Firebird Brewing, Pacific Gem
Bill King, co-founder of Firebird Brewing, is a fifth generation brewer with a point to prove.
Bill, like his relatives before him, ran King and Barnes Brewery in Horsham until 2000 when the shareholders decided they wanted to sell despite Bill’s reluctance. As the King family only owned 30% of the business Bill lost the battle and sold up to Hall & Woodhouse.
The responsibility of letting the family business slip away, although he could do very little about it, weighed heavy on Bill’s shoulders.
After sulking for a bit, he did what most men do when they find themselves in a pickle. He called up an old mate and headed for the pub. The friend in question was Richard Peters, a guy he studied brewing with at Birmingham University thirty years ago. Over a burger and a couple of pints at the Jolly Farmer in Bramley they shared stories from the last 30 years and started forming a plan for a new brewery.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Firebird Brewing was born in 2013.
Although Bill and Richard are veterans of the brewing industry, they’re determined to create something different this time around. “We’ve both been through the corporate life, and neither of us were impressed with it. Now we want to offer something that has local value. We want to make the brewery a community asset” explains Bill.
The first bit of evidence that these aren’t just hollow words is the renovation of Rudgwick Brickworks, a dilapidated local building that has been transformed into a small, but perfectly-formed brewing site that Firebird share with a local cheese business.
Whilst Firebird are striving to make an impact locally, their inspiration comes from all over the world.
Pacific Gem is a single hop pale ale showcasing the Pacific Gem hop from the valleys of the spectacular Nelson region of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s not a hop we see a lot of here, so this was a beer we were keen to try. It didn’t disappoint. The aroma isn’t as spectacular as say Nelson Sauvin hops (grown in the same area), but there are some fairly unusual flavours… notably oaken wood and blackberry. It’s a fairly oily hop and that is clear in the mouthfeel. There are grassy notes and a citrus bitterness, but it’s well balanced and pretty damn quaffable.
Firebird's “Bohemian Pilsner” inspired by the Czech Republic, “Paleface American Pale Ale” and “Firewiesse” German Wheat beer are all well worth hunting down.
Local impact. Global inspiration. Firebird may just have hit on a potent formula.