Barclay, Perkins & Co. was one of London’s largest breweries for more than 150 years. It was formed in 1781 when chief clerk John Perkins and Robert Barclay, a member of the Barclay banking family, purchased Henry Thrale’s Anchor brewery from Henry’s widow, Hester. Famed lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson, a friend of the Thrales, commented, “Sir, we are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”

The brewery fared well under its new owners. By 1809, with an annual output of more than 325,000 hl (260,000 barrels) it was not only the largest brewery in London, but the largest in the world.

As with other London brewers, its fortunes were based on porter, the first beer to be brewed on an industrial scale. In the early decades of the 19th century Barclay Perkins produced exclusively porter and stout. As porter’s popularity began to wane after 1840, the brewery expanded its range to include mild and pale ales.

The company’s legacy to brewing is their legendary Russian stout, first produced for the Russian royal court in the 18th century and brewed continuously for more than 200 years. The final brew was in 1993.

Barclay Perkins was one of the first breweries in London to brew lager. The initial experimental brews were conducted during World War I. In the 1920s a specialist lager brewhouse was constructed and a Danish brewer hired to run it.

Barclay Perkins merged with close neighbor Courage in 1955 but continued to brew until the early 1970s.

See also courage brewery.