A community has been left shellshocked by news that renowned brewery Black Sheep is struggling for survival and has brought in administrators.

The announcement came after crowds flocked to a weekend Drink Cask Beer Festival at the breweries base and visitor centre at Masham in North Yorkshire. Black Sheep has become one of the most recognisable beer brands in the country.

Richard Welford, who runs the renowned Beavers Butchers in Masham set up by his grandfather has watched the brewery grow from strength to strength since it was launched 30 years ago.

The Northern Echo: Richard Welford, who runs Beavers butchersRichard Welford, who runs Beavers butchers (Image: Newsquest)

He said: “It’s come totally out of the blue, I never thought for a minute it would come to this.

"I know a lot more people drink at home but it is such a successful brand. It would be a huge blow for the town if it closed.

“Since Paul Theaktson set it up it has just grown bigger and bigger every year, the family have been involved in brewing all their lives. I

"t’s a real shock. It’s such a shame for the people who work there and for the town, Black Sheep is a real draw for Masham, it brings many visitors in, and there is a real spin off.

“I honestly hadn’t heard any gossip that this was going to happen. We just have to hope they can survive this.”

Rob Parkyn, landlord of the Bay Horse pub in the heart of the town said it was "devastating news "for the community and they’re hoping for the best outcome that the brewery and visitor centre can be saved.

The Northern Echo: The landlord of The Bay Horse described it as a 'devastating' blowThe landlord of The Bay Horse described it as a 'devastating' blow (Image: Newsquest)

He added: “We came here two years ago and many many visitors who come into the pub want a pint or half of Black Sheep, or they want to go and have a look at the visitor centre.

“It is a really iconic brand and brings a lot of people here, the visitor centre makes it a destination.

"Black Sheep Brewery is a central part of Masham, they have been saying it employs 50 people but there will be a lot more jobs supported through them.

“This is really a devastating blow for the town, we have a population of around 1,400 so it would have a real impact if it closed, but there is a real market for the beer so we’re hoping the brewery can carry on.”

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A former shop keeper who asked not to be named said: “It’s really sad for the workers and their families and the Theakston family themselves - Rob and Joe, Paul Theakston’s sons have been heavily involved in the brewery for many years.

"We just hope a buyer can be found and the brewery survives, for Masham to lose Black Sheep brewery would be unthinkable and a disaster.”

The company was set up with the backing of hundreds of mainly local shareholders. According to companies house there are now 1,218 shareholders. In 2022 the brewery reported operating losses of £911,000 on a turnover of £14.2 million.