new company whilst Alexander Henry retired from the brewery and founded a seed merchant in Hertford.1897. By 1902 McMullen’s were the second largest brewery in Hertfordshire, behind Benskins Brewery of Watford and owned 131 pubs.
Osmond Henry died in May 1914 and his son Lieutenant Colonel Osmond Robert McMullen became chairman. In 1927, one hundred years into trading, Osmond McMullen acquires the freehold of the Nag’s Head in Covent Garden for £7,500 on an 80-year lease. This emphasises the company’s commitment to trading in public houses and its long term business horizon.
Osmond Henrys’s grandson Peter, a former Special Operations Executive colonel, ran the brewery from 1946 to 1980. In 1954 Colonel Peter finally discharges the death duties from his father’s death. At one time the duties were calculated to be almost equal to the entire value of the company, which would have to be sold. Colonel Peter, a former SOE commander, was not a man to go down without fighting and, while a lot had to be sacrificed, he saved the company. By 1966 the brewery owned 200 pubs. A modern brewhouse was built in 1984 when John McMullen was company director.
In 2002 there was a split between various members of the McMullen family some of whom wanted to turn their holdings into cash whilst others were happy to remain shareholders. Financial consultants were appointed and the company was put up for sale. The company was independently valued at £176m in 2002
A new independent chairman, Charles Brims, secured a compromise whereby several non-brewing property investments were sold in order to release cash to appease the majority shareholders and a plan was developed to build a new, smaller brewhouse. The company decided to shed contract brewing and take advantage of tax breaks by becoming a smaller brewer. In 2006, the company opens the Whole Hop Brewery, the most recent in a continuous line of six breweries on site where their brewers have crafted their beers drawing water from the chalk aquifer 140ft below their feet. As the new Whole Hop Brewery was more compact than the 1984-built plant, the spare land was sold to Sainsbury’s Supermarket chain in 2007. This is the fifth McMullen brewery to operate on this site.
Currently te company owns over 130 freehold pubs, mainly in the Home Counties, with a number in London, including The Spice of Life in Cambridge Circus, The White Swan in Pimlico and The Nag’s Head in Covent Garden. McMullen’s is acquisitive and has recently purchased pubs and bars in Cambridge, Chelmsford, Sevenoaks, Fleet, Marlow, Milton Keynes and Bishop’s Stortford.
Our Philosophy – is one word: Respect. Respect for our customers, who are spending their hard-earned pounds with us. Respect for our staff, who entrust their working life and career aspirations to us. Respect for our tenants and pub operators, who commit to business relationships with us. Respect for our shareholders who invest, through good and bad times. The challenge, of course, is balancing the expectations of all the above.