A day in the life at a Cheshire microbrewery
- Credit: Donna Clifford
After years of selling beer, Giles Meadows decided to learn the brewing side of the business. Now, Wincle Beer Company is one of the most picturesque British microbreweries. Here, Giles talks about his working day
I give myself 20 minutes in the morning to have a cup of tea, listen to the radio and see what’s going on in the world before walking my dog down to the brewery. She’s called Lola and is a collie-springer-cross, so she’s quite lively. One of the best things for me is that I can walk to work – it gives me a chance to formulate what’s going to happen in the day, so when I get there, I’m ready to go.
Our brewer, Grant Leah, will be ready to start brewing and will be mashing in, which involves mixing the grains with water. We’ll sit down over a cuppa, check that he’s happy with the recipe and how he’s set up for the day’s brew. We’ll have worked out a recipe beforehand, but this is our time to discuss what techniques we might use to brew this particular beer, or the hopping techniques. Hops are produced in two ways, you see. You get whole leaf hops, which is a traditional way of having hops, where they are dried and vacuum-packed. Pelleted hops are the same, but they are macerated and produced into pellets, which might be used for a more contemporary brew. As we’re brewing so many different types of beer, it’s important to make sure we’re clear on the technique so we get the best quality.
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I’ll sit with the sales team and go through anything we might like to do, such as create any new beers. When we started 12 years ago, it was on the cusp of the micro-brewing revolution, so we do experiment a lot with recipes, but we also create a core range of beers that might be described as more conventional. One of our highest-rated beers is a barley wine which, on the face of it, is an old-fashioned brew, but if you bring it up-to-date, it’s a fabulous style that’s underrated. I’m of the view that it’s good to be different. A lot of people are going off to the Americas for inspiration these days, but I like to stay true to our values. Our British brewing heritage is important to me and I believe it’s something that ought to be celebrated. I’m trying to champion that. If you’re trying to sell something, you’ve got to believe in it.
There’s always admin to do, so I’ll spend the rest of the morning in the office dealing with any issues, Facebook messages, accounts, and all the weird and wonderful emails.
If we get the chance, it’s nice to all go into the onsite taproom for lunch. It gives us the opportunity to chat about how the morning has gone as, quite often, everyone is working in separate areas on their own. The cohesion of the team in a small business is essential, so making time like this is important to me.
INTO THE BREWERY
Once the telephones aren’t as hot, I’ll go into the brewery to help. The brewing process takes about eight hours, so Grant will have started without me – we brew one beer per day around four times a week. It’s important for me to get down on the floor, drive home quality and spend time with Grant. Brewing is what I enjoy the most; it’s very therapeutic, and I like getting stuck in. I’m very happy digging out the mash tun or doing some cask washing – it’s just about mucking in and I think it’s important to do this as the boss of a small team. The hops will need to be measured out ready for the boil at this point and quite often, there’ll be some microscope work to check the yeast strain is healthy too.
A DAY’S WORK
If everything has gone to plan, we tend to finish around this time. The beer will be in the fermenter, the yeast will be pitched, the copper will be dug out of hops and ready for the next day’s brew. Lola stays at the brewery all day because she’s only six months, and we are trying to train her up as the brewery dog. So, it’s back to dog walking, and I’m lucky that our brewery is in a stunning location. It’s not just great for me, but it’s great for people who want to come and visit us too. I love that it helps us tell a story with our beer – it’s about where it’s produced and the people who produce it. I’m proud that we’re a local employer and that it’s a community business.
Once I get home there’ll be some emails to tend to. If I have some moments of inspiration on the walk too, I’ll use this time to act on those. There’s always lots to think about with a start-up, such as our plans for the future. We’re working on being more environmentally green, so I’m looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint.
MINGLING AND MARKETING
Because of the nature of the business, I’m often out in the evening seeing customers or doing Meet the Brewer events. It’s work, but it’s social and fun, so it’s not so bad! I like drinking my beer on draught in pubs – I get a great deal of pleasure out of that. It also gives me a lot of pleasure when I’m in a pub, incognito, and someone orders a pint of Wincle Beer. They don’t know who I am, but they comment on it being a great pint – that’s a great feeling.
AT the moment, the tap room, shop and brewery are closed, Wincle Beer are still offering a home delivery or postal service on bottles of beer.