MEETS JAMES YOUNG
In the first of our series of “Lord Trousers meets” we chat with James Young, scion of the Young’s brewing family and now its senior member, about beer, boots and alpacas.
iving deep in rural West Sussex, James is often found in a waxed jacket and corduroys, but do not jump to the conclusion that Mr Young is a tweedy countryman; a glance at his footwear reveals a lover of Americana. Today he is confidently wearing a pair of knocked about jeans and denim shirt. He also sports our floral brocade waistcoat and his eclectic outfit is completed with hand-tooled Texan cowboy boots, belt and hat. “I bought my first pair of boots when I went to Texas on business in 1985 - we were exporting Young’s beer to the US, and I had a pair made for me; they were so comfortable and well-made that I rarely wear anything else now.”
With frequent trips to the US, the exchange went both ways: beer exported, boots and belts imported. I spy a line of his favourite boots in cowhide, kangaroo and the expensive pride of the collection, a pair of hand-made, full-quill Ostrich boots by Lucchese costing $1600. He has matching belts and Stetson hats, a lariat and bullwhip displayed on the wall alongside vintage ‘Young’s’ advertising memorabilia from the UK and the USA.
I think I was at my happiest brewing
- James Young
“After a year at the Dorchester and learning about wine in Spain, I started at the bottom at Young & Co. in 1974, cleaning the toilets and emptying the mash tuns…a very hot and smelly job.” Hardly a privileged start for the boss’s son, I suggest. “My father didn’t want me to go into the business…he did his best to discourage me”. “He was very smart,” James says. “He held on to run-down pubs in rougher areas of London he knew would come back into fashion. He also realised everything is on a cycle, such as bottled beer – ‘Bottles will be back!’ he said. But, most importantly, he stuck to brewing real ale while everyone around him was brewing fizzy Red Barrel, Worthington E and Double Diamond.”
Young & Co. was at the forefront of the real ale movement during James’ career, and it also owned the best pub estate in London. In 2007, after 34 years in the trade, James retired from the family firm, looking for a change. That change came in the form of Alpaca farming, of all things!
“The first time I saw an alpaca was at the New Forest Show where we were showing Young’s Shire Horse Team, I thought they were strange,” he says, putting in his monocle to look for something. On the bar there are several monocles of different lens colours. He pulls a hank of pure, cream-coloured wool from a drawer, the glossy silken produce of his 300 head Suri alpaca herd.
“There are two kinds of Alpaca, the Huacaya which is woolly and shaggy…and the Suri, smooth and silky. The Suri is the more highly-prized wool. I sell mine to a Japanese designer who only makes items in 100% British Alpaca.” He passes over a blanket, a Union Jack alongside the Japanese calligraphy on its label. It is light as a whisper, the softest fabric I have ever felt.
I remind him that we first met over an Alpaca – short of proper camels I was required, as one of three wise men, to lead one in our village nativity play. “Oh, yes,” he laughs. “I got you into Alpacas and you got me hooked on monocles. I was constantly crushing my reading specs with the seat belt in my car so I tried one... I couldn’t live without a monocle now!”
I love James’s eccentric mix of Texan cattle baron meets British dandy
- Lord Trousers
We step outside to visit the Alpacas. Dressed in Peter Christian double denim, floral brocade and monocle, with the addition of a mist coloured Harris Tweed Jacket, cowboy boots and black felt cowboy hat, there is definitely something of the great English eccentric about James Young.
But then, of course, it takes one to know one.