The village of Masham is a place for pilgrimage for connoisseurs of real ale – it’s the frothing fountainhead of Theakston’s beers, which have been brewed here since 1827. The company’s most famous brew, Old Peculier, takes its name from the Piculier of Masham, a parish court established in medieval times to deal with religious offences, including drunkenness, brawling and “taking a skull from the churchyard and placing it under a person’s head to charm them to sleep”. The court seal is used as the emblem of Theakston Ales.
To the horror of real-ale fans, and after much falling out among members of the Theakston family, the Theakston Brewery was taken over by a much-hated mega brewer Scottish & Newcastle in 1987. Five years later, Paul Theakston, who had refused to go and work for S&N and was determined to keep small-scale artisan brewing alive – bought an old malting building in Marsham and set up his own brewery, which was called Black Sheep. He managed to salvage all kinds of traditional brewing equipment, including six Yorkshire “stone square” brewing vessels and was soon running successful enterprise. History came full circle in 2004 when Paul’s four brothers took the Theakston brewery back into family ownership. (www.blacksheepbrewery.com)