For the last few weeks, here at The Passage House Inn, we’ve been very much enjoying the second season of the Small Batch Brews club. So when we had the opportunity to talk to the man behind it all, we jumped at the chance! St Austell’s head brewer, Roger Ryman, was kind enough to clear some time from his busy schedule to have a chat with us about the project and we started by asking him where the initial inspiration for the project came from. He explained that there has always been a culture of innovation at St Austell’s Brewery and that for the last 20 years they’ve had a microbrewery on their main site which they utilise for an annual beer festival in November. It was a great opportunity for them to be creative with beers and the feedback from customers was that they wanted to drink some of these beers all year round at their local pubs, not just at the festival. So they upgraded it from a 2 brewers barrel plant to a 12 barrel plant. Each ale has a different brewer behind it and each pump clip has their own name on it which helps foster a sense of pride and ownership over their creations.
Roger explained that the Small Batch Brews serve as a great cultivation ground for what they could brew on a bigger scale. Essentially they are testing the beer and the market, the brewing differs from their larger batches of beer (such as Tribute and Proper Job) only in size. He acknowledges that although St Austell are a popular and successful brand, they don’t want to sit on their laurels and are always looking for new ideas and ways to be creative. Small Batch Brews helps with the test marketing of such ideas and in fact, they’ve ear marked a few of the beers to upscale already!
The beers have been received incredibly well by the pubs hosting the series. Roger told us that they are covering a wide geographical area with a diverse range of pubs hosting from trendy craft beer establishments to quiet rural pubs off the beaten track. The pubs opt in for a 12 beer season and then are given the option to leave if they want. Out of 40, only 2 dropped out and were immediately replaced…this incredible retention rate displays the success of the project! So successful in fact that the Season 3 program is being put together as we speak with creative juices well and truly flowing.
Of particular interest to our customers were the Eden Project inspired beers so we asked about their significance. St Austell are partners with The Eden Project who are known to be full of exciting ideas so they simply engaged with this enthusiasm during the design process. In the series, 1 in 3 beers have been made in collaboration with Eden. Most beers traditionally have just 4 ingredients but on the Eden beers, they helped to design a 5th. From the African Baobab Fruit to the recent Mango IPA, there are lots of exotic wonderful plants and fruits available to work with to design some truly unique, global beers.
Asked what his favourite part of the process of designing and brewing a new ale was, Roger enthusiastically answered…drinking it! In seriousness though, he thinks it’s the creativity. The team of brewers at St Austell are all beer enthusiasts and love innovating new beers. He told us that the industry is so vibrant at the moment and they are taking inspiration from beers from around the world. He said that seeing a vision become reality is the best part of the process.
Our time was almost up but we couldn’t leave without asking which brew was his favourite so far? The answer was one of his own, Eureka, which we’ve got on draught at the moment! This American Pale IPA has been so popular that it is one of the ones they’re looking to upscale into larger production in the future. So why not pop down and have a pint yourself and see what you think. We’re very proud to be part of the Small Batch Brews club and would like to thank Roger for his time and all his incredible work in creating such a diverse range of beers. Here’s to Season 3!