Q&A with Twisted Barrel Ales
Twisted Barrel Ale
Please introduce yourself...
Twisted Barrel Ale exists to create beer that is full of flavour. We like to brew a diverse range of beer styles, ensuring that with every beer we create we've packed as much flavour as possible into the glass. If we were to generalise the types of beer we produce it'd be hoppy pales and strong Belgian beers, however this doesn't preclude us from having a dark Mild and a Stout as part of our year round offering.
I'm Ritchie Bosworth, I'm from a home brewing background and started the company originally back in July 2013 with my close friend Chris Cooper and our partners, Jen and Annie. Over the course of 18 months the brewery has expanded from a 60 litre fortnightly brewing schedule to a 1000 litre twice weekly schedule. In June 2015 Twisted Barrel opened the first ever all vegan Tap House, in a creative arts project called Fargo Village in Coventry. The beers are served onsite with the brewery equipment mere yards away.
At the heart of the company is an ethos of ethical responsibility. To this end, we do not and will not use any animal ingredients in any of our products. We ensure that all of our staff are paid the Living Wage for their work. We re-use spent grains by gifting them to local allotments in order to grow fruit and vegetables that we then utilise in our beers. In short, we minimise as best we can our impact on the world and ensure that no living creature is hurt or exploited in the course of our business.
Where do you brew from and what's your set up?
As mentioned above, we brew onsite at Fargo Village in Coventry. We have a bespoke 6BBL stainless steel brewery kit sourced from the excellent Brewing Vessels Limited. We have a fermentation capacity of 3000 litres spread across three FVs, and brew approximately twice per week. We offer a range of six core beers, including pale ales, IPAs, saisons, mild and stout. We're regularly creating new beers using our original 60L pilot kit, and brew at least one seasonal special each month on our 6BBL kit.
We mostly keg and bottle our beers, with a small amount of cask beer in circulation. All of the racking work is completed manually and there is very little automation to any of our processes. We prefer to use kegs due to the ease of one way vessels and the ability to accurately dial in the flavour of your beers leaving little room for outside interference.
Our keg and bottle products mostly make their way into specialist off licences and a smattering of modern bars and cafes, we have three permanent lines outside of our Tap House with this likely to double in the next couple of months. Our beers are available to the trade locally direct from us, or further afield through wholesalers such as Beer Direct and Inn Express.
Myself and brewery assistant Tim handle the brewing and racking duties. We also have a Bar Team consisting of supervisor Aran and bar staff Jamie and Abbi. The Directors regularly help out too, working the bar or helping in a myriad of other ways.
The Tap House is open a couple of evenings a week and all day on a Saturday. Our opening hours do change frequently in order to suit the requirements of the brewery. We have regular events happening in the Tap House, such as quiz nights, Meet The Brewer and Tap Takeover events from other breweries, movie nights, games nights, live music etc.
What was your path into the world of brewing?
I first got into ale when travelling and living in New Zealand in my mid-twenties. The beer culture in NZ was very different to anything I'd experienced before and most bars didn't seem to sell generic lager so I started trying the ales on offer and fell in love with a few, particularly beers from Monteiths. When I returned to the UK it soon became clear that a lot of my close friends had also turned into beer geeks and so we started regularly seeking out new beers, bars and going on brewery tours.
This led to us producing a monthly podcast called All Hail The Ale in which we spent an evening trying out new beers and waxing lyrical/slating them. Our experiences creating the podcast led to a feeling that we should probably know more about the brewing process in order to more accurately understand what we were drinking. Our partners brought both Chris and I home brew kits for Christmas and, after they'd sat in the cupboard for nine months, we had a go. We really enjoyed the process but immediately realised kits weren't our thing and moved straight onto writing our own recipes.
After a few trial runs and making beers for friends weddings and parties and receiving good feedback we figured we'd give it a go commercially. At the time, setting up on a 60L kit allowed us to market ourselves as the smallest commercial brewery in the UK. It was hard work but we managed to fit this around maintaining our full time jobs. When the opportunity ti open our own Tap House close to Coventry city centre arrived and the potential to expand I gave up my job in order to make it happen.
It was quite daunting having never worked in a commercial brewery or had any formal training, but the expansion process went smoothly and a lot of the research and methods we'd developed on a smaller scale seemed to work, and still are!
Where do you see your brewery in three years time?
We'd like to be in the process of expanding to a 20BBL size and becoming a regional producer rather than just local as we are currently. We'd like to help to develop and encourage other brewers in the area to start up through our work with our home brew club and enable our current location to become a showpiece for Coventry beers. We're very keen to establish Coventry a leader in the modern beer movement, as growth in the Midlands has been stifled rather by a reluctance of pubs and bars to support new breweries.
Whats the single biggest challenge facing the UK independent beer market?
The move from larger breweries to develop their own, separate, craft products that undermine the quality that modern beer has helped to develop and maintain over the last five years.
What was the first beer which altered your perception of beer?
Monteith Original Ale.
What beer do you wished you had brewed?
None really, I don't really covet any other brewers products as beer is such a personal expression.
Whats the strangest ingredient you've ever put in a beer?
Created a Pimms beer using strawberries, cucumber, orange and lime peel and mint. It actually tasted like Pimms too.
Describe your brewery in six words.
Ethical. Flavourful. Passionate. Reliable. Vegan. Friendly.