A good brew: Sussex in a glass
A thriving new brewery at the foot of the South Downs reflects the increasing popularity of local Sussex ales, writes Hazel Sillver
When Geoff Moseley bought the Shepherd & Dog pub in Fulking in 2006, he gazed at the stream running alongside it and wondered if the water might be good enough for beer.The pretty little stream is fed by a spring, which emerges at the foot of the South Downs hills, about 100 metres away. It bubbles its way out of chalk rock and over mossy ground and gradually forms a waterway that runs alongside the beer garden of the Shepherd & Dog. "The spring water is so tasty and fresh that people come especially and fill bottles with it," says Geoff. "We had it tested by a water company to see if it was fit for beer and they told us that, yes, the quality is very high. So we approached a micro-brewery and began to make our own beer, just for fun really." The result was a traditional bitter with an elderflower flavour.Fulking is a sleepy village at the foot of the Downs, between Henfield and Hove, and the Shepherd & Dog is its only pub. Locals were thrilled when Geoff began serving his own brand of beer at the bar. Regular drinkers started coming up with names for the brew and (after some 300 suggestions) they settled on Ruskin’s Ram.The writer John Ruskin has strong associations with the village. He loved Fulking and had a pump installed that took water up to the houses. The pump is known as a ‘ram pump’, but the word ram also relates to the history of sheep farming on the hills above Fulking and of shepherds bringing their flocks to the spring for dipping in times gone by."Ruskin’s Ram proved to be very popular with our drinkers," says Geoff, "so what had begun as a bit of a joke and a hobby, turned into a proper little business."For almost a year, Fulking spring water was driven to the microbrewery to make the bitter, but then sadly that brewery closed down. "One of the brewers, a chap called Widdi, then approached me and asked if I’d like to carry on making Ruskin’s Ram (and maybe more ales) with him," says Geoff. "So that was that. We decided to begin making beer on a bigger scale."Brewer Widdi soon created tasty new ales: a porter called Devil’s Dyke and a pale ale called Truleigh Gold.
In July 2012, they moved into a new site in Small Dole, bought their own equipment and began brewing 12 barrels (a 3,000 pint capacity). Widdi then came up with a fourth fruity beer called Three Rings.
Just a few months later and they now sell all over Sussex. "We’re in 70 pubs now," beams Geoff, "– mostly in Sussex." They have been included in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide 2013 and have ex-Harveys rep Phil Ayling