Sunday, 9 October 2011

A Certain X Factor – A New Brewery.

The moment when reality slapped me square on, I was standing in a queue at the bank. My trousers were soaked in wort and my hands stained green from breaking up a block of hops. I had given up a cosy life in a nice office for early morning starts and constantly wet socks. Brewing is certainly not glamorous. But I smiled to myself and felt an inner glow; I had no regrets.

Beer! It’s Britain’s national drink for a reason. Good quality British Beer is one thing that makes living here so great; there is nothing else quite like it in the world.

I have lived in different countries but the one constant thing throughout it all has been a love of beer. It’s a wonderful creation and people have enjoyed it since the dawn of civilisation. Beer served in a welcoming local pub is the lubricant and glue of a community.

There is such an amazing diversity of beer in this country from a range of wildly different breweries. However there are some very unfortunate people who think real ale is made from twigs and leaves, and much of the beer branding in this country does little to help.

Over the past year I have been researching, working at another excellent local brewery and raiding piggy banks in order to start my own new venture. Gradually that plan is coming together: the brewery site is leased, casks ordered, the brew kit is designed and will be proudly built in Britain. With a good wind from behind, the first brews should flow by autumn this year.

Based at Notley Farm, near Thame, the new XT Brewery will primarily produce a variety of quality cask real ale but we may dabble in the new style of craft keg beers as well. Real Ale is an honest yet sophisticated drink; it should be presented in an unfussy and straight forward way to help widen its appeal and show people what they are missing.

So what’s with the funny name, XT? In today’s directory of brewers there was an obvious empty space between W and Y. Traditionally X was the standard method of naming beers; brewers simply added more Xs as the beer got stronger, and T signified the best ale kept back for the boss’s own table. There is a strong link to tradition but it also has a modern ring to it.

A man and a woman walk into a pub.... how do they choose which beers to drink? How do you squish all the relevant information onto one little pump clip? What do I, and most other beer drinkers, want to learn about each beer in order to help make that all important decision about which one to try? Our labels will seem a bit different when you first see them, but we hope they will answer those questions.

Aren’t there enough breweries in Britain now? Is there ever too much of a good thing? Competition is good; it can drive innovation, encourage better quality and bring a greater product variety. The growing army of enthused owner-operator micro breweries will expand the appeal of this wonderful product. We are not competing with other micro brewers but with the big multinationals that control the vast bulk of the beer market.

There is still a lot to be done before we can mash-in for the first time. We hope you will follow our progress as we dig drains (yes, more glamour), untangle red tape and refurbish our old farm building into a working brewery.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Ten, nine, eight....

“Your vessels are all nearly ready”

I was on the phone with our equipment fabricators in Burton upon Trent, we had been talking regularly about the designs, but this was the first time I realised that we are getting very close now. Over the past month we have been preparing the floors and drainage needed to get the brewery ready for the equipment to arrive. The big ‘pots’ will be delivered to our new brewery by the end of September and then we will start plumbing them in and hooking up all the electrical wizardry. All the connections and ancillary equipment will turn it into a living, breathing, working brewery.

In the last edition we introduced you to the new XT brewery which is located at Notley Farm near Thame. The brewery is designed so we can produce a wide range of cask conditioned beers using traditional methods but with a modern twist.

We hope that the beers will be popular in local pubs but we also know you like to drink fresh beer at home. In order that you can enjoy our beers direct from the brewery we have been working to get a licence to sell from our very informal little shop on site. Next time you’re in a pub, spare a thought for the landlord who, like us, had to climb a mountain of paperwork just to hand you that pint.

There are so many different things to sort out, many of which I never even thought about in the original plans and more often it’s the smallest things that seem to take up all your time and money. I haven’t even had any time recently to brew! Hopefully we can put that right in the very near future.

As we move closer I will keep taking photos and posting them on the Facebook page so you can follow our progress to the first pint.

Happy drinking, Russ and Gareth, XT Brewing Company.