Yorkshire’s multi award-winning Acorn Brewery is set for growth with a change of ownership at the 20-year-old Barnsley brewery.

Launched in 2003 on an ex-Firkin 10-brewers-barrel plant, Acorn’s cask-ales quickly gained renown to see expansion to a 25-barrel brewery in Wombwell. Today there is the capacity to produce 170 brewers-barrels (278 hectolitres) a week with  annual turnover of some £1m.

Now, directors Dave and Christy Hughes have decided that new ownership is needed to take the business forward. The brewery has been sold to Sonas Capital; a Greater Manchester based company specialising in developing successful small businesses (SMEs).

Over the years, Acorn has been much celebrated for its traditional Barnsley Bitter (3.8%abv) and Old Moor Porter (4.4%abv) in its core range.* Most recently Barnsley Bitter took overall champion at the SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) North Beer Competition.

With the sale, the employment of the seven strong brewery team has been secured and a general manager will be recruited. Founder Dave Hughes will continue in a consultancy role for the forseeable future while Christy will take retirement, due to recent ill-health.

Dave Hughes said: “We have enjoyed 20 successful years since launching in Barnsley with just my late first wife Judy and our current brewer Steve Bunting. In recent years, with Christy heading marketing and sales, we have continued to drive the brewery forward, despite being badly hit by the Covid pandemic. Throughout lockdowns we continually brewed, pouring the beer away, to regularly refresh our unique original Barnsley Brewery yeast strain from the 1800s, so we recovered quickly. Now we feel we have taken the business as far as we can and we are handing it on in very good shape to Sonas.  

“We wish to thank the team for their loyal support across the years. I look forward to continuing to work with them in my consultancy role. We must also thank our valued suppliers, loyal trade customers and, of course, our ever-faithful fans for their ongoing support for our beers.”

“This is a very exciting time for Acorn and we would like to reassure those suppliers, licensees and beer fans that the brewery is going into good hands. We are confident that Sonas will continue to reflect our passion with the energy and impetus to take the business forward, maintaining our highest standards of products and service under our banner of Tradition and Innovation.”

Acorn directly supplies outlets across the North of England and further afield through wholesalers and pub companies. The core of the business remains cask-conditioned ale but bottled and keg beers are also produced. Barnsley Bitter and Old Moor Porter are exported to Italy in keg and bottle in summer with some supplied in cask for the winter months.

Brendan Fitzpatrick of Sonas said: “Acorn has an outstanding reputation for their product quality and great service and we see the business as a perfect fit for our portfolio. We are dedicated to empowering companies through investment and strong marketing to realise their full potential.

“Dave and Christy Hughes are delighted to be working closely with the founder of Sonas Capital, a boutique investment business who just also happen to love beer, as they begin their transition away from the business. Dave will move to a more technical and creative role alongside the brewing team whilst the Sonas team will focus on the development and growth of the business in what are challenging times for the industry.”

Acorn was advised on the deal by Brian McCann and Angela Downey from Shareholder Strategies as well as Ryan Marr from Jolliffes Solicitors. Sonas Capital was advised by Guy Bartlett from Fidelis Advisory and Tom Sutcliffe from Excello Law.

Acorn is acclaimed for brewing more than 150 single hop variety IPAs (India Pale Ales) since 2006 – only the hops change for each carefully crafted cask brew and each release has been warmly welcomed. To mark the brewery’s 20th anniversary a celebratory pale ale ‘Two Decades’ (4%abv) will be brewed for the Wetherspoons annual beer festival in October.