10 Questions For...
1) Where are you based and how long have you been there for?
A: I’ve been at West Berkshire Brewery for 11 or 12 years but I’ve lived in this area for over 30! I had no idea I would end up brewing beer as a career, I wasn’t interested in anything but partying when I was younger.
I’d worked in pubs and restaurants and obviously I liked beer, but it wasn’t until I was cajoled into drinking ‘proper’ beer by my dad that it sparked my curiosity. I had that first pint in my local, The Pot Kiln. They’re a little more relaxed these days but at the time if you ordered lager in ear shot of a local there would be murmurs’ of disapproval. So I grew up with ale or ‘proper beer’ as my dad still calls it.
West Berkshire Brewery started at the back of the Pot Kiln and this is where my beer journey began. For me brewing is the perfect operation of applied science.
2) Tell us more about your brewery and what have you got coming up this year?
A: Shit, where do I start?! In ’95 we were a five barrel capacity family team (not my family) Since then we’ve gone through 4 expansions and now employ 19 full time members of staff. Our best seller Good Old Boy is a million pound brand and our Renegade Craft lager comes a close second. DB (David Bruce of Firkin fame) joined about three years ago and gave us a big kick up the arse which has resulted in crowd funding and installing a multi million pound monster of a brewery and packaging line.
We’ve specialised in traditional cask ales for over 20 years at West Berkshire Brewery and we established Renegade in 2015 to give us the opportunity to experiment and create modern interpretations of beer styles. We’ve worked on small batch collaborations with various awesome people: Farmageddon in Northern Ireland (Red Eye PA), Mashed & Wired (coffee IPA) with Pharmacie Coffee Roasters of Hove and also local artists.
The ‘Tropic Like It’s Hot’ pineapple pale ale label was designed by Kev Winter/Two-Headed Boy, tattooist Jon Nott has done Snake Oil DIPA and Khan red IPA and we also worked with Ali Hamish from London to create a live art installation at CBR17. Beer and art fit perfectly together, I can’t wait to work on more in the future!
I’m also getting married this August! Did think about buying a house, but that can wait ’til next year.
That was a long answer…
3) What personally do you think makes West Berks such a great place to live?
A: For me it’s not being in the city. Having space to breathe and think. I find London in particular exhausting. We have a great community here, being raised in a small village essentially means they’re your adopted family. Everyone knows you and has an interest in what you’re up to (not always great…) I love wide open spaces, fields, livestock, farm shops, woods, love woods…
4) What if push comes to shove is your favourite all time local bar, brewery and beer?
A: Outside of our own West Berkshire Brewery Pub the bar would have to be The Bell Inn, Aldworth. I think this might be my spiritual home. I love everything about it. You couldn’t get a more traditional cask ale pub, fucking amazing…
For a brewery it would be the Tap Social, Oxford. These guys are doing awesome things, not just with beer but with the community. They’re great people with great beer, a great ethos and a great tap room.
And for my favourite local beer it’s Binghams Vanilla Stout – so bloody good!
5) What are the top few places anyone visiting your area right now should head to for great beer, food, good times?
A: The Bell again! (sorry) Crusty rolls, real ale, traditional pub atmosphere. I can’t stress enough how much I love this place…
The Royal Oak in Yattendon is also a very solid country Gastro Pub. The Nags Head, Reading has 12 handpulls and a bunch of keg, good beer and good times! This also proves that I sometimes leave the countryside and venture out into the real world.
6) Which brewery do you think is doing the most interesting beer things in the UK right now?
A: Anyone with a coolship! Spontaneously fermented yeast and turbid mashing are kinda archaic in terms of brewing process but at the same time, extremely difficult to get right. Check out Burning Sky.
7) Who is doing the most interesting beer things worldwide for you right now? And where would be your favourite beer destination/adventure if you could choose to head somewhere on holiday?
A: There’s too many places to choose. I’d maybe fly to Seattle, pick up the West Coast and go to every brewery along the way!
I really want to visit Cantillon and Boon in Brussels, I’m fascinated by super traditional pre yeast isolation brewing techniques. The really interesting thing is that the technique pre-dates scientific advances in the isolation of singular yeast strains. We brewed for thousands of years before Louis Pasteur discovered what made beer ferment, we just knew it worked!
American Solera in the USA would be on there – Spontaneous fermentation again. As would Russian River, USA – Obviously Pliny, but I want to try some of Vinnie Cilurzo’s more funky range using brettanomyces. Brett’s a really interesting strain, use regular yeast and it does it’s thing, but use brett in a soured beer and you get the bio conversion of acids and off flavours into fruit flavours. So interesting, sorry if I’m boring you YEAST BERLINERS!
8) What are your favourite tunes to have on whilst enjoying drinking or brewing beer to get you in the zone?
A: It really depends on mood or what I’m doing but here’s a few favourites:
Mastodon, Mowtown, No FX, Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, The Bronx, The Human Project
9) What is one awesome discovery you’d like to share with our YEAST BERLINERS that you’ve found out on your own beer journey?
A: Wow, that’s a hard one. I guess I discovered that brewing makes me a better person. It helps me remain calm when chips are down, teaches me never to give up and how to graft. It’s great to be passionate about what I do, to me brewing makes a difference and ties me into 4000 years of brewing tradition. As brewers we’re part of history. It’s a journey of self discovery.
10) Finally – where can people find you at next and more information about West Berkshire Brewery and Renegade?
A: Drop into the brewery and I’ll show you some cool shit! Festivals and events are off the cards for me at the moment until I’ve finished installing the new kit!
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