Getting to know BREW: Bedlam Brewery
We caught up with Sally O'Connor - Communications Manager , Danny Hoskins - Sales & Marketing Director, and Lee Tweed - Head Brewer and asked them everything from the problems they have producing beer to what's coming up for the East Sussex based brewery in 2022.
Can you give me a little bit of history about Bedlam Brewery?
A socially responsible brewery based on a farm in the heart of Sussex at the foot of the South Downs National Park. We feel passionately about our environment and embrace our beautiful, rural location which inspires us to create beer we love and want to share. Solar energy powers the brews and we donate all the used grain to local farms for delicious cattle feed.
Our core range includes 6 cask and 6 keg beers plus a range of 12 packaged cans and bottles covering all styles from low abv Pale Ales to Classic Pilsners and high strength juicy IPAS. Many of the beers command GOLD medals for best in class and a number have a charity element to them.
Bedlam was established on Albourne Estate winery in 2011 by a group of friends at the local tennis club and we were then encouraged by our local community to start brewing commercially in 2015. We have since expanded and moved to our current location (which is still situated on the same old roman road!). Mindful of the environment, one of the most important aspects of the move was to be able to continue to brew high quality, great tasting beer ethically with solar power.
Bedlam’s credentials really seem to resonate with craft beer lovers and we continue to promote a strong community ethos. Passionate about what we do, creativity and quality of ingredients is key and we offer a variety and range of keg, cask and packaged beers which are offered for home delivery as well as on pub bars throughout East and West Sussex and London and increasingly further afield throughout England.
Bedlam was named after Bedlam Street running through Hurstpierpoint to our original site. We are informed that the original Bedlam road runs directly through to our new site, which, if true, would be a crazy coincidence!
We've raised over £1000 for Project Biodiversity to preserve the marine environment, specifically the welfare and shelter of baby sea turtles in Cape Verde (where the majority of sea turtles converge to breed). We have our own Bedlam Turtle Hatchery there, which has resulted in 82% of hatchlings vs an average of 69%.
In 2019 and 2020 we were awarded ‘City Angel’ status by Pride in recognition of our support for Pride and the community and charity activity Bedlam is involved in alongside our Eco credentials. We are the only brewer to receive this status.
How do you decide on what new beers to brew?
This IS the question. Any new brew idea tends to be inspired by any of us excitedly recalling a great beer we’ve tried, or news of a new ingredient on the market. We then run off on a tangent of ideas on how to put our mark or incorporate flavours we want to work into our next new brew.
Are there any beer styles you are looking at tackling in the future that you can tell me about?
We are well overdue a sour addition. I can’t think of a better beer on a hot, sunny day than a heavily fruited, super tart Gose.
How important do you think collaborations are - with other breweries or businesses?
Massively important. Covid has only accentuated this. Without that social spark of collaborations, the beer culture loses out on the breweries combined expertise and love of creating incredible beers for the people.
What efforts do you make to be environmentally friendly?
This is a major conversation in all our weekly meetings now. What have we done/what can we do/when can we do it. Plastics are dropping out of as many processes as possible, responsible management of all waste materials, reducing the footprint of hauling to and from suppliers and outlets. And, some major background work towards creating a new range of brews using leftover ingredients from the food industry.
What are the biggest problems you run into in brewing beer?
The impossibility of predicting beer and sales trends, especially in the last 18 months! We have to work at least 4 weeks ahead of ourselves to allow enough time to produce any one of our beers.
If you suddenly see high demand for one product, we can’t just make more overnight. From beginning to end, from ordering ingredients to packaging, it takes 4 weeks on average to brew a Bedlam beer.
Have you produced a beer that didn’t turn out how you wanted it to - either better or worse?
Never… Okay, maybe one or two iffy fermentations, equipment gremlins and unruly yeasts have occurred. But, unless we’re 100% satisfied that the beer meets the quality we and our consumers expect, it won’t leave the brewery. Occasionally you’ll get a moment of serendipity, like not having the hop you want in stock can lead to a last minute sub that actually lifts a brew beyond its predecessor.
What has been your favourite beer you have produced?
Oater Space, a beer where over 50% of the grain used was 4 varieties of oats, then supercharged with Citra. We wanted to break the idea that “hazy juice bombs” were only worth drinking if they were over 6%. Nobody could believe it was under 4% abv.
How important do you think branding/package design is for your beers?
You try and buy with your eyes before your mouth. With the explosion in small pack varieties on the shelves, if you don’t grab people with clear design, you can get lost in the ocean of choice.
Do you feel that non-alcoholic beers have an important part to play in the craft beer industry?
As long as it tastes like a great beer, isn’t that what craft beer is all about. Taking a style and refining, squeezing, reinventing and delivering flavour.
How important do you think reviewing platforms like Untappd are for you in the industry?
They can be a great tool for finding out what is on the taps at outlets that utilise it, perusing the back-catalogue of a brewery or seeking industry events.
The feedback element can be difficult for creators though. Sometimes it could be helpful and highlight a potential issue before the brewery was even aware there was one (oxidation for example), other times it be personally tough for brewers to scroll through public criticisms.
What’s next for you over the next 12 months?
Our first priority is to get our Brewhouse commissioned and our core range re-brewed as ongoing strong sales have eaten into our stock holding.
Following this we have an exciting, new mid-range seasonal keg pale ale and an amber cask to launch mid to late November in time for Xmas – details of both will follow!
Our award-winning Porter 5% will be returning in cask and bottle – a popular choice for the autumn.
Looking into 2022 we have plans in place to further enhance our Keg range with a new permanent beer launching in Spring and some exciting seasonal casks and kegs which we will unveil nearer the time.
We hope you’ll visit our new Brewhouse soon – keep an eye on social media for tour and event dates soon.
About Bedlam Brewery
Address: Bedlam Brewery St Helena Farm, St Helena Lane, Plumpton Green, East Sussex, BN7 3DH
LinkedIn: bedlam brewery limited