FAMILY-RUN independent brewery, T&R Theakston is celebrating the work of employee Mike Kitching, who retires from the business this month after 50 years of service.

One of the longest-serving current employees of the brewery, Mike joined Theakston in 1974 and began his career working on the hand-filled bottling line then used at the almost 200-year-old brewery.

Later moving to the Transport Department to become one of the Masham drays, Mike delivered Theakston's iconic beers to loyal customers throughout Yorkshire for over 40 years.

His dedication to the family brewery withstood a number of changes, including the acquisition by Matthew Brown PLC in 1984, before the brewery's safe return to family control, when Simon Theakston, with his brothers, bought back the family company in 2003. Since then, Mike has worked in the brewery, on the racking lines, a role he held until his retirement.

Simon Theakston, chairman of Theakston's Brewery, said: "Always with a winning smile, and a cheerful disposition, Mike has had a wonderful career, dedicated to the service of our company and customers for 50 years.

"He goes to a richly deserved retirement with the very best wishes and grateful thanks from my family and all our colleagues past and present."

Mike said: "On joining the brewery aged 16, I didn't imagine I'd still be here half a century later. I'd like to thank the company for welcoming me into the family all those years ago and I'm honoured to have spent my working life with a business which is so passionate about not only its products but its people too."