In fact, the brand had not been poured for over 20 years, but it’s highly likely his last sip of Truman’s was a lot earlier: its decline had begun in 1971 when the independent Truman’s succumbed to an aggressive bid, precipitating the gradual sale of its breweries and pubs.
Even such a long-time loyal Truman’s drinker wouldn’t, however, have experienced the beer’s peak period – which was the late 1800s, when Shoreditch was home to a mass of brewers. During this time, “East London was the capital of brewing in the world and Truman’s was the biggest brewer,” records Morgan, adding: “It is part of east London heritage and the breweries then weren’t just beer factories – they represented something.”
Currently Morgan believes as many as 120 pubs in London still have “Truman livery” and Hemus and Morgan report a widespread residual affection among those who remember drinking it, but also a renaissance in this part of the city due to the influx of new residents. “There is a younger, more enthusiastic crowd moving in who are interested in locally sourced products.”
Bringing the beer brand back to life was, however, a lengthy and painstaking process. There had been so many mergers and acquisitions since Truman’s had closed that it was, Morgan says, extremely difficult just finding out who owned the brand.
Having eventually discovered it was Scottish & Newcastle, the two, who were both working full-time, approached the group. “The initial response was: ‘Who are you? And we are not interested’.”
Further phoning saw them passed onto S&N’s external lawyers whom, Hemus recalls: “We called once a week for six months, until they put us onto the internal lawyers, whom we called twice a week for three months.” Such was the pair’s persistence that S&N eventually agreed to release the brand but, as Hemus points out: “It was amazing no-one in the innovation department thought, if these guys are really this interested then maybe there’s something here.”
The story did not end there. “The agreement was essentially on the table,” continues Hemus, “but then S&N got bought by Heineken and there was another hiatus. As we were dealing with the same people, it just delayed the sale by six months.”
Then came the research. “We had to learn about the history of Truman’s properly and we went to the London Metropolitan Archives where the paperwork was.” Apparently, every recipe of each beer brewed by Truman’s from the 1830s and 1920s is recorded, but “no-one knows where the records are from the ’50s and ’60s. Allegedly they were burnt”.
Nevertheless, Morgan and Hemus were able to analyse the constituents of Truman’s first ever India Pale Ale, or brews destined for those fighting the Crimean War and, importantly, the recipe for a London Porter because Truman had invented the style.
Next, however, they needed someone to make the modern Truman’s, and enlisted the help of friend and respected brewer Tom Knox from the Nethergate Brewery in Essex. Although they had enough information about the ingredients of the former Truman’s beers, they decided not to recreate an old brew, but a new one inspired by what they’d learnt. This was both for practical reasons and the evolution of tastes since the ’50s.