Twisted Barrel Ale, Beast of a Midlands Mild
Ritchie, one of the founders of Twisted Barrel Ale, popped in to BeerBods HQ for a coffee yesterday morning. I took the opportunity to grill him about the brewery’s journey so far with a few questions about this week’s beer. You can listen to the full interview here.
I started by asking him to introduce Twisted Barrel Ale and the brewery’s origins…
Ritchie: We’re a micro-brewery based in Fargo village in Coventry. It’s a reclaimed industrial area with lots of quirky businesses, artists, coffee and bookshops. We have a six barrel brewing kit and a tap-house that’s open at the weekend. We started about three years ago. It all started for me whilst I was living in New Zealand where they didn’t really have much of the mass-produced lager I was used to drinking so I started getting into ales. When I came home I realised all my friends had got into it as well. So we started off on a journey of beer geekery that took us around many brewery tours, real ale pubs and different cities to try as many beers as possible. That progressed into a podcast called All Hail The Ale. After a while running that we realised we didn’t know much about making beer. That’s when (fellow co-founder) Chris and I asked for homebrew kits for Christmas from our respective partners. From there we really enjoyed the process but not so much using other people’s recipes. It was a time in our life when people were getting married and having stag dos so we started making beer for those events. The problem we had is when you’re giving away free beer to friends you don’t always get the best critical feedback! So that led us to look into registering as a commercial brewery.
Matt: You’ve roped in a bit more help since then though, haven’t you?
Ritchie: It was just me and Chris in a garage during the early days. It’s surprisingly easy to register as a brewery in this country actually. Our partners would come and help make about 120 bottles a fortnight which we sold to local off-licences, cafes and bars. I gave up my career in accountancy in January 2015. Since then we’ve been doing so well we’ve managed to take on another brewer, Carl and we’ve also got a really great bar team.
Matt: What has it been like to start a micro- brewery in the Midlands and why do you think there have been so few of them until now?
Ritchie: The Midlands has a fantastic reputation as being the home of traditional ale. There is this massive heritage and fantastic history for brewing but in a way that’s almost holding us back from taking that next step. There are some fantastic beers but not that many free houses to sell to so that’s the difficulty we’ve faced. You’re starting to see that change and it’s getting exciting.
Matt: I haven’t tasted a bad beer from you guys yet. I think it’s probably due to you starting small and building it up at your own pace. One of the issues we often have with new breweries is them being victims of their own success, having production issues as they grow too quickly. Whereas you guys started tinily and have built it up seemingly at your own pace.
Ritchie: Starting so small as a pico brewery, was a testing ground for us. The first year of operating at that scale meant we could do different iterations of recipes that would later become our core beers. When we finally expanded and went commercial we knew what worked and what didn’t.
Matt: Tell us about this week’s beer, the brilliantly named Beast of a Midlands Mild.
Ritchie: We can trace the origins of our brewery back to a drunken conversation after a few pints of Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild. If you trace Mild’s heritage back through history and how it became such a preeminent style due to rationing after the first world war it’s got such a great history to it. We were really passionate about having a Mild as a core beer. We wanted something that could give it a creamier mouthfeel and figured early on that vanilla would work well. It uses 6 malts which give it a fairly complex flavour. It gives a fantastic body and smoothness to what is a very low ABV beer.
Matt: Cheers Ritchie. We absolutely love it and I’m sure our subscribers will too.
We’ve put together a mixed case of Twisted Barrel’s other beers here. They also featured in our Ones to Watch 2016 case that you can buy here.