Next up in our introducing series, we introduce Harry Speller of the Albion Brewing Company here in Bath. Harry talks craft beer revolution, brewing inspiration and the craft scene in Bath.
We’ve been on a mission to find the perfect partner for our pizza, and the hunt may well be over. Bottle, barrel, or glass, we’ve been looking for local ciders, ales and wines that match the wood fired flavours of our pizza.
Somerset isn’t short of craft beer, and we think that the Albion Brewing Co here in Bath, might well be that perfect match. We caught up with owner, brewer, and all round good bloke Harry Speller, on the work behind the scenes of his Bath nano-brewery and his inspiration for the flavours that make up the beers produced by the Albion Brewing Co.
Bath Pizza Co: Great to have you stocked on our bar Harry. As a starter for ten, what can you tell our customers about the Albion Brewing Co and your beer?
Harry: We’re a nano-brewery based here in Bath producing small batches of beer by hand (yes, we even label each bottle by hand as well without a machine). I think someone once classed us smaller than a nano, probably a pico-brewery as we produce perhaps 60 litres a batch.
We took inspiration from the area we live which is up on Poet’s Corner, hence the literary angle of our beer names. Originally we wanted to take on the Bear Brewery name, which was an old brewery where Majestic Wines use to be but as there is the Electric Bear Brewery we ended up calling ourselves the Albion Brewing Company, Albion being the ancient Greek name for Great Britain.
Right now we have two core beers, Paradise Lost and The Tempest. Paradise Lost is an Amber Ale, whilst The Tempest is a Rye beer with hints of Juniper. We are also planning at least one seasonal brew as well, so watch this space!
Bath Pizza Co: How long have you been brewing?
Harry: Like many people we started from home brewing about a couple of years ago. We had great feedback from friends and family, which we used to refine our beers. Brewing commercially was bit of an accident, or rather it all started with that simple question “How hard could it be?” Well as it turns out, quite hard! Especially going through all the paperwork needed to get set.
Our first batch we brewed on the 18th April 2016 and we haven’t looked back since. The support from the local community has been fantastic and we’ve been getting lots of good feedback which we use in refining our beers further.
Bath Pizza Co: The juniper works really well with the flavours from our wood fired pizza, as a new(ish) brewer are there any specific trends in craft beer that have stood out for you over the last year?
Harry: I think there have been a few things I’ve noticed anecdotally. Interestingly I think food pairings is something I’ve noticed a lot recently. We have a head chef in the family so he’s been good to bounce ideas off when it comes to beer and food.
I think you’re also seeing more creative and adventurous beers popping as well, Milk Stours, Oak Aging, Sours and a host of other styles beyond the Pale Ales and IPA. I was recently in the Bath Brewhouse and was blown away by Wild Beer’s Millionaire, a Chocolate and Salted Caramel Milk Stout. Recently DIPA (Double IPAs) seem to be rage and related to that beers with stronger ABVs. If you go into somewhere like Independent Spirits for example, seeing the huge range of styles in fantastic.
Then I think there are subtle changes. The ability to serve beer in smaller measures, namely ⅓ of a pint and ⅔ of pints I think makes a big difference to creativity. In some sense the humble full pint does restrict the style of beers you can produce. Making a 9% DIPA for example wouldn’t make much sense for a pint! Finally you are seeing more cans appearing as breweries use them to package their beers.
Bath Pizza Co: The craft revolution has been huge across London and the UK. Gin, beer, many other areas of the food and beverage sector have been shaken up over the past two years. Where do you think Bath (and Somerset) sits in this movement - are we keeping up with the rest of the country?
Harry: I think the food scene has certainly accelerated in Bath, you can see that in the quality of the restaurants and other eateries in Bath. The farmers market at Green Park Station is a great source of local produce and food, whilst around Bath you see a wide range of places to eat for all budgets and tastes.
On the beverage scene, I think we are probably are lagging a bit against places like London and Bristol where the Craft Beer scene is far more established. But I think we will get there, for example we do have great Ciders and there is Bath Gin. Plus more pubs are catering for the craft beer scene as well which can only be a positive.
Bath Pizza Co: Any other local craft places we and our customers should check out in Bath?
Harry: Have to admit one of the great things about being a brewer is that it gives me an excuse to visit pubs for research purposes!
Some of my favourite places has to be Chapter One on London Road and the Bath Brewhouse (a stone’s throw from Green Park Station). Other places that’s also worth a visit is the Taproom (open on Friday’s and Saturdays) at the Electric Bear Brewery, Hunter & Sons, Gascoyne Place and I recently tried the New Inn on Monmouth Place (which as well as great beers do some pretty tasty burgers).
If you’re looking to buy beer then certainly Independent Spirits has a great range of Craft Beer. Wolf Wine in Green Park Station is great for Craft Wines from tiny independent vineyards. And lest I forget The Canary Gin Bar for it’s massive selection of gins.
Bath Pizza Co: What can we expect from the Albion Brewing Co in the next few months?
Harry: We have a seasonal beer planned which we’re aiming for the October time-frame. Otherwise our main plan is to keep brewing, refining our beers and focus on the local market. The focus is on making quality beers and to keep getting better.
The reality is that It’s an industry that is very competitive with a lot of breweries out there. Having said that there is also a great community spirit amongst the brewers I’ve met. Through talking to them, sharing war stories and advice I find I’m constantly learning new ideas and techniques.
Bath Pizza Co: What inspires or influences your ingredients and brewing technique?
Harry: I think it’s one big melting pot of various influences. Some of it is historical, Bath has a rich brewing history with perhaps 30+ breweries over the last 200 years. So we occasionally look at older styles for inspiration.
I also do a lot of travelling and that’s also been a big source of inspiration. Places like Belgium and Germany have been great to try their styles of beer. Another country that has been a big source of inspiration is the US, it was during my first visit there about seven years ago that I was introduced to a craft beer. It was perhaps the moment that got me back into beer again after a long break where I was mostly drinking wines and spirits. Certainly when I go over there I do try and visit a bar to try something from their huge menus!
Plus we like to mix styles or techniques. Paradise Lost for example, started out as a old style Mild which was generally stronger than today. But we tweaked it a bit to add a bit more hop aroma and finish. The Tempest, the inspiration came from a friend who thought a gin flavoured beer could be a great idea. We took that idea, did some research (coming across things like Finland’s Sahti beer) and worked out a style to brew.
Bath Pizza Co: An absolute pleasure Harry, thanks for your time, we look forward to trying more from the Albion Brewing Co in the coming months!