Father and son team: ‘we’re only here for the beer
But Lytham Brewery it most certainly is, rehoused after a fire ripped through the original (Lytham) base this time two years ago.
This is a far headier brew than coffee and frankly far more alluring. We’re off the beaten retail track on a small semi-industrial estate at St Annes.
That’s more by accident than design – and it couldn’t be a better base. Bags of security, plenty of potential for expansion.
It doesn’t boast the signage of the bigger name “micro” breweries. This is low profile but high quality brewing. Casual callers are often baffled trying to find this brewery. Pause, as I do, to ask “is Lytham Brewery around here?” and neighbouring industrial unit owners give a world weary shrug and nod to the kegs outside. Oh yes.
Inside there’s no mistaking the mashing and machinations of hops turned to premier league cask ale.
The results are winning awards and getting praise in the prestige beer press.
Real ale fans are beginning to make the pilgrimage here in coachloads to meet the father and son team brewing up a storm – Andrew and James Booker.
The pair set up business in 2007.
Andrew was originally an engineering graduate at British Aerospace – “25 years ago.”
He adds: “I’ve been in construction and property and latterly a landlord of the Hastings Club.
“The Hastings won national Camra (campaign for Real Ale) club of the year and I think we decided, ‘Why are we buying beer in?’
“We knew what we liked and started to make it. We started in the club.
“We work well together too. You can get away saying things to your son that you wouldn’t with anyone else.”
The brewery has grown into its new base and produces around 13,000 pints a week.
Andrew’s a director there, his son James is managing director.
“We also put the extra time in, do what you have to do to get the job done.”
The magic’s in the mash – the brew house setting about the serious business of extracting the sugars out of the UK sourced malted barley, the price of which has soared.
It is then flavoured with a variety of hops from around the world.
Andrew adds: “The hops can provide as much character into the beer as you would find with grapes. Beers are designed so you select a style of beer to produce and to do that have a combination of malts to create the colour and appropriate hops for character and flavour.
“For instance, you wouldn’t produce a stout with a grapefruit aroma.”
Andrew and James tweak the mix to match seasonal demand.
The range comes with beautiful beer labels, matching the identifying pumps labels.
Take relative newcomer Twilight, a classic mild from chocolate malts to produce a classic English ale.
There’s Sovereign tribute, a limited run of Epic, and more. “We do so many and each is branded,” adds Andrew.
“We have our core range of six beers and 12 seasonal offerings. Because our production costs are relatively expensive you can’t find them in supermarkets, but people will find them in quality licensed establishments.”
The pair hope to offer seasonal packs and sampler beers,shortly. “There’s a real market for them but bottling costs are prohibitive,” adds Andrew.
“We have a loyal customer base who travel significant distances to sample beers they like. We regularly get people coming here, for instance. They include real ale enthusiasts, Camra members and more.
“Everybody’s palate is different. I’m more concerned with how the landlord presents our beer. It’s a live product so can’t be stored too long.
“Landlords need to secondary condition the beer in cellar, clean their lines correctly, otherwise it impacts on the taste of the beer – it won’t taste A1.
“Cask ale has changed radically in the last few years in the variety small independents can produce using only natural ingredients as we do.
“There’s also been a big conversion of lager drinkers to bright flavoursome beers.”
MD James heads up production with a master brewer on site and also distributes directly to pubs, hotels, clubs, restaurants and other outlets across the region.
“We’ve entertained people from Werne in Germany and sent beer back to them. In time we would love to distribute internationally,” adds his father.
And James says it signals a renaissance of sorts for the licensed trade.
James explains: “The pub trade has been going down for a period of time but the pubs that serve good cask ale are the ones who are thriving – and that’s where we have the edge.
“The market has changed but beer was produced originally to sterilise water. Today people drink by clarity. If you took beer back in time the product would be different. Today we drink more with our eyes.
“But the product uses the same natural ingredients so the flavour is still there. We also have far more choice. We tend to try not to do too many beers – we don’t saturate the market. We produce seasonal ales from our two brew plants with small batches of speciality beers. We don’t blend any beers which is quite important, so our beers are all unique.
“We run two seasonal beers each season and additional ones at Christmas so people get familiar with the product and, more importantly, start to look forward to each season.
“We also do beer swops with other breweries so we can bring other beers in – particularly for beer festivals and craft fairs and major events. Of course, we can’t drink and drive … so all the fun is for other people!”