Derventio Brewery, Derbyshire
PUBLISHED: 11:26 25 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:05 20 February 2013
Nik Cook travels into the countryside west of Derby to sample the brew at Derventio
You dont need a sat-nav to find a brewery on brew day. The Derventio Brewery, despite a location nestled deep in the Derbyshire countryside, was easy to find. I saw the plumes of steam from a mile away and the delicious smell of malt as I drew nearer was unmistakable.
Entering the brewhouse, Pete Nash was lovingly tending the mash tun and, in common with all the brewers Id met so far, doing so with a massive smile on his face and an obvious love for his produce. Now 56, Pete previously worked on the railways and, after living and working in a number of locations throughout the country, came to the British Rail research facility in Derby in 1982. It was there that he met Derventios other full time brewer, John Baddock. Pete left the railways in 1997 to go into construction but kept in contact with John and, meeting up a few years later, the conversation turned to beer and brewing and the idea of their own brewery was born. We were fed up drinking rubbish beer, so decided to put our money where are mouths were, he told me.
Having already named the brewery after a Roman fort built in Little Chester, Derby around AD52-57, the next step was to find suitable premises. We looked initially around the Little Chester area where the fort was but soon found that premises were either too small or too expensive, so we had to broaden our search. We saw an advertisement in the Derby Telegraph for these farm buildings on the Trusley estate and they were perfect.
With premises sorted, the brewing plant was installed and, having been joined by Martin Roden and Alan Cartwright, Derventio started brewing in March 2006.
For the first 18 months, all the brewing team continued to work at other full-time jobs and managed only one brew per week at weekends. With increased demand though, first John went full-time at the brewery and, a year ago, Pete joined him. Now they manage two to three brews per week from the six barrel plant and Pete has plans over the next three years for continued growth.
As another shining example of a thriving micro-brewery in Derbyshire I asked Pete why he thought the county was such a hotbed of craft brewing. Were all so damn good at brewing! Joking aside, I dont know if theres something in the water but weve got the highest number of breweries per capita in the UK. The Derbyshire Brewers Collective is a very supportive network and probably plays a part. Its great to have so many other breweries in close proximity and well always help each other out if youre short of a bag of malt or anything else. Theres no sense in treading on each others toes and certainly no animosity.
Nationally, micro-breweries are also going from strength to strength and I asked Pete for his thoughts on this phenomena. Big commercial breweries are making a loss but micros are thriving. The public want more choice and more flavour. Regular beers got so bland. Landlords have cottoned on to this public demand. Supermarkets are selling much more bottled beer. People try a beer at home and then want to drink it at the pub.
After a brief hiatus in our conversation for Pete to add the hops to the brew, we moved on to the topic of what makes a great beer. Flavour, nice colour and that feels as if youre drinking something of quality. Not watery, not flat and with plenty of body. It should definitely complement any food youre eating. Usually a question akin to asking a father his favourite child, Pete had no problems naming his Derventio ale of choice. It has to be Emperors Whim. Its a good hoppy beer that reminds me of the beers I used to drink. That said, as a brewer, its very rare that you get a chance to go to the pub and taste your own beer. When we do though, were very pleased with the results. Landlords are much better trained now about how to handle cask beer and that really helps the end product. The consistency of a beer from pub to pub and brew to brew is also very important.
When asked for his beer of choice from another brewery, however, Pete ventured outside the county, commenting Badger Ales in Dorset have produced River Cottage Stinger in conjunction with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It uses handpicked organic nettles and is very refreshing.
It is definitely one to look out for.
Derventio ales are available in bottles from Asda and selected East Midlands branches of the Co-op. They are also on sale in a number of specialist bottled beer shops in Derbyshire including The Corner Ale Shop and Beer Parlour in Chesterfield and H.Smiths Delicatessen in Ashbourne. You can also order them online via www.mybrewerytap.com .
They supply cask beers to a network of pubs throughout the Midlands but can be regularly found in Mr Grundys, Ye Olde Dolphin Inn and The Babington Arms in Derby.
Three to Try
Emperors Whim 4.2% ABV Petes favourite is a golden hoppy ale with a long bitter finish. A very traditional tasting beer with biscuity malts and subtle orange and grassy notes from the hops.Pete suggests that this hoppy beer goes perfectly with a curry.
Venus 5% ABV A light coloured exceptionally well balanced smooth ale with a light fragrant hop finish. The clear golden colour begs you totaste it and the toffee and grapefruit flavours dont disappoint. The lightness and highly drinkable nature bely its strength. Pete recommends trying it with cheese as the beer wont overpower its taste.
Cleopatra5% ABV Derventios SIBA Gold Award winning beer.A complex beer rounded off withFirst Gold hops anda hint of apricot. Fruit based beers are often gimmicky overpowering disasters but this is not the case with Cleopatra. The apricot isnt the stage-hogging star of the show but a subtle supporting act to a delicious and very quaffable beer. With its sweetness and strength, Pete recommends drinking it with desserts.