Writer

Hepworth Brewery Interview: Pure and Sussex

Hepworth Brewery has flown largely under our radar in pubs across Brighton and Hove – in fact the only place we can think of that we’ve regularly seen their beers is at the Brighton Dome venue.

When researching and tasting we were really suprised by just how diverse the range is, and BBB became big fans of their modern pales such as Crazy Horse and The Right Stuff, just as much as we enjoyed staple traditional ales like the Classic Old Ale.

In speaking to Andy Hepworth, Founder, Director and Head Brewer, you get a sense for just how rooted in Sussex the brewery is. It’s inspired by and also promoting and supporting optimum quality Sussex produce through their brewing, and recent investment put’s Hepworth up there as one of the most sustainable and organic breweries in Sussex – if not the UK.

Andy, tell us about your background and the early days of Hepworth.

The first beer I brewed was Courage Best Bitter, as I trained at the Bridge Street brewery of Simmonds in Reading, which was then part of the Courage Barclay Simmonds group. The first beer we brewed as Hepworth & Company was Pullman in early 2001, our First Class ale which is akin to a traditional best bitter – so you can see that that is a style I like. Our second beer was ‘Blonde Organic Lager’ brewed with barley grown organically on the Goodwood estate; we have a local buying policy for our ingredients, and as Sussex is a great agricultural county we get high quality as well as low food miles. No other Sussex brewers were producing lager at the time, so despite the major brewers’ stranglehold on that market, we decided that by going organic we had something different to offer, and the Goodwood barley produced a flavoursome beer.

 

Many breweries were producing good quality cask beer when we started – and many times more now – so we concentrated on bottling. Not many other brewers were not doing it at that time and it was clear the off-trade was going to carry on increasing its proportion of beer sales; as professional brewers we wanted to use our skills to best advantage. The strategy worked, and within a short while Hepworth was bottling 40,000 a day. Initially staffing the packing line was difficult with such a throughput; at one stage we had three generations, aged from 80 down to 18, putting bottles into cartons – being family, of course, they didn’t get paid at that time! Since those early days business has continued to grow; packing is now automated and staffing has increased from four to 30.

 

We also had a reputation, at our former brewery King & Barnes, for brewing and bottling iconic and usually difficult styles of beer. One of the first projects we did as Hepworth & Company was to revive the fortunes of Hen’s Tooth for Greene King. We also brought back Worthington White Shield for Bass, as well as producing a very successful range of single hop and specialist malt beers (bottled conditioned) during the 1980s and ’90s, which would now be classed as ‘craft’.

 

In a congested market, how would you say Hepworth stands out?

We are a local brewer, which means we actively seek out Sussex suppliers and we sell predominantly in the South East. We had the opportunity, when building our new brewery in 2016, to design in considerable sustainability, it’s fitted with reactive LED lights, reed beds to handle effluent, and solar panels to power the world’s first ‘beer source heat pump’. This not only heats our offices, which are A+ buildings anyway, but preheats our brewing water, cutting our boiler’s fuel consumption by 20%. Our local buying policy is not just for ingredients: the contractor who built our brewery is two miles down the road, and the engineers who fitted it up one mile. We also built three other brewhouses for our contract customers to use, while we did their packaging.

 

Most of our beers are brewed as naturally gluten free. Our bottles are meticulously filtered and the gluten reduced in them. We use no additives and the process is traditional. There is no silver bullet to high quality; it has to apply to all areas, and to most of all to the people involved and their knowledge. It starts at the farm, in the maltings, and then at the brewery; it applies to the water, malt, hops, yeast, method and equipment, and all those people care.

 

The local theme is carried on in two beers, Sussex and Prospect, both available in bottle and on draught. Sussex is a well hopped, traditional pale ale, and Prospect is an organic, bottle-conditioned pale. Their labels show their origins clearly – the Seven Sisters for Sussex and the downs and windmills for Prospect. Sussex is a so-called “session ale”. At 3.5% you can manage a lunchtime one or two! Prospect, at 4.5%, is excellent poured in a single action into a glass or jug. It works well accompanying a meaty dish.

 

Well that pretty much answers what we were going to ask next, as we read that Hepworth’s had been chosen as the beer for Higgidy’s steak and Sussex ale pies. So instead, can you let us know your ultimate food and Hepworth beer pairing?

Yes, Shoreham-based Higgidy wanted a local ale; and as ours is not just local but brewed with Sussex-grown barley and hops, it fitted the bill exactly. Having been brought up in a fish ’n’ chip shop, I still find the best food match for our pale ales is fish and chips.

 

What does the future hold for Hepworth?

The new brewery enabled us to expand production threefold, plus we now have a shop, and run tours. We were about to install a canning line just as the pandemic struck, when we had recovered from the cost of that project. We are expanding our warehouse to make space for a can line, but we can’t get a supply of cans until next year. Anyway we need to get past the effects of the pandemic before committing to the expense of a can filling line that would conform to our standards. Buying expensive packaging machinery in itself does not ensure the quality of your production, as many who are filling cans are finding out. You need competent people and engineering skills to run the line effectively.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hepworth Brewery Interview: Pure and Sussex

Hepworth Brewery has flown largely under our radar in pubs across Brighton and Hove – in fact the only place we can think of that we’ve regularly seen their beers is at the Brighton Dome venue.

When researching and tasting we were really suprised by just how diverse the range is, and BBB became big fans of their modern pales such as Crazy Horse and The Right Stuff, just as much as we enjoyed staple traditional ales like the Classic Old Ale.

In speaking to Andy Hepworth, Founder, Director and Head Brewer, you get a sense for just how rooted in Sussex the brewery is. It’s inspired by and also promoting and supporting optimum quality Sussex produce through their brewing, and recent investment put’s Hepworth up there as one of the most sustainable and organic breweries in Sussex – if not the UK.

Andy, tell us about your background and the early days of Hepworth.

The first beer I brewed was Courage Best Bitter, as I trained at the Bridge Street brewery of Simmonds in Reading, which was then part of the Courage Barclay Simmonds group. The first beer we brewed as Hepworth & Company was Pullman in early 2001, our First Class ale which is akin to a traditional best bitter – so you can see that that is a style I like. Our second beer was ‘Blonde Organic Lager’ brewed with barley grown organically on the Goodwood estate; we have a local buying policy for our ingredients, and as Sussex is a great agricultural county we get high quality as well as low food miles. No other Sussex brewers were producing lager at the time, so despite the major brewers’ stranglehold on that market, we decided that by going organic we had something different to offer, and the Goodwood barley produced a flavoursome beer.

 

Many breweries were producing good quality cask beer when we started – and many times more now – so we concentrated on bottling. Not many other brewers were not doing it at that time and it was clear the off-trade was going to carry on increasing its proportion of beer sales; as professional brewers we wanted to use our skills to best advantage. The strategy worked, and within a short while Hepworth was bottling 40,000 a day. Initially staffing the packing line was difficult with such a throughput; at one stage we had three generations, aged from 80 down to 18, putting bottles into cartons – being family, of course, they didn’t get paid at that time! Since those early days business has continued to grow; packing is now automated and staffing has increased from four to 30.

 

We also had a reputation, at our former brewery King & Barnes, for brewing and bottling iconic and usually difficult styles of beer. One of the first projects we did as Hepworth & Company was to revive the fortunes of Hen’s Tooth for Greene King. We also brought back Worthington White Shield for Bass, as well as producing a very successful range of single hop and specialist malt beers (bottled conditioned) during the 1980s and ’90s, which would now be classed as ‘craft’.

 

In a congested market, how would you say Hepworth stands out?

We are a local brewer, which means we actively seek out Sussex suppliers and we sell predominantly in the South East. We had the opportunity, when building our new brewery in 2016, to design in considerable sustainability, it’s fitted with reactive LED lights, reed beds to handle effluent, and solar panels to power the world’s first ‘beer source heat pump’. This not only heats our offices, which are A+ buildings anyway, but preheats our brewing water, cutting our boiler’s fuel consumption by 20%. Our local buying policy is not just for ingredients: the contractor who built our brewery is two miles down the road, and the engineers who fitted it up one mile. We also built three other brewhouses for our contract customers to use, while we did their packaging.

 

Most of our beers are brewed as naturally gluten free. Our bottles are meticulously filtered and the gluten reduced in them. We use no additives and the process is traditional. There is no silver bullet to high quality; it has to apply to all areas, and to most of all to the people involved and their knowledge. It starts at the farm, in the maltings, and then at the brewery; it applies to the water, malt, hops, yeast, method and equipment, and all those people care.

 

The local theme is carried on in two beers, Sussex and Prospect, both available in bottle and on draught. Sussex is a well hopped, traditional pale ale, and Prospect is an organic, bottle-conditioned pale. Their labels show their origins clearly – the Seven Sisters for Sussex and the downs and windmills for Prospect. Sussex is a so-called “session ale”. At 3.5% you can manage a lunchtime one or two! Prospect, at 4.5%, is excellent poured in a single action into a glass or jug. It works well accompanying a meaty dish.

 

Well that pretty much answers what we were going to ask next, as we read that Hepworth’s had been chosen as the beer for Higgidy’s steak and Sussex ale pies. So instead, can you let us know your ultimate food and Hepworth beer pairing?

Yes, Shoreham-based Higgidy wanted a local ale; and as ours is not just local but brewed with Sussex-grown barley and hops, it fitted the bill exactly. Having been brought up in a fish ’n’ chip shop, I still find the best food match for our pale ales is fish and chips.

 

What does the future hold for Hepworth?

The new brewery enabled us to expand production threefold, plus we now have a shop, and run tours. We were about to install a canning line just as the pandemic struck, when we had recovered from the cost of that project. We are expanding our warehouse to make space for a can line, but we can’t get a supply of cans until next year. Anyway we need to get past the effects of the pandemic before committing to the expense of a can filling line that would conform to our standards. Buying expensive packaging machinery in itself does not ensure the quality of your production, as many who are filling cans are finding out. You need competent people and engineering skills to run the line effectively.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *