Much curiosity has been aroused amongst local drinkers concerning the Lord Conrad's
Brewery of Bar Hill. The Good Beer Guide describes it as a “small 60-hectolitre brewery
that began commercial brewing in 2010”. Its beers have been briefly sighted at the
Black Horse Dry Drayton and the Ely Beer Festival but have proved completely elusive for most of us.
I caught up therefore with owner/brewer Jon Neale to get the full story.
Jon decided to start the brewery in 2007 and spent 2008 working on recipes; he especially loves
dark beers and distinctive flavours. During 2009 he began sending barrels out into the wide
world for tasting (hence the sightings) and received encouraging feedback.
Eight ales were tested and the aim of identifying a core range of three has been
successfully accomplished. All this gave Jon the confidence to really go for it and when
I met him in mid-November he was working with two companies (in Oban and Cornwall!) to come
up with a compact plant capable of brewing 2.5 barrels at a time (the “60 hectolitres” mentioned
in the GBG was the planned annual, not weekly, output!) Jon will have made his decision on the
way forward by now and full production will begin some time in 2011. Key to this will be finding
suitable premises; Jon's dream is somewhere close to as many of the ingredients as possible
– local grain, hops, honey etc. (stop press – I'm told he's found somewhere in the Dry Drayton area).
He's also eager to be as green as he can – low voltage systems, minimum travel times and
maximised recycling as well as local ingredients.
On then to the core range of beers.
3 Villages (3.5%) is inspired by Jon's love of the
countryside and is named after a walk which links Bar Hill, Lolworth and Dry Drayton;
it's a dry-hopped light mild.
Conkerwood (4%) is a dark porter with hints of licorice,
celebrating both the horse chestnuts which line Bar Hill's ring road and playing conkers.
Pheasant Rise, a 5.5% traditional strong ale is smokey and woody,
gamekeeper grandfather, whose shoots were often accompanied by home-made, warming ales.
There'll also be regular special beers such as a sultana and ginger ale plus others
featuring local produce like honey from Over and wild hops collected from Swavesey Nature Reserve.
The beers will likely go into bottles at some point.
Jon is under no illusions that finding outlets in an area dominated by Greene King and
the big pub companies will be a challenge but, compared with many parts of the country,
Cambridgeshire is light on small breweries so there ought to be room for himself
and Fellows. We'll keep you posted on his progress.