And so it begins.
Today is the start of a new chapter, one I’ve been working towards in one way or another for longer than I want to think about. In the early days it wasn’t anything more than a pipedream and plenty of times along the way the ideas have morphed and changed. Over the years there have been plans of mobile pizza ovens or a gyoza stand, Vietnamese street food stall and even carpentry or furniture making. What I have known all along is I wanted to create something, with my hands, and share that thing with other people, I wanted a craft. These ideas weren’t just fleeting thoughts, they would become all consuming, bordering on obsessions. But they would all fade, that is apart from my obsession with brewing.
Now the day is here, I have the keys to the brewery and the real work begins but before I start, let me introduce myself and give you a bit of a history of how I’ve got here today.
My name is Simon. I am now the very proud owner of Castle Brewery and will be the brewer (as well as marketing manager, bookkeeper, stock controller, cellarman, delivery driver and the list goes on!). I grew up in Cornwall moving away for uni and work returning in 2020 to the place I love the most.
I have spent the majority of my working life in architecture, for much of this I have had the distinct feeling it was not what I really wanted to spend the rest of my days doing. It’s not that I dislike architecture or that I have any regrets in doing it, quite the opposite. I’m extremely proud of the projects I have got to work on and grateful for the experiences it has offered me along the way. In a way, as strange as it sounds, the way I have approached architecture has had a lot to do with the way in which I approach brewing. A keen attention to detail, active problem solving, analytical approach to research, development and creating things of beauty, all things very relevant to my approach to brewing.
Thinking back, the idea of a brewery was always the starting point of my journey, a path to discovering what I wanted to devote myself to. I can clearly remember discussing in depth with my best mate about how we were going to start a brewery in his mum’s barn. There were two main criteria for this brewery, the name and that we would only drive Citroen 2CV vans, obviously the key requirements for a great brewery. That was 2006 and although it was talked about passionately it never really went any further, Two Horse Brewery would sadly never be.
You could say my interest in brewing has stemmed from a passion for food and drink. As a teenager, working in pub and restaurant kitchens in the evenings and weekends outside of school had a lasting effect on me. Watching some amazing chefs create dishes from fresh, simple local ingredients inspired me to cook and experiment at home. This experimentation filtered down into my home brewing and is still something that excites me today, taking simple ingredients, nothing special on their own, and turning them into something completely different.
Although I had been brewing in one sense or another since around 2004 it took nearly 11 years to dive into all-grain brewing. I jumped straight in with only a very basic understanding of the principles, not really taking the time to appreciate how complex and in-depth the process could be. It would take me another 5 years before I could say I was really taking the craft seriously and beginning to think that maybe it was something I could do for an actual job. 2019 rolled around and I needed to do something to push myself into the craft focused lifestyle I was searching for, so I made a bold decision. I left a stable job with a good salary and the potential for career progression to start working as a consultant part time and dedicate the rest of my time learning and throwing myself into something I was passionate about.
I felt my best chance of moving into the brewing industry would be to start visiting breweries, helping out where I could and getting a more structured brewing education. The head brewer at Harbour Brewery gave me a great first insight into what life was like working in the brewing industry, Theo at Castle Brewery invited me to assist on some brew days and I can’t thank the guys down at Driftwood Spars enough for their help and the opportunities I have had helping them out. Next was a brewing education, I have recently completed my GCB examination with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, although the course is more focused towards the larger scale breweries it has provided me a greater depth of understanding on the science of brewing. This and the extra reading about brewing and brewing science has only reinforced that a life in brewing is 100% for me. My growing book collection is becoming an obsession in itself but I’ll wait to bore you all about that for a later post.
I have been exploring beer, experimenting with different techniques and ingredients in an attempt to find a focus for a future brewery project over the past couple of years. My love of flavours and food has led me down a path towards beer and food, how a decent beer can be a great accompaniment to food. Living in Cornwall I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes, I want to be able to capture a part of that and bottle it. So how could I capture the essence of a place, bottle it and make it something perfect to drink next to dinner? My answer to this question, wild yeast captured from the local surroundings and where possible the use of local ingredients. I have spent some time more recently capturing and propagating wild yeasts and souring bacteria, taking them from wild gorse flowers, hazel catkins or just simply capturing them from the air. The funky and sour flavours make for great food pairings and help to capture the essence of here. The ambition is to make this an important part of the brewery, the longer fermentation times and aging of mixed fermentation beers means that this will be a more long-term project but there are lots of new and exciting things to come.
This brings us nicely on to this year, I had been searching, not so successfully, for a premises to start the brewery from. There were a few non-starters, units that were either too small or far too large, drainage issues and some places that would require far too much work to make them a viable brewery. I had pretty much given up searching, thinking that maybe now just wasn’t the right time and I’d come back to in 6 months. I was checking my junk emails one evening (which I rarely did by the way) and happened to notice an email from Castle Brewery, Theo, the previous owner was retiring and was looking for someone to take the brewery forward. I don’t believe in fate but this is the closest I have come to becoming a believer!
Castle Brewery has been on the scene for the past 15 years and the previous owner has done a fantastic job creating some truly amazing award-winning beers. The brewery has been focused on the production of traditional British ales, some really great ones at that. I am a big fan of the beers produced here and am exited to be carrying the torch and continuing the hard work Theo has put in here. I aim to take the brewery into the next 15 years and beyond, brewing the same beer people have come to love. I will be bringing the same dedication to the brewery whilst adding my own twist with additions to the classic range and a new range of farmhouse and sour ales.
So here we are, that’s me, where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Writing this first post, reflecting on the past 18 years, all the ideas I’ve had in that time and to finally be in a position where I know where I’m heading has been a little overwhelming. To me this is far more than just a beer business, it is my hobby, my passion and now my craft. I am so stoked for what the future holds.