Read on for a whistle stop tour of our brewing journey: from stove top to garage takeover. It's not quite a Heineken funded takeover, but its ours.
2014 - Barack made me brew
It was a YouTube binge that got this whole thing started. I stumbled on this video — of the White House Kitchen doing home brew on the stovetop — and I was hooked.
Things progressed quickly. From a kitchen pot to a custom combo mash-tun-and-boil kettle sourced by my Dad and installed in our utility room.
My brewery adventures also share a birth year with my eldest son, who arrived the month after my first ever brew.
2015 - "This is good enough to sell..."
Emboldened by more successes that failures I asked the opinion of the landlords of my local, The Victoria Inn in Colchester.
Sheena and Andy know their beer, and they don’t mince their words. Must be something about being from Yorkshire. Encouragement followed the samples I provided, and I ended a night at the pub in traditional fashion: emailing HMRC to ask “how do you set up a brewery?”
Forms were filled and inspections made, and pretty soon my utility room was approved to brew commercially. On the tiniest scale imaginable.
2016 - Moving on up
A change of job meant a chance to move. And the first thing on the list was a garage I could brew in. We found a perfect place in Debenham — back in my home county of Suffolk — and set about turning the garage from a garage, into a brewery.
At one point all four generations of my family lent a hand on the project. We hand dug the services, hand painted the floor and hand dragged the tanks into place.
Our second son was born in the summer, swiftly followed by all the brewery kit. Our first brew was a disaster — a thermometer failed and we ended up with hundred of litres of undrinkable beer. Every day’s a school day.
2017 - Meet the brewer
After settling in to our new digs we were ready to stretch our wings. And our friends at The Vic gave us the perfect chance: a tap takeover of all the cask lines on their bar.
Five beers — which took us several months to produce — but it was worth every moment. There are very feelings that compare to a pub packed with people drinking the beers you’ve made by hand.
In between all of that we fitted in a brew with two of the world’s finest people — Ed and Fergus — and made a ‘unique’ beer called Twiggy Hopper. That beer broke our mash tun. And, at 9%, it broke me after I drank several pints of it when it made its was on to the bar the next year.
2018 - Fresh hops and new tanks
Whilst our new Brewhouse was lovely, it needed some fettling to really make it fit. We sold our old tanks, and bought a new one that we could use to make smaller batches.
We also brewed our first fresh hop beer on the new kit. This was a real family — and village — affair. With over 5kg of amazing fresh local hops going into the brew kettle. That was a fun brew.
We were also visited by Tom of #craftbeerhour, who is not only a lovely chap, but a local. Suffolk really does have the best people in beer.
2019 - Oak, bottles and Christmas Cake
We played in 2019. My youngest helped us bottle up some brews which had great feedback.
We put our first beers into wood. The first was an awful disaster. The second — a strong IPA finished with two whole Christmas Cakes (one in the boil, one in the cask, because why not) was a triumph. It’s still slumbering in there now.
We finished the year with another fresh hop brew, which this time made its way to the bar of the local pub. Local hops, brewed locally, on sale in the local. Marvellous.
2020 - Misadventures in bottling. (And COVID)
Very little brewing happened in 2020. The day job took over and I thought long and hard about how to keep this little project going.
We decided to switch to bottling — up until this point all our brews had been sold directly to pubs — and experimented with making a bottling rig. The cardboard mock up made its way to a stainless steel frame, but the test runs were horrible. I’m glad we didn’t continue. Better things came next.
2021 - Crowdfunding, canning and plumbing
The world started to look a bit more normal, and kind offers of support for our future led to a crowdfunder.
We were overwhelmed, and easily raised enough money for two new tanks, an upgraded refrigeration system and a homunculus of a heat exchanger.
I spent the rest of the year doing plumbing, fixing leaks and getting all the new kit installed. We ended the year with our first ever canning run — which cemented my amazing wife’s position as a logistics and planning demon. The beers were pretty good too.
2022 - Leaky flanges
A mixed bag. We discover a major problem with our can seamer which meant we couldn’t brew until the leaky flanges were fixed. Much head scratching followed, but we were saved by the immense engineering of Gorilla Canning. Thank you, Pete.
Matt, one of our Crowdfunders, donated his reward of a full brew to raise funds for Ukraine. It was a lovely idea and great to make a new friend whilst doing some good.
The year ended with our biggest very release — five beers, all in can — and a charity brew in support of St. Elizabeth hospice. What a year!