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Granted, it’s not much to look at, but this shed is special! As sheds go, it’s unlikely to win a “Shed of the Year” award. George Clarke (renowned British architect), is unlikely to praise its innovative design. Nevertheless, it’s well maintained and on a level footing – which is not always easily achieved!
So, whilst unremarkable from the exterior, like all sheds, what resides inside is always far more interesting.
Guess what’s inside the shed!
So, what is inside this shed? Well, it houses the wellhead for the natural (and ph neutral) water that bubbles up from Mother Earth below. This water is unsullied by treatment plants and is drawn from deep within a beautiful peaceful hilltop near Longhope, in the Forest of Dean. Hillside Brewery uses this fresh, pure water to produce their beer – so this is a very special shed indeed!
Passion: an essential ingredient
Another unique and very special ingredient is added to the mix to create their artisan beers; and this precious commodity is everywhere at Hillside. It is to be found in abundance – and it’s called passion!
This passion is obvious from the moment you speak to Paul Williamson (director), or any of the brewers. Take this, a selection of unadulterated natural ingredients and traditional brewing techniques and – shazam! – you have the very best in local artisan beer. In fact, it makes you wonder why more people aren’t doing this already. Except, they’re not. You won’t find this kind of quality and attention to detail in large commercial brands. If there’s one thing you need to know about Hillside Brewery, it’s that they take great pride in their products and this is obvious the minute you crack one of their beers open.
Hillside “Brewery Tours”
We joined Paul and the team at Hillside Brewery. It was a beautiful November morning in the Forest of Dean. We arrived early but the kettle was already steaming. Paul and his brewers Derek, Matt and Will, awaited the arrival of their group “Brewery Tour” booking for the day.
A day to remember…
Two brothers Roger and Gary, both originally from Coleford, had booked a brewery day to celebrate a 39th birthday – yay! The rest of their group comprised of three work colleagues from Rolls Royce, Bristol. These Bristolians had already heard about Hillside at the Tetbury Food Festival! In fact, the whole group confessed to a love of beer (with some amusing home brewing tales) apart from one who didn’t drink at all!
Will Kear and Derek Orford (Master Brewer), kicked-off the introduction to the day in the spacious kitchen cum presentation room. All the products were on display to give visitors a preview of what’s to come later (each had several bottles to take away included in the cost of their day).
Ask an expert at Hillside Brewery
Meanwhile, in the background, Paul had already started grilling the bacon for mid-morning refreshments. Will and Derek were busily getting into the nitty-gritty of how they create their fantastic products at Hillside Brewery. The crowd was surprisingly knowledgeable, asking some very pertinent questions. However, Will and Derek are bona fide experts who know just about everything there is to be known about brewing fine beers and ales!
Moving on, in the cold store, everyone was given the opportunity to see and taste the various combinations of barley and wheat. We learnt about how varying those mixes and other ingredients creates the flavours of Hillside brews. Greg, from our tour group, was given the job of weighing out the mix for the day’s beer making.
Check out the nifty little ‘nano-brewery’
Hillside have a pallet sized ‘nano-brewery’ on site, which engages the audience through active participation in the brewing process. It’s a great hands-on experience, because it is an opportunity to experience the science/art of beer making. So, it’s not just an excuse for a booze up. Unless you want it to be! This leads to a fascinating learning experience in a delightfully warm and aromatic brewery room – and the hops haven’t even gone in yet.
Quick stop for a bacon buttie
So, the hot liquor was added to the mash tun, and the barley and wheat was gently stirred by willing hands and left to steep. So, the group returned to the kitchen for a very well earned cuppa and bacon sarnie to fortify them for the rest of the day!
The traditional brewing process step-by-step
We were led through the process behind producing the traditional Hillside beers such as “Legend of Hillside”, “Severn Surge” and the famous “Legless Cow”. This was all topped off by an impressive buffet-style ploughman’s lunch spread. Beer, bread and cheese – what’s not to like about that?
Top it all off with a taster session for beer connoisseurs
Finally, back to the brewing house to bring the tour to its natural and much anticipated conclusion – the tasting session! This took place in the conference room, with a large table groaning under the weight of the full range of Hillside’s produce. Brewer, Derek Orford, gave an interesting and informative talk on the different beers and their manufacture.
Beers #1 -4!
Derek and Will took led us through a real adventure for the taste buds! We started off with the IPA (India Pale Ale) that is known as “The Legend”. Then came its more alcoholic siblings, “Legend Revisited” and “Legend Retold”, and also the closely related “Pinnacle” IPA.
And there’s more!
We then tried “Over the Hill”, a mild number (although not a stout), with flavours of cocoa and roasted malt, followed by its close neighbour the ruby ale “Summit” and the heavier “Severn Surge”. This was all topped off with “Legless Cow”, a best bitter. Naturally, we were invited to re-visit our own particular favourite.
For the love of fine ale…
Later that day, Paul ran WyeDean Deli Confidential through Hillside’s stock and quality management regime. Brewer Matt Fraser was just as effusive about the quality of the beer as he had been when I first met him in the kitchen. “And that’s it,” said Paul. “This beer gets brewed because of all us, not just one of us. We can all brew and do each other’s jobs if we have to. We are a small business, so we have to able to do that. But we all love the beer we make and we all love making it”.
Brewer Derek Orford captured the essence of the day, as individual members of the group voiced their own preferences, “That’s the thing”, said Derek. “We all have difference tastes based on our experiences and even genetics and so we just choose a beer that we like ourselves.” And Hillside do make a great range in the traditional styles (draft, bottle and cask conditioned) and tastes. However, we did notice that the “birthday brothers” Roger and Gary from Coleford were just enjoying the day and sampling Hillside’s best beers together – Happy Birthday!
Learn more about Hillside Brewery
Hillside Brewery has ensured that the site has been built with accessibility in mind. The beer is top notch, you’ll receive a warm welcome and the lunch is an ideal complement to their beers. Planned developments for 2015 include featuring some of their finest local bread and cheeses with the lunch. There is also a large barn which will house their 2015 Beer Festival. The very popular Battle Sports is literally just next door. So, Hillside also plans to offer brewery tours and a quiet pint for those of a less combative nature.
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