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Meet Bucklebury Brewery

Ray Herbert & Steve Harris pouring Bucklebury Black at the Cow & Cask 20/11/2021

On Saturday 20 November 2021, Steve Harris and Ray Herbert greeted 13 people at the Cow & Cask, Newbury, for a Meet the Brewer event organised by landlord Ian Batho.

Before the 7.30pm start, customers had been drinking from the current range of cask ales which included Bucklebury Best.

Steve introduced Bucklebury Brewery saying:

We set the business up about April 2020 and got our brewing licence in July 2020.

Tonight, we’ve got four different beers, our mainline beers, for you to try. We’ve got a couple of other specials if you fancy something that’s a little bit experimental. The two specials are not on sale at the moment but we welcome any feedback if you fancy trying those, they’re a little bit different.

I started off brewing when I was about 16 and at college. I kept brewing off and on all the time. Ray and I, have known each other as friends for about 12 years. We were stood at the bar in the Cottage Inn, the local pub in Upper Bucklebury and we got into a conversation about brewing. At the time we didn’t know a huge amount about brewing but bit by bit we built up the skills and some kit and got going.

We are kind of homegrown home brewers in a way in that some of the kit we use is still at homebrew scale but not all of it. We’ve built up the kit so the production kit we use is about 100 litres, the fermenters are up to 200 litres so we’ve got up to about 700 / 750 litres of fermentation in total.

I mentioned the Cottage Inn, we’ve been working closely with them for a while and they are sort of the test bed in a way so they’ve been really good about supporting us and getting us off the ground and so through the Cottage we started selling beer to them in tall kegs and they were selling it through lockdown for takeaways.

We got into bottles last Christmas when we had a decent demand for the beers and now we’re into casks. Ian’s got a cask of Bucklebury Best on here and we’ve started to get the beer out into other pubs now.

We’ve got four beers that we produce so we’ve got two kinds of pubby type beers. Bucklebury Gold is the first one we made which is a golden ale, a bit citrussy. We’ve got Bucklebury Best, a traditional best bitter.

Bucklebury Brewery core bottle range. (Photo: Bucklebury Brewery)

We’ve also got Bucklebury Black which is a Black IPA so it looks a bit like a stout but it’s brewed in the way of an IPA.

We’ve also got Bucklebury Harvest which is a German style Marzen beer. It’s brewed with an ale yeast, not a lager yeast, but it’s a lager beer.

It’s a second job for me, my main job is in IT. I kind of balance it and work from home on the IT side and the brewery is in my garage. It started off as about 1/3 of the garage and it will probably grow to fill the whole garage.

Ray then introduced himself saying:

My background is nothing to do with beer at all it’s in electronics. I worked a lot around the Newbury area as a testing engineer in electronics but always interested in ale. I did some winemaking when I was about 18 so knew a bit about the process of fermentation.

When we were talking in the pub we thought it would be a great idea to try and produce some beer. We did lots of brews that we gave to our work colleagues, friends and family to see what they thought of all these beers. They were the ones who kept saying ‘This is really good stuff you ought to think about selling it’ and that is what got us thinking.

I thought I’d retired but now I’m not, it certainly keeps me busy. I’d retired from work for about a month. We started putting the business together. We had to get in touch with HMRC and West Berkshire Council for the licence applications which went through pretty smoothly.

Gary at the Cottage was really helpful. When he had his first outdoor event during lockdown we supplied him and it went really well and that gave us more heart to produce a bit more and from there we formulated our own recipes and it was just deciding on what we thought the public might like with a couple of special stronger ones as well.

When questions were invited, Steve Kelly asked about the Bucklebury Brewery logo.

Steve Harris explained that it’s two bees to match the initials of Bucklebury Brewery. Steve added that his daughter does all the branding and images for the brewery.

The first beer to be sampled was Bucklebury Gold.

Steve explained that it is brewed with Fuggle and Challenger hops. He also mentioned a little bit of extra flavouring which gives it a citrussy finish, but said

I’m not going to tell you what it is. That’s the thing that makes it a little different. It is 4.3%.

When we bottle, cask or keg it goes in unfiltered. We put finings in the cask but not in the kegs. The kegs are convenient for serving with CO2 for top pressure. That was the beer we got started with, we converted lager drinkers with Bucklebury Gold.

Asked about the later adoption of casks, Steve said:

We only got into casks because of the Newbury real ale festival. We had to rapidly get some casks. Now we have got the casking right the next pubs we will probably try and supply are the Bladebone, Chapel Row, and the Old Boot Inn and the Bull in Stanford Dingley. The colour band registered for Bucklebury Brewery casks is Yellow, Yellow, Grey.

Ian Batho chipped in to say that he prefers breweries who collect their empty casks promptly and the tardy breweries are likely to go to the back of his list for reorders.

Bucklebury Harvest

After Bucklebury Best, Bucklebury Harvest was the third beer to be served. Describing the beer, Steve said:

This is a German style beer. It’s got a Pilsner malt base as opposed to the Maris Otter with a few others in there as well. There’s a little bit of a very dark malt in there. The hops are German. The main bittering hops is one called Tettnang and then there’s a noble hop called Hallertau Mittelfruh which is the aroma hop. Bucklebury Harvest takes quite a long time to ferment out and is akin to a sort of lager style.

It comes in this form at 5.8% which is too strong for pubs typically. On request we’ve created a sister of Harvest which we’ve called Bucklebury Fireside. We got it into the Cottage Inn for their fireworks do. They have an outside bar there and they had two casks of that. We’re going to add Fireside in as a seasonal beer which we’ll keep doing in cask. It’s 3.9% ABV.

Bucklebury Black

Bucklebury Black was the fourth beer to be sampled and this was served from bottles. This is a Black IPA brewed with Citra hops. This is a favourite beer style of Steve’s and he said:

One of our principles is that I don’t want to make beer that I don’t want to drink.

Having completed a tasting of the core range, the next sample to be offered was an experimental fruited sour beer with ingredients including beetroot, apple and cherry. It was smooth and slightly sour.

Finally, there was an opportunity to taste an experimental pale ale brewed with New Zealand hops, served from a bottle and tentatively named WaiKiWi. This was dry and those commenting were finding the beer rather bitter.

Asked about the future of Bucklebury Brewery, Steve said:

I honestly don’t know. At the moment we’ve got limited outgoings and limited risk. The moment we grow we’ll have to rent somewhere.

Asked about outlets apart from pubs where Bucklebury Brewery bottled beers can be found, Steve listed:

  • Casey Fields Farm Shop at Vicars Game, Ashampstead
  • Cook & Butcher, Thatcham
  • Hampstead Norreys Community Shop
  • Bradfield Southend Village Shop
  • Peaches Stores, Upper Bucklebury

To read more about Bucklebury Brewery and find photos of the brewery equipment visit their Facebook page: @BuckleburyBrewery