Published on May 26th, 2013 | by Nottingham Drinker0
Profile: Brewster’s Brewing Company, Grantham
By Matt Wright
PHOTOS: MATT WRIGHT AND GRAHAM FLEMINGTON
If you’ve ever had a pint of Brewster’s, you will have enjoyed a beer brewed by Sara Barton. Sara is the founder of Grantham’s Brewster’s Brewing Company and she’s becoming a star in the brewing scene. Sara’s had an amazing 12 months: not long ago she received a mystery phone call that turned out to be from Jamie Oliver’s TV people. One of her beers – Brewster’s Pale Ale – had been chosen by Mr Oliver to represent Britain in his Food Fight TV show. Then, just a few weeks later, Sara was named Guild of British Beer Writers’ Brewer of the Year at a glittering award ceremony in London.
Sara founded Brewster’s Brewing Company in 1998 and at the time was one of only a small handful of female brewers in the UK. Here’s a bit of social history that might surprise you: before the industrial revolution, most brewers were actually women (then known as ‘brewsters’), but then men, sniffing huge beery profits after the birth of the steam engine, decided that this brewing lark was their cup of tea after all. “Going back to medieval times, both bread making and brewing were female roles,” says Sara. “Many widows brewed beer as a way of making ends meet. But after industrialisation, the large breweries took over.”
Now, led by Sara from her Grantham base, the brewster is back. All over the UK, female beer producers are fermenting and mashing again, with Sara helping to blaze the trail. She has set up Project Venus – an initiative to bring female brewers together and promote drinking beer to women in general. The project has resulted in a collaboration between 14 brewsters from up and down the country who have pooled knowledge to produce several beers.
But Sara is keen to point out that it’s not who brews the beer that counts, but rather the taste of the final product. And in addition to the TV fame received for her hoppy and refreshing Pale Ale, Brewster’s beers have picked up several medals over the years. One award winner is Hophead.
So how did Sara come to run her own brewery (and pub – she has jointly owned the Marquis of Granby in Granby near Bingham for five years)? She explains: “The origins of Brewster’s stretch back around 25 years. I couldn’t get a job after completing a bio-chemistry degree so ended up furiously flicking through university prospectuses thinking, what can I do now? I spotted a brewing post-grad course at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. It sounded interesting and I took a punt. As a result I eventually ended up working in Reading for what was then Courage. But the problem there was that the brewing process was run by computers, as it is at all large breweries. I’d learnt about the chemistry behind brewing at Heriot-Watt, and getting hands-on with that was what interested me. So I thought what I really need to do is run my own brewery.
“Eventually, in 1998 I decided to go for it and returned to the Midlands – where I’d grown up – to start brewing beer in a barn behind my parents’ house in Stathern, a small village in the Vale of Belvoir. Our first beer was called Maiden Brew. The second was Marquis.”
From day one Sara received support from the team at Stathern pub The Red Lion, who were happy to stock such locally brewed beer. Today, Brewster’s ales are regularly on tap at several popular local real ale pubs including Sara’s own pub, The Marquis of Granby. Online stockists include Beers of Europe and Ales by Mail.
In 2006 Sara moved to an industrial unit in Grantham and in February 2012 added two gleaming ‘cylindro-conical’ vessels to her 10-barrel (1600-litre) set-up. “You can both brew and condition in them,” says Sara. It’s worth remembering that all that goes into her beers are local water, Brewster’s own yeast, barley grown in Lincolnshire and malted in Grantham, and hops from around the world.
It’s tribute to Sara’s knowledge and her passion for brewing that Brewster’s is thriving and producing award-winning beers. It’s great that the area has such a success story, so why not track down some of her excellent brews?
The second beer that Brewster’s produced – Marquis – was brewed specially for a TV programme about John Manners, Marquis of Granby (1721 to 1770). Son of the 3rd Duke of Rutland, the Marquis commanded an army in Germany during the Seven Years’ War. He returned to England a hero and improved his stock further by giving pensions to his soldiers. Many of them set up pubs with the cash, which is why there are so many called The Marquis of Granby. Sara’s Marquis of Granby pub is in Granby village near Bingham, Notts, and thought to be the original.
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