West Berkshire CAMRA hosted its first Meet the Brewer Zoom event on 8 April 2021. At the free event, Richard Marshall talked about Hermitage brewery and introduced three beers which some participants had purchased in readiness.
Richard Marshall (Hermitage Brewery) writes:
I’ve long had an professional interest in fermented foods having been a research scientist studying cheese production. Project funding was cut in 1992 and so I moved into academia, teaching food science. I’d been brewing ales for my own enjoyment for many years so when I was made redundant, again, in 2012, friends persuaded me that I could go commercial. It took about a year to set up the brewery, which is at the back of our house in Hermitage. The first beer produced was Grimsbury Castle, named after the Iron Age hillfort that is just a few hundred metres away. Since then, the range of ales has expanded so that now there are 7 that we produced fairly regularly and another 5 or so that are produced seasonally.
Beers tasted during ‘Meet the Brewer’:
ABV 4.8% OG 1044
Along with the pale malt there’s a touch of wheat malt. Lightly hopped with Challenger and East Kent Goldings hops. As with most ‘blonde’ ales it is slightly cloudy, which comes from the wheat malt. Light gold in colour and easy drinking.
ABV 5.0% OG 1046
Made with our favourite Maris Otter pale malt from Warminster. Then First Gold and Northdown hops are added in the copper. Dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings for 5 days which gives lovely citrus notes. The name comes from a local hamlet where there was once a well and a Roman villa.
ABV 4% OG 1043
Chocolate and crystal malts give the depth of malt flavour and colour along with our favourite Maris Otter pale malt from Warminster Maltings, which balances out the hops. The hops used are First Gold and Fuggles, the classic English hop.
Richard writes: I can now confirm that the following outlets will have all the beers that we’ll be tasting in the Meet the Brewer event for my brewery. They are: The Inn at Home, Hermitage PO and Stores, the Pangbourne Cheese Shop and Hampstead Norreys Community Shop. There are others but they won’t always have the full range. If people wish to pre-order, they can do this through me (email@example.com) but must collect from Hermitage PO and pay there. Richard also advises that the cost for the 3 bottles from Hermitage PO and Stores would be £7.50.
Inn at Home, Newbury, offers free delivery for orders over £30 https://www.innathome.co.uk/ Opening hours: Sunday 11.00am – 4.00pm, Monday – Closed, Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am – 4.00pm. Phone: 01635 48945
Hermitage brewery on Facebook: www.facebook.com/hermitagebrewery
About 15 participants logged onto Zoom at 7.30pm and the event started with a brief introduction from Andy Pinkard, Chair of West Berkshire CAMRA.
Richard Marshall described his experience of brewing as being ‘a hobby, a very enjoyable hobby’. He started brewing with kits but moved onto whole grains before deciding to ‘go commercial’ in 2012.
The Hermitage brewery kit comprises a Mash Tun below a Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) and a ‘Copper’ for the boil. The half barrel size kit is adequate for brewing 2 firkin casks (72 pints each). The fermenting vessels each hold 100 – 120 litres. Richard sometimes does ‘back to back’ brews and is able to blend the two resulting beers at the packaging stage for consistency. The yellow hosepipe in the brewery photo is for cooling the wort after the boil and rainwater can be used for this process which has been improved recently for quicker cooling. Richard described his brewery as a nano brewery and said ‘I have a pico kit’.
During Lockdown most of the brewery output has been packaged in 500ml bottles. To bottle 180 bottles takes about an hour. The bottle labels are designed and printed at the brewery. Richard’s daughter helps with label designs.
Richard is not sure about expanding. The brewery is currently profitable allowing reinvestment in items like a pH meter to accurately measure acidity. He said ‘I want to go on brewing as long as I can. I don’t have room to expand here.’
Richard brews beers that he enjoys drinking. He uses ‘day sheets’ to record all the brewing data. Since December 2020, he records this data on a Tablet using Google Sheets.
Asked about the recipes he uses, Richard explained that it is easy to find recipes but he would normally adapt any published recipe he found to suit the brewery. For ingredients, he uses dried yeast and mainly English (whole leaf) hops from Charles Faram. Malt is sourced from Warminsters Maltings and conveniently this was not far off his route when his work was at Bath Spa University. The water used is from the Thames Water domestic supply. He may add gypsum to increase the sulphate level.
For bottled beers, Richard adds a different ‘killer’ yeast at bottling time which takes over from any remaining original yeast.
No forced carbonation is used and CAMRA considers Hermitage Brewery bottle conditioned beers are Real Ale in a Bottle.
Richard talked about the different Hermitage Brewery beers including Hocktide (supplied to the Hungerford Hocktide lunch), Summer of Love (for which a Belgian yeast is used), Harvest Time (autumn seasonal).
The winter seasonal is FrostBite ‘a light, bright ale – crisp and clean’.
Asked about where drinkers can find Hermitage Brewery beers, Richard mentioned the Cow & Cask in Newbury, the Spotted Dog in Cold Ash, the Fox at Peasemore and local beer festivals like the Newbury Real Ale Festival.
There are no online sales and he does not sell from the premises due to licence requirements and associated costs.
Zoom help centre: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/categories/200101697-Getting-Started