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We all have a band or brand that we’re reluctant to tell the wider world about. Because they are ours and we were there at the beginning. It’s for that reason we weren’t sure whether to feature a Boat Lane Brewery beer in our club.
Local to us at BeerBods, in the market gardening village of Offenham in the Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire, Boat Lane is the talk of the town. Beers in this neck of the woods are often trad, to say the least, with breweries often saying they are just catering to a conservative local audience. But as Steve Jobs once said.. “people don't know what they want until you show it to them.”
Before launching Boat Lane Brewery, Ian worked as a school caretaker for a good 10 years, whilst brewing for fun at home. But by 2015, it was becoming more than just a hobby. He was homebrewing 3 days a week and his wife Liz wanted their kitchen back.
So that year the pair purchased a building on a fairly innocuous-looking industrial estate on Boat Lane, a stone’s throw from the River Avon. As the brewery was (and still is) self-funded, Ian started with a tiny 50-litre homebrewing kit, quickly upgrading to 200-litres and now a 700-litre kit. Ian and his brewing partner Andy still brew on all 3 kits, churning out new beers most months. The pair love to play with new recipes and have released a mighty impressive 75 different brews to date.
Alongside the beer, the magic of Boat Lane Brewery is in their homely, often jam-packed taproom, which is where they sell almost all of their beer. It’s an incredible space at the heart of the local community. Wander in on a Friday night (if you can fit in) and you’ll often find up-to 30 different beers in bottle and on tap. Our personal favourites are Hazelnut Mild and Satsumo Stout, which are both playful and perfectly executed.
Topper (most of their beer names have a connection to boats) shows they can do the more sensible beers well too. It’s an iteration on a big juicy IPA called Waka. The only problem with Waka was that it was so strong... and smooth... and fruity... and drinkable... and popular, the locals were often falling out of the taproom after a few pints. So they dialled back the grain bill and subsequent ABV down to create this little beauty. With hints of grapefruit, it has maintained all the character of Waka, but it’s now much calmer at the end of the night in the taproom.
Now Liz has packed in her “grown-up job” to help Ian grow and professionalise the brewery, it’s hard not to see Boat Lane beers being enjoyed by beer lovers all over the UK soon. Maybe even the world. But whatever happens next, to that small crowd in Offenham, Boat Lane on a Friday night will always feel like the best-kept secret in beer.
You can also find Boat Lane Brewery on Facebook