What makes a beer unique? It’s not the hops, malt or yeast as they can easily be replicated in any recipe. What makes a beer unique is what makes up 95% it… water. In fact, it’s so important, the differences in the water from various locations will affect (sometimes massively) the taste of the beer.
If, like me, you live in the south of England, the water is very hard. This can change the flavour of the beer as the water contains very high levels of hard water minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Some breweries have to go to great lengths to treat the water, but some are more fortunate when it comes to having the best quality available.
You might live somewhere that has access to mineral water, spring water or even well water, which again will make the beer taste different. So when you sit down to drink your next beer, have a think about where the water might have come from.
If you are in an area where the water is softer, like Bluestone Brewery in Pembrokeshire, then a beer brewed there will taste completely different to one brewed with the same ingredients somewhere else in the world. The water that the Bluestone Brewery use to brew their beers with is unique as it filters down from the Preseli Hills and because the spring water is so natural and crystal clear, it goes straight from the well into their beers, with no filtering or added chemicals.
I caught up with Emily from the award winning Bluestone Brewery to find out everything from what challenges they have had this year to why their beer is unique.
About Bluestone Brewery
Bluestone Brewery was established in 2013 by Simon Turner and his daughter, Amy. They built the Brewery on the site of their family farm (Tyriet Farm) near Cilgwyn, Pembrokeshire and run it alongside their wife and Mum, Kerry, who also runs the farm. On the site, there is a popular taproom as well as an events venue which has been gaining quite the reputation for fantastic live music during the summer season.
The name Bluestone Brewing Company comes from the local stone that the buildings were built from many years ago. Bluestone is also pretty famous for being mysteriously transported over 250 miles to become Stonehenge over 5,000 years ago.
Bluestone Brewery have a large range of award winning beers with seven of their beers awarded GREAT TASTE stars. Their Preseli Pils Lager, Pierre Bleu and Hammerstone have all won awards in the bottle category at the regional SIBA beer festival and their Fossil Fuel, coffee milk stout, won GOLD in the regional keg category at the SIBA independent beer awards 2018 to name but a few.
Q. How is your beer connected to the local area?
The name of our Brewery also comes from the local area, it comes from the local stone that the brewery buildings were built from many years ago. Bluestone is also pretty famous for being mysteriously transported over 250 miles to become Stonehenge over 5000 years ago!
Q. What do you think is unique about your beer and your brewery?
We take great pride in the fact that our brewery is incredibly environmentally conscious. Being situated on a working farm, we reuse all the bi-products from our beers and feed them back to our animals. And by using water from our very own well and generating our own solar power, we are proud to be a green brewery!
Q. Are there any beer styles you are looking at tackling in the future that you haven’t done already?
Our brewer, Tom Dunn, would love to try making a sour beer one day.
Q. How important do you think collaborations are with other breweries?
I think, in general, the Brewing industry is really friendly and everyone is pretty happy to help each other out. Collaborations are great because they create a buzz around a new product and could potentially help you to break into a new area.
Q. What efforts do you make to be environmentally friendly?
In 2018, we were the first brewery in the world to be given the Green Key Accreditation, an international award that recognises environmentally sustainable businesses.
Being green has always been a huge part of Bluestone Brewing Company, so the Green Key accreditation seemed like the perfect thing for us to apply for. To be recognised as the first Brewery Visitor Centre in the world to achieve the Green Key status is just amazing. Hopefully, people will see what we are doing and be inspired to try to improve their own businesses to become as green as possible.
Going through the Green Key process has helped to highlight areas where we could improve, but it has also made us feel very proud of what we have already achieved to date. The award is a fantastic achievement and something that will hopefully inspire other Pembrokeshire businesses. You can read all about what makes us so ‘green’ here:
Q. What have been your biggest challenges?
Our rural location is a real selling point for our business and many people enjoy coming out to the countryside to enjoy a beer with us during the summer months, but the winter in Pembrokeshire can be tough! We don't have the same all year-round custom that some of the bigger inner city breweries might have and so we have to work really hard to find new customers further afield.
During the outbreak the biggest challenge has been
Q. What has been your favourite beer you have produced?
My personal favourite is our Cragfast IPA, it was originally supposed to be a cask beer for Easter but due to the lockdown, we had to bottle it instead and it sold really well. It's a lovely, light and refreshing IPA.
Q. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but how important do you think branding/package design is for your beers?
So important! Especially when the craft beer market is so crowded, you really have to set yourself apart. Our branding is bright and colourful and customers often tell us that our designs are memorable. We are constantly looking at ways that we can catch people's eyes.
Q. Have you produced a beer that didn’t turn out how you wanted it to - either better or worse?
We've certainly had a few experiments over the years but luckily not too many big disasters! Most recipes take a couple of goes before our Brewer is entirely happy with it.
Q. Do you feel that non-alcoholic beers have an important part to play in the craft beer industry?
I think the non-alcoholic beer market is certainly growing and it's something we'd like to look at trying in the future. We sell non-alcoholic beers at the moment (from other Welsh Brewers - DropBear & Tomos A Lilford) in our taproom and they sell well, there's definitely a market for it.
Q. What’s next for Bluestone Brewing Co. over the next 18 months?
Lot's of planning! This time away from Brewing due to the Corona Virus situation has allowed us to step back and put some solid plans in place for the future. We always talk of different ideas but are often too busy to carry them out and so this time has been a good opportunity to plan some exciting things for our future.
We will also be launching our own Welsh Craft Vinegar very soon so check out our website for details. - https://www.bluestonebrewing.co.uk/adventures-into-welsh-craft-vinegar/
Why not give Bluestone Brewery’s website a visit and buy some of their awarding winning beers and see if you can taste the difference in the water. They deliver beer anywhere in the UK – all you need to do is buy full cases of 12 bottles. Orders are dispatched Monday-Friday, from the date of dispatch you can expect your beer to arrive in 3-5 days. All of their bottled beers are vegan friendly with the only exception being the seasonal Coffee Milk Stout (Fossil Fuel) which contains lactose.
Each beer is currently on offer so you can get some fantastic beers at a great price.