It really does feel like we have been brewing for a lot longer than the 4 months we have actually been. I truly can say 'we' now because we have brought Ant on to the team to help out and are currently looking at taking on another brewer too, so things really are starting to move along.
In this short amount of time you lot have drank about 6000 pints of our beer already. Obviously with the good weather our paler beers have been flying out. Current trend is that I brew a beer and the next week it is all sold out, our pale ale, golden ale and session IPA are in constant production.
Since my last blog I've met some amazing people at lots of different events and pubs. I headed up to The Bevy community pub to catch up with Iain and Bob to see how I can help them out. It truly is a great place, that focuses itself on being the hub of the local community and using it's spaces for lots of community engagement, from the cookery courses for kids to producing food (and great food at that) at really good prices for local people (one of the best sausage and mash I've had in a pub cost £3.50). I went along to help out on the bar at a street party they had a few weeks ago and it was amazing, the work being done there by everyone is really keeping a valuable local asset going, and giving back as much as it can to its locals.
I've offered my service up to the guys there and currently I'm helping mentor the bar manager, Charlie, and trying to impart as much useful information as I can. We are also going to be doing a beer for them, which we will distribute throughout Sussex with a portion of all sales going back into their community fund.
If you haven't been there please do go along, and see a proper local pub as it should be run!
FARM FEST 2017
On the 26th August this year here at Little Goldsmiths Farm we will be holding a music and beer festival! Whooooop... I know, it is going to be amazing.. Plenty of room for a bit of family fun. With over 400 people expected this year, this free event is going to have over 15 bands playing and loads of beer and cider from our lovely brewery and out apple-crushing friends.
It will start at around mid-day and keep on going until the early hours of the morning.. if you fancy coming along, I will be doing some brewery tours first early at around lunch and then manning the beer hut for the rest of the evening.. I think I might bring a tent! If you are interested drop me a line through the contact bit of this website
The Festival of Jim - Laughton
We have worked with Alex for about 5 years now running the bar here at the festival of Jim. There is a spooky connection between Penge and Lewes that brings 100s of us all out for a lovely family festival celebrates the life of musician, writer and performer Jim Marcovitch and has grown into one of the loveliest festivals you can imagine. Based in some amazing woodland just outside of Laughton this festival of music, entertainment food and beer is one not to be missed. Little Freddie will be making his first Holler Boys outing. If you are looking for a great family festival with a bit of camping too please do check this out!
Click here for tickets and more information
Our Keg Beer
When I first started brewing at Holler Boys my focus was on cask beer. A lot of the local pubs around me are very cask focused and as a great lover of cask ale this was the perfect place for me to start. I could build up a good relationship with the pub who would help me in developing the right beers. As with every new producer feedback from the customers is a key thing for our development and meeting so many new faces and getting the support from them has been amazing and has really helped me perfect the beers.
My next plan was to go back to the reason that I wanted to start up Holler Boys, and that was to produce some amazing crafty beers taking influence from everything I have been involved with in the craft beer boom up in London, and from our time in New York. In between my time at Late Knights and the opening of Holler Boys I did a lot of brewing in my shed! I tested these beers out on the boys at Plumpton Athletic (the finest football team in the whole of Plumpton) and they went down very well.
I wanted to have a core range of really drinkable beers, packed full of hops and love. I also wanted to nail a really crisp Steam Beer, and test brewed it about 10 times before I was really happy with it.. So now we have our core rage of Keg Beers available. Again I tried it out on a few select places and the feedback has been amazing!
Check out our beer section for more on these beers. I'm hoping you are going to see a lot more of these beers in the future. We are starting to bottle these beers very soon too!
Cheat Mode - PALE ALE - 3.8% citrusy banger
Fog Cutter - SESSION IPA - 4.5% cascadian wonderbus
Heavy Lifting - DRY HOPPED STOUT - 4.2% energising masterpiece
Bunko - STEAM BEER - 4.2% lagerish belter
I'm sorry about the descriptions, you should really go to the beer page, it makes much more sense.
Keep on enjoying the summer, people!
Steve, Ant & Bethany
This time last year, I was in the midst of a battle. 6 weeks earlier I'd taken an almighty bash on my head playing football (it was in the semi-final, and we still won!) This, accompanied by a tremendous amount of stress from some internal wrangles at Late Knights (my old brewery and pub co) set me up for a summer of major uncertainty, soul searching, physical & mental recovery.
The physical side of things I kept to myself as much as I could, as I needed a lot of rest and I wasn't in a position to even be able to speak or get out of my bed for about 3 months. The whack had messed with my inner-ear and I had lost all balance, 80% of my hearing and given (what I thought was) a permanent migraine (one of the bad ones that make you sick loads). From being a 100% busy-pub and beer-boy, I'd gone to a stage that I couldn't go into a supermarket without the whole world spinning and needing to sit in the car whilst Bethany did the weekly shop. Getting on a busy train was my idea of a living nightmare.
At Late Knights Bethany and I had created some amazing pubs, from The Ravensgate Arms in Ramsgate, to the Brighton Beer Dispensary and a bunch of great boozers in London. When the Summer was over and I was still in the middle of my recovery we had to let our pubs go, I wasn't able to give them the support they needed and we had firmly set up our life in East Sussex. It was heart-breaking, but the battle wasn't worth having anymore. Even from my reclusive state I tried very hard to make sure that the splitting of the company would be done to the best for our people & customers and that each pub would still be given the best chance possible to prosper. We had some great people in place to make this happen, and I'm glad to say that many of the pubs are still going strong.
What we were trying to do in South London (and a few other satellite boozing areas) was to take old buildings that weren't being used to their potential and add something to the community, and all under the banner of -great beer and great people. Be it taking a sloppy old enterprise pub in Brighton and turning it into one of the best pubs in Sussex, or clapped out old bookmakers in Gipsy Hill & Peckham.
I miss these places, I miss the people who we created these sites with. Lots of them have gone on to do some amazing things and I'd like to think that our audacity helped inspire some people along the way; our youthful naïvety and ambition had created a good business out of not a lot and formed social places that people now called home.
Liam has set up his own soft drinks company in Manchester, Nick has an award winning Vegan Cafe in Berlin, Henry is working with Tool brewery, Andy with Four Pure, Ross with By The Horns & Catherine with Hop, Burns & Black. Matty ran a hostel and finally took up surf teaching. Ben took up the running of the Beer Rebellions, whilst Darren and Sam went to run my old business partners' side of the Beer Dispensaries. Jon & Theresa headed to Germany to start their own beer bar concept, Mik opened up some market stalls and Aiden is at Brick Brewery. Sanj is working with Utobeer, Fran and Amanda are still winning at life (we were just lucky to have them!) Pete moved to SA to start his own catering company, Roger is working with Gadds, Kiwi Matt has set up his own brewery and Jim and Cody are about the best thing to happen to Brighton apart from their promotion to the Premier League.
This was our first step into working for ourselves. We had opened some very good places for Fullers (Barrel & Horn in Bromley, and the Union Tavern in Westbourne Park) but the move into starting our own company was a big leap into the unknown. As with every first time entrepreneurs there was a lot to learn and over the course of the 4 years with Late Knights I learned more than you ever could at a University course on business studies. I learned a lot about the importance of setting the company structure up properly, of getting the right people to invest in you and of how easy it is to become detached from your core business from growing too fast.
I was 29 when I opened Late Knights Brewery and our first pubs in Gipsy Hill and Brighton, and the rollercoaster was about to set off. Over the next 4 years the people who we met and the amazing things that we have created have shaped the way I want to live the rest of my life. Our pubs had won lots of awards, but the beer never hit the highs that we wanted. This is where my distraction came in. I'd built the brewery and started brewing, but within a few weeks of our first brew I needed to employ someone to do that for me as we were opening pubs every other month. Being a small and unknown company we didn't have the ability to take on a head brewer and unfortunately we didn't have the right people in place to focus on the product with any real strategy. We had cobbled together a brewery out of old milking equipment, and the fact that we got the quality of beer we did out of that little back alley brewery was a miracle. But we did, the end product was a bit hit and miss and this is the biggest regret I have from Late Knights, that I moved out of the brewery too soon.
So in October and I had the all clear from my head injury, I started planning what I was going to do next. If LK had inspired so many people to go into business, I was pretty sure that I could take everything that I had learnt and start again but with this all in place. Number 1 was to build a proper brewery in a good space, with room to grow. Number 2 was to focus hard on the quality of the product and work with my initial customers to constantly improve each beer. Number 3 was to have a firm strategy about how I want to develop Holler Boys, and how I can help people learn from what I have done in the past 5 years.
The best thing that I have had over the past year is support, be it from Bethany and our family, medical or alternative therapists or from all of my beery friends (you know who you all are! xx).
I suppose, it isn't really the 'what' I'm doing that will set me apart (I'm on a mission to make great beer that people like drinking - that isn't too unique & also open some really nice places to drink it in) it is the 'why' and 'how' that is more important to me.
I've been working in pubs and beer all of my life (it is my life) and I want to do something a bit different. I opened the brewery on my mate's farm and Ant is already planning to be growing all of the pale barley we need to brew with and plant 10 acres of hops - that is cool. We are looking at ways to put solar panels on the whole of the brewery to create as much of our own energy as we can. Our brewery waste already goes through a bio-bed which completely denatures the chemicals before being used on his fields.
I guess that is a little bit of 'what we are doing' but we want to be as self sustainable as possible, because if it is possible to do something good for the planet then we bloody-well should. I'm also mainly doing this to earn a living and support my family, as most of us do. But also I want to use this as a way to help, I was lucky that I had so much support and help to get me through some pretty difficult times over the last year, but I know that a lot of people don't get that help. It is getting easier for people to talk about mental health issues, but it really is still a stigma, I've lost 2 pals over the past 3 years who didn't get that help.
It affects all walks of life, from rich footballers to confused teenagers. Male or female, black or white, rich or poor, it is the one thing that runs through the whole world, but it is something that we can all help with. I'm looking to partner with a few local mental health charities who we can not only financially support (by committing a chunk of all of our profits to) but also open our lovely space on our farm for a bit of a space to get away from it all come and help out here. If you think you know of a group that might fit with us please do put us in touch.
My way of dealing with the anxiety brought on from the head injury (and of course stress!) was to put my focus into something fulfilling, and I was very lucky I had the opportunity to open Holler Boys and from October - February I was based at the farm cleaning, painting, plumbing and building our brew space (with the help from some great people).
2017 has started off very well, I have fully recovered from the ailments of 2016 (pretty much everyone had a shitty 2016!) I've created something amazing (well 2 things, as my son Fred was born in April!) and my desire to do something great that gives back to my community is stronger than ever. I'm thankful to the world for giving me this chance to have this adventure, and I'd love to take as many people as I can on it..
Come along... Why not be a Holler Boy/Girl too?!
Well after our first few weeks of the beer being on pumps, things have gone very well. All 4 of our beers went up to a beer festival in Egham, we also hit the bar in about 10 pubs across the county too and all went down very, very well.
This is so nice to hear, it seems that brewing is a hard industry with lots of forums for people to express their views on a simple product. To be honest I've felt quite nervous about this, as I've seen many vocal twitters slating the hard work of lots of very good brewers. I guess releasing a new beer is like showing your mates the new song you have written - you work very hard behind closed doors to get it to a point where you are very happy with it and then you hope other people like it! It can be a bit trickier with cask beer as you leave it in the hand of other people to finish off and I can see why a lot of brewers prefer other mediums of delivering beer to customers.
A beer that works well in the brewery might be trickier in certain pub environments, but here in Sussex (as in many other parts of the country) we have some amazing pubs who keep a mean pint. I mean, go and see some of the micro pubs in Worthing and you'll see some very fine cellerman/womanship.
I want to give the pubs the easiest job to do, so a nice clean beer that settles in minutes and is ready to go! But sometimes when the recipe that gives you the amazing beer you were after might use a yeast that takes a while longer to settle out and you don't want to filter out the good hopness you've gotta work a bit harder. It is a very tricky balancing act, and one I'm really enjoying... I ran pubs for a hell of long time and know how hard it is to keep a good pint, and it is great to see that people are still very passionate about real ale.
We've already got some great customers across the whole of Sussex, and are looking forward to getting more of our beer out there! I've met some amazing pub managers who are so supportive of local breweries, so I really don't think this new craft beer thing will just be a flash in the pan.. More than one has told me that they are finding it easier to take Harveys off the bar for a week or so, as people want to try different beers and have more allegiance with a local brewery like Gun or Franklins than Harveys.. Something I never thought I'd hear here in Sussex! But again great work to Toby and Steve and the work they have been doing for the last few years.
Another pretty big thing happened over Easter.. Bethany gave birth to our lovely son Freddie. I can't say how amazed I am at Bethany and the way she dealt with the whole thing, if us men were left to the birthing-merlarky there'd be a lot more moaning and groaning. She, as every mother is, is a complete star! We knew it'd be crazy as timings meant that the week that I first delivered beer would be her due week! She was very kind to give me a week or so more time before going into labour, but at home on a Saturday afternoon she brought Freddie into the world... Cue the cute picture of him...
I mean, seriously.. I know I'm his Dad, but he is a cute little thing!
Slowly but surely I'm getting back to it, I've been doing deliveries and making a few calls to the pubs, but as of next week I'm back brewing as sales are going really well and I need to get more stock!
Our first seasonal beer - Winner Winner - hits the pubs this week. It is a UK/Australasian Pale Ale. It really is rather nice, and a step towards a pale ale that we are putting into the core range in a month or so. I made a pure Aussie PA with loads of Galaxy hops, but wanted to put a bit more character to it, so I worked on a UK version with a different yeast and blended the two together before secondary fermentation and hit the jackpot. It has a great malty body (oh what I'd give for a malty body) and loads of tropical fruit from the hops.. A total belter. I took another 100ltr off the brew and fermented it up with a different yeast and used different dry hops, I'm gonna keep a cask or two of that for the festival down at the farm later this summer!
So in my first full week back I've got a few hundred cases of our rouser to bottle up as we have had a lot of interest in bottles, I'm also going to do the baby beer (a 7.2% red ale) that I brewed months ago, which is amazing now.. So I'll bottle that up and keep it for Christmas time.. I might keep a cask and a few kegs aside too for some lucky pub..
Anyway, nappies need changing!
When I first started brewing in 2012, this was the 3rd beer I ever made...Well, the basics of it were the same. I was brewing with my mate Matt back up in Middlesbrough and we wanted to make 2 new beers, a red ale and a stout.
Matt had a great malt bill for the red and we worked on the malt bill for the stout. Both of them needed to be nice and hoppy and pretty damn drinkable, so after working on what we were going to do with the hops for the red ale, we liked it so much we used exactly the same set up for the stout. Not too bitter, and lots of fruity sweetness from the hops. The outcome was amazing and ended up being some of the best beers we have made.
Fast forward 5 years or so and I was looking for another beer to round off the range here at Holler Boys and the double hopped stout was the way to go. I stuck with the same exact malt bill, but moved a few of the hops around a bit. As it came out of the fermenter I was so happy with it, when I put my nose in the vat all I got was a nose full of chocolate factory! Then the tasting time...and it was as balanced as I remember. Before putting any in casks I wanted to bottle some to make sure that it had the right amount of dry hopping - I didn't test brew this as I was trusting in our old recipe! After a week in bottle it came time to taste it, and we are really happy with it. It went straight into casks as is...I'm certainly going to do the a version of the red ale in cask as a seasonal ale soon.
The name heavy lifting comes from a conversation I have had with people who like the idea of working in a brewery. I said that it is a lot of cleaning and plenty of heavy lifting - With Bethany being 'super pregnant' at the mo, my Mam told me how they kept bottles of stout in the maternity wards when she was giving birth (for strength and iron). So with all of the heavy lifting needed in the brewery - I vowed to keep a good stock of my stout available at all times (to help with my strength..... of course!)
and that is how the beer done got it's name!
Barry and Tini heard about my stout, and we planned a game of golf on paddy's day based around the beer. We had a pint of Guinness at the half way point, but with me on designated driver duties, the rest of the plan was to ply them with bottles of my beer as much as possible so I won.
It worked, but an interesting conclusion was that Barry got better the more he drunk and Tini... well, lets just say he should have been driving if he wanted to have a chance!
After months of building and planning, years of testing and creating and weeks of brewing and fermenting....The beer is ready to go. It feels pretty emotional actually, because after all of this hard work, now the hard work really starts.
All of this means that next week we will be out on delivery across Sussex (so if you want some beer do get in touch) and that week is a week before Bethany's baby is due! So I'm loading up the store room with plenty of beer so I can have a few weeks with the little one myself.
Bethany managed to find Billy Mather - a belting illustrator from Brighton...go check his stuff out www.billymather.co.uk
There are plenty of artists in Bethany's family - Emily does all of the artwork for mad hatter brewery... But Bethany wanted to find someone who we could collaborate with to bring fresh new eyes to our artwork. We met Billy, I called him Bobby, I apologised and the rest is history!
We have cooked up 4 cracking cask ales to get the range going.... I can't wait until you try them, especially the English IPA.
I've done a lot of research into what makes a good IPA a good IPA, and really it is a very broad category. I wanted to start at the beginning and really nail (as much as could be) what people were attempting when they first made the infamous IPA. A 3% IPA didn't crop up until a hundred or so years later than the original, and that was only done as a marketing exercise to sell more beer to people who couldn't afford stronger beer (more alcohol = more tax). I still wanted it to be drinkable by the pint, sticking a 7% bad boy in a cask will taste amazing, but might just be the best way to end a night early. I looked at historic American breweries who brewed English Style IPAs before they moved everything over to kegged beer. Breweries like Ballentine's and Barclay Perkins developed some great English IPAs as well as UK legendary breweries such as Fullers and Bass. I wanted to take into account the brewing methods of the times these brews were first designed and factor that into my recipe. I wasn't too interested in making the beer taste like it did when it got off the boat though!
There certainly are things that I have done differently, the average age of a cask of IPA when first opened for consumption in India was anything from 18 months to 3 years old! They certainly did like to age a beer, as it rounded off any imperfections. Equally when it was brewed over here it was brewed until it went flat, but by the time it got across the water it was fizzy again. They didn't add any extra sugar, but the carbonation was brought about by brettanomyces which lurked in the wood of the casks which would eat away at the, generally, unfermentable sugars and do its magic on it...it would also leave a sour flavour to the beer. I do like a nice 'bretted' beer and I'm going to age some of this beer with brettanomyces to see what the outcome will be, but this isn't what I want my EIPA to be like.
I wanted the strength and the sweetness of a traditional IPA and only use UK products to make it. The current trend is to use US yeast that leaves very little flavour in the beer so the hops can dominate, I've used a very traditional ale yeast which adds to the balance of the whole 4 corners of a good beer.
I hope you like it as much as I have enjoyed making it - ooh and drinking it!
The other 3 beers also have pretty good stories behind them, but I'll let you in on them another day...Because I've managed to write this outside in the sunshine (yes, it does exist) and I really need to go and bottle some of the Heavy Lifting Stout to give out as samples next week!
Last week saw us finish the first run of our cask range. All in all it went pretty well, the weather changed from sun to snow, to crazy storms. The theory that we put behind our install was good too, from the first mash to the last transfer we have modified every bit to get it moving as sweetly as we can.
Working in such a lovely space on this old dairy farm is a real treat too. The views around the farm are wonderful and we really can't wait to give you details of the music and beer festival we are planning for September where you all can come along.
We've had quite a few visits from some of our friends during the last week or so. It really is nice to see so many nice faces around the farm, and if you want to pop in and say hello, please do. Steve will pop the kettle on, so maybe just bring some biscuits!
The first of our beers to go into the tanks was our English IPA. We call it 'The Rouser'.. It is 5.6% and one that we have just finished on the pilot kit to great success. I've taken a bit of history to put this one together, blending some 1890's techniques with some early 1900s recipes. I've used only english hops and malts (but tried being a bit more modern by using some new hop varieties). Away from the usual 1 hour mash and 1 hour boil we did a 90min mash at a hotter temp to get hold of some less fermentable sugars (to give a bit of sweetness to the beer) and then did a 75min boil to increase the body and the ABV. We also put a lot of hops in this one, in the boil and in the hop-back before double hopping it in the FV.
The next little chap we did is a beer we call 'Brass Hand'.. It is a really straight forward golden ale, a proper glugger.. I did a few best bitters when I was working in London and wanted to have a best in the main range of beers, but after a night out in Lewes, drinking some belters in the Black Horse and the Brewers Arms, I thought I'd trial a golden ale, based around one of my best recipes. It was ready just in time for New Year, so me and Bethany had the family around and tried it out on them.. It was a winner, so that is how the beer came about ... We really hope you like it as much as we did.. I can definitely say it goes well with a party popper!
Number 3 in the brew-log is our 'Fog-Cutter' session IPA. I love a good drinkable hoppy beer on cask, so worked a recipe up for this beer. Fog-cutter is a beer that is good for any time of the day, even to beat off the affects of a hangover! There isn't a big slap of bitterness and we use a big bunch of American hops to make this beer light and hoppy but with a really nice body.. This would work nice in keg too, but I really think in cask it works better.
Next week brings about our first keg beers, we've got our milk chocolate stout on the way and also I've got a pale ale chocked full of Australasian hops....
Well we aren't quite there yet but it sure is looking much better than it did in November!!
On the beer side of things, we've managed to get a section set aside for a barrel store... We've spoken to a few wine producers and can't wait to getting stuck into our Barrel Ageing Programme.
This week is all about the fiddly bits of plumbing in the cooling and organising the kegging and bottling line..
Hopefully we can get brewing early next week as the casks are coming in a few weeks and it'd be rude not to fill them up!
head on over to our Beers page to see what we have up our sleeves
It's the New Year...
2017, Chinese year of the Fire Rooster (that sounds positive?) and most importantly...NOT 2016!
Having three months-ish until a new addition joins our family, we've leapt to action...the goal? Up and brewing in time to make a baby-birthday-beer. I can see it now...celebration strength, an age-able tipple...it's going to be good! So the last few weeks have seen us getting painty, putting up walls and transforming Ant's barn into our future place of work. We're back in our natural habitat...amongst the building, planning, and assembling kit, but also; around the trees, fields and snowy sheep we're more used to.