Britain’s brewing capital, a Red Cross tale… and a brand new theatre

Staffordshire is known worldwide as the centre of pale ale brewing and home to Britain’s largest brewing collection, so it’s no surprise that beer is once again taking centre stage in the county.

A new development, set to open in 2021, will see a historic Staffordshire brewery return after 60 years to its original home, selling beer first made by Augustinian monks – and with perhaps one of the world’s most unusual brand logos.

Joule’s Brewery is close to completing a major renovation project to breathe new life into the historic Crown Wharf in the market town of Stone, creating a new pub, as well as the first new build theatre in Staffordshire for nearly a quarter of a century.

Originally scheduled to open in 2020, work was delayed due to the pandemic but began again during the summer, and now much of the external construction has been completed on the flagship Joule’s Taphouse and new Crown Wharf Theatre, a gift to the community.

Able to seat up to 200 people in an octagonal auditorium, with a striking central vaulted ceiling, it will be managed by a charitable trust, which is now busy raising funds to fit out the theatre ( The intention is also for the town’s former fire house, at the entrance to Crown Wharf, to house a new heritage centre too.

For Joule’s, its return to Stone is a ‘coming home’ story. The brewery can trace its roots back to the 18th century when it set up in Stone, alongside the Trent and Mersey canal, where beer has been brewed since the 16th century.

In its heyday, with giant warehousing along the Stone Canal Wharf, Joule’s became the first English beer to be exported to the US and its ale was notably recorded as stock on the Titanic on the 10th April 1912.

Sadly, the brand disappeared after being bought out in 1974, but it was resurrected in 2010 with a new brewery in Shropshire, just across the county border from the old Stone Brewery; and in 2017 Joule’s became an independent brewery once more.

Now Joule’s is set to return to Stone, the spiritual home of the brand, and its trade mark Stone Ale, within the historic Crown Wharf site.

The new flagship pub’s design reflects canalside architecture, taking key inspiration from the old Joule’s warehouse next door, while the whole development aims to connect the heritage of the canal, the town and the brewery (

And the tale of the Red Cross? When Augustine monks first brewed beer in Stone, they marked each barrel with a red cross to identify its superior qualities. John Joule adopted this sign for his ales and registered the trademark in 1867, making it the world’s sixth oldest beer trademark.

The Red Cross, of course, was later adopted as the international symbol for aid, but Joule’s has the unique right to use the symbol commercially. Out of respect, Joule’s flanks the mark with ‘Trade Mark’ and never depicts the brand on a white dray.

Joule’s latest investment builds on Staffordshire’s reputation for brewing and beer.

Thirty miles east of Stone lies Burton upon Trent, dubbed as the ‘brewing heart of Britain’. It’s no pint-sized claim to fame; just over a century ago it was Britain’s undisputed brewing capital, home to scores of breweries, as well as the world’s most famous beer brand, Bass pale ale. Known worldwide as the home of pale ale brewing, during the late 19th century Burton brewed a quarter of all beer sold in Britain.

Today’s visitors to Burton, when restrictions allow, can learn more about how this market town earned its worldwide reputation at the National Brewery Centre, which also hosts Britain’s largest brewing collection (

For general tourist information about the area visit