Wye Valley Brewery, Butty Bach
Wye Valley Brewery emerged from the back of the Nag’s Head pub in Canon Pyon; a part of rural Herefordshire which is better known for its cider than its real ale, back in 1985.
Founded by former Guinness brewer, Peter Amor, the brewery quickly gathered a loyal local following and relocated to the centre of Hereford in an old stable block behind the Barrels, a place that remains the Wye Valley’s flagship pub. Well worth a visit if you’re in town.
Peter was a man on a mission. Not only was he out to make great beer; he also wanted to promote independent brewing in the UK and has been a key player in the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) who have been instrumental in the growth of British breweries.
Some 30 odd years later and Wye Valley Brewery is still an independent family run business. Peter’s son Vernon joined in 1997 after a spell studying at Young’s brewery in London. In 2002, shortly after the brewery relocated to an old cider mill in nearby Stoke Lacey, Vernon assumed the role as the Managing Director.
This has doubtless led to the feeling of continuity at Wye Valley Brewery. Despite the oldie-worldy feel and some pretty traditional brews, it’s evident that the brewery is anything but rooted in the past. In 2013 work on a new brewhouse was completed which saw not only increased brewing capacity but also a commitment to sustainability.
Herefordshire competes with Kent as the UK's most prestigious hop growing region. Wye Valley makes the most of this by sourcing the majority of their hops from farms within a seven-mile radius of the brewery. The water is also drawn from a well on site, although only in the morning as the chemical balance changes by the afternoon. The smallest things matter in brewing. So do bigger things, like supporting the community which helped you get where you are. To this end you’ll see Wye Valley pledging its support to a whole range of good causes in these parts. Fair play.
This week’s beer is Butty Bach. Described as a premium ale, we’d prefer to think of it as a showcase of the classic malts and locally grown hops such as Fuggles, Goldings and Bramling Cross. In keeping with the border between England and Wales where the beer is made, the name is a Welsh term for ‘little friend’. Apt as it’s a beer best suited to drinking with friends old and new. It’s not a beer for over thinking or navel gazing. The soundtrack to this week’s beer should be laughter and the food pairing should be a shared bag of crisps or bowl of chips. Enjoy.