The Cannon Brewery in Sheffield was established in 1838 and acquired by William Stones in 1912. Stones bitter was brewed at Cannon until its closure in 1999.
Green & Hatfield were the first to brew at Cannon Brewery in 1838 at what was then a respectable residential district. By 1895 the brewery was equipped with “an expensive plant…excellent stores and cellars, spacious covered and open yards, offices, stabling [and] workshops.”
The site was acquired by William Stones in 1912. William Stones had started brewing in 1847 in Sheffield with Joseph Watts. Following Watts’ death in 1854 Stones continued brewing by himself. In 1868 he purchased the lease of the Neepsend Brewery, and renamed it the Cannon Brewery, and he continued to brew there until his death in 1894. Stones’ success saw him die as one of the richest men in Sheffield, although he lived a modest life. The company was taken over by Bass in 1968, then in 2000 Bass sold its brewing operations to the Belgian brewer Interbrew who were ordered by the Competition Commission to sell the Stones brand. In 2002, the brand was purchased by the American Coors Brewing Company, who merged to become Molson Coors in 2005.
Stones Bitter was brewed at the Cannon Brewery from 1948 and was popular with Sheffield’s steel workers. Stones Bitter was originally available across the south of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, with distribution extended to the rest of the north of England in 1977, and nationwide from 1979, accompanied by a considerable marketing push. Increasing demand saw it also brewed at other Bass breweries from the 1970s onwards. The beer’s popularity reached its apex in 1992 when it was the country’s highest selling bitter, selling over a million barrels.
The marketing and sales offices on the brewery site were completed in 1958. A new £500,000 five storey brewhouse was operational by 1962, and was one of the most up to date in the country. An on-site public house was opened in the basement of the brewery in 1964, initially named The Underground, but later renamed The Pig and Whistle; it was used by brewery workers and visitors. At its peak the brewery produced 50,000 hectolitres of cask conditioned Stones each year. The office building was sold off in 1985. In 1992 a visitor’s centre building was opened. In 1995 the brewery was used as a shooting location for the film When Saturday Comes.
After its closure in 1999 its major brand, Stones Bitter, has continued to be produced by the Molson Coors Brewing Company. The office building is occupied by an accountancy firm, however the remainder of the site is currently unoccupied and derelict.