Published on August 18th, 2013 | by Nottingham Drinker0
Brewery Visit – The Pheasantry Brewery
The Pheasantry Brewery recently celebrated its first birthday, so John Westlake went to see how they are getting on.
When Mark and Mary Easterbrook first laid eyes on the farm buildings eventually destined to become home to the Pheasantry Brewery and Visitors’ Centre, they were in a very sorry state. Lead had been stolen from the main house, thus allowing in the elements, the barn and outbuildings were seriously dilapidated and the original pheasantry cottage, where birds were once hatched and raised for the shooting estate, was completely without a roof. Several years on, the transformation has been astonishing. Idyllically located in a fold of the rolling, north Nottinghamshire countryside just off the A57 south of the village of East Markham, the grade II listed farmhouse has been lovingly restored, the barn now plays host to the brewery and its adjoining bar and restaurant, whilst the manager of the latter now resides, appropriately enough, in the re-roofed cottage from which the business takes its name. There are even hops to be found growing in the garden and around the carpark, which is very apt bearing in mind that, before World War II, this was an important hop producing area predominantly supplying the breweries in Newark, whilst the nearby town of Tuxford is known to have held an annual hop fair for many years. Indeed, early records show that, apart from growing hops, there was also a small brewery on the Pheasantry site back in the 17th century, so history really is repeating itself.
Having gained a degree in metallurgy and microstructural engineering from Sheffield University, Mark found work in the steel industry prior to spending many years in food technology, where he learned a great deal about food processing and in particular, the importance of hygiene at every stage. He comes from an arable farming family who still grow malting barley close by, so when the idea of farm diversification was mooted, brewing seemed to be an obvious candidate and the search for a suitable site began. Unable to find a UK manufacture with the ability to supply brewing plant capable of meeting his exacting requirements for both flexibility and hygienic systems, Mark turned his gaze towards the north American market, where the microbrewing industry is not only far more developed but tends to be more innovative too. One of the leading suppliers of craft brewing equipment across the pond is DME Brewing, a Canadian company based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and it was from here that Mark decided to source a complete, ten-barrel unit and have it shipped back to England.
“It’s top end kit and the functionality is really good,” Mark enthuses. “I can easily switch from ale production to lager, I can do my own bottling and even keg if need be. “In short, it gives me everything I need to brew the best beer I possibly can.”
Before starting, Mark attended a Brewlab course in Sunderland as well as gaining some hands-on, practical experience with several successful small brewers, most notably the well-established Otter Brewery in Devon.
“They advised me to start by making a good session beer,” Mark tells me. “People might start or finish the evening with a high-gravity beer but they won’t drink it all night. “A mid-range, session ale should sell in volumes and that’s what landlords want.”
The family farm grows Optic and Tipple varieties of malting barley, which they sell to leading maltsters such as Muntons and in return, Mark buys Maris Otter malt, an established favourite with many craft brewers, whilst Charles Faram supply all his hop needs.
“I try to use English hops as much as possible for our core ale brands,” Mark assures me, but he is certainly not averse to using imported varieties in order to achieve the specific characteristics he is looking for in terms of taste and aroma. Brewing usually takes place twice a week and the resulting beers are fermented in four easy-maintenance, closed, conical vessels prior to conditioning for an appropriate period of time, which in the case of Mark’s new lager is a full three months. Since the launch of BB, a traditional, English medium strength bitter a little over a year ago to considerable acclaim, the Pheasantry portfolio has been expanded to four regular beers, which are now supplemented by inventive and ever changing seasonal specials.
Located at High Brecks Farm and clearly signposted off the main Lincoln Road, the Pheasantry Brewery’s own on-site bar and restaurant (01777 870572) are certainly well worth a visit and are open every day except Mondays, although it is best to ring beforehand to check exact timings. This is one not-so-small brewery with a real sense of purpose, a quiet determination to do things properly and to succeed. They seem to be well on their way.
The Pheasantry beers:
BB (Best Bitter) 3.8% abv: An accomplished, copper hued and easy drinking traditional English ale seasoned with Progress, Goldings and First Gold hops, followed by a later addition of Styrian Goldings in the boil to enhance both flavour and aroma. Full bodied with good mouthfeel, it has a delicate, biscuity malt backdrop skilfully overlaid with spicy, slightly resinous hop notes that develop on the tongue and culminate in a satisfyingly dry and tasty finish.
PA (Pale Ale) 4.0% abv: Mount Hood hops join Progress, Goldings and Celeia varieties here in helping to create a straw coloured, smooth tasting beer of real quality. Gently floral and aromatic on the nose, restrained citrus notes soon develop in the mouth to produce a refreshing and very moreish beer with a dry and lingering aftertaste. No surprise, then, that PA has rapidly become the brewery’s bestseller.
DA (Dark Ale) 4.2% abv: Modest additions of crystal and chocolate malts to the grist give rise to a deep chestnut brew with an almost velvety texture, whilst Progress, Goldings and good old Fuggle hops add balancing spicy, almost peppery notes to a palate otherwise bursting with biscuity malt, subtle toffee and caramel flavours.
Pilsner 4.2% abv: Brewed using lager malt and a German bottom-fermenting yeast, delicately flavoured with continental Saaz, Pearl and Hersbrucker hops and cold-conditioned at just above zero degrees for 12 weeks prior to bottling, this is a classic pale lager beer, not as dry as some but with a thirst quenching hop character and a subtly fruity, bitter-sweet finish. Mark also kegs a limited amount for sale on draught solely at the Visitors’ Centre.
Dancing Dragonfly 5.0% abv: Pheasantry’s current seasonal offering is a summer blonde ale crafted in the American style using two typically citrusy transatlantic hop varieties: Summit and Cascade, augmented with a good dose of Galaxy hops from Australia to fashion a beer of medium bitterness, with a refreshingly fruity (think passion fruit and peaches) palate.