For this post I’m looking a lot closer to home… about 3 miles away to be precise, at a relatively new brewery in Swindon
Now, Swindon (And Wiltshire in general) seems to be a bit of a craft beer black hole… a place where real ale reigns supreme, with only a handful of decent bottle shops to choose from for anything crafty.
So, you can imagine my surprise, and sheer joy to find, purely by chance, a craft brewer practically on my doorstep.
Old Town Craft Brewing, as the name suggests, is based in the old town area of Swindon. The area itself has gone through a bit of a renaissance and redevelopment, including the addition of a new craft beer bar and improvements in craft offerings from the local bottle shop.
Although very young, by brewery standards, Old Town Craft Brewing has been around in essence under former guises. Originally Ormskirk Brewing Company (OBC) back in 2011 and producing a style of wheat beers inspired by the German Weisse beers and more modern American HefeWeizen styles. After initial success in the North of the country, OBC was moved south to Swindon and Old Town Craft Brewing was established in 2012 with the aim to produce high quality crafted ales and fruit wines.
Throughout 2013 and into 2014, the Brewery started to embrace the idea of craft beers fully, experimenting with different techniques and flavour combinations to produce unique brews and using locally grown hops and foraged fruits and other ingredients.
At the end of 2014 and into 2015 the Brewery started its #CoHop project. Supplying local residents, business and other interested parties with hop plants for them to grow in their gardens, with the hops grown harvested and brewed into fresh new beers and then shared by the local community and beyond. This kind on project is a big step forward for a small brewer as it allows the use of the freshest possible hops and all locally, sustainably sourced and also gives a sense of connection with the local community. If you’re local and want to get involved click here.
The first time I had even heard of Old Town Craft Brewing was on a flyer for a Christmas market last year and I was immediately curious… how could a craft brewer just a fair walk away go under the radar so easily! Therefore, I took the wife and kid along to the market under the guise of ‘christmas shopping’ and lo and behold I was met with a stand full of delicious looking beer (at which point my wife twigged why I was really so keen to go).
I was lucky to have gotten there early enough to have a good chat while sampling some of their core beers, at that time two different pale ales and a porter, that I will discuss more below. At the time of the fayre, the Brewery was still operating on a small scale, producing what can only be described as nano batches for the local craft and ale bars and bottles for fayres like this. Only now, after being granted a premises license are they able to sell direct to the public from the brewery itself which will no doubt have a profound impact on their sales and allow for much easier availability.
Now, onto the important things….. the beer!!
I was lucky to have been able to pick up one of each of the three available beers at the time, these were two from their Artisan range, a green hop IPA and their Easy IPA, and one of their core beers, the Bushcraft Porter, a hand-crafted porter brewed with craft and aged hops along with some foraged fruits.
The Artisan range consists of very small batch brews, using all of the locally grown and foraged wild hops that are crafted into a wide variety of beers, from standard IPA’s to Saison/farmhouse styles, wheat beers, porters and more. The two on offer here were;
Artisan project #25, their Easy IPA brewed with 6 different hop varieties giving a big fruity punch and a nice balanced bitterness.
Artisan project #26, the 2016 variant of their green hop IPA. Using only locally grown ingredients this beer is bitter to the extreme, owing to the huge amounts of ‘green’ hops used in the brew These are fresh, unprocessed hops that need go into a brew straight from the bines with the beer needing to be drank as soon after bottling as possible for the best taste. Brewing with ‘green’ hops also means you never really know what flavour profile you might end up with, it could be grassy/herbal, decidedly bitter, or intensely fruity.
Initial favours with the bottle I had were very much like any IPA, light and fruity, but then the bitterness really kicks in. Personally, I loved that big contrast from delicate fruit sweetness to in your face bitterness. The other real plus for me is that the bitterness doesn’t linger in your mouth, meaning each sip gives that same light initial taste then transforms.
In a market place that is in danger of becoming saturated with the ever growing number of craft breweries, it’s my hope that Old Town is in there for the long haul. With a unique approach and even more unique beers they have so much to offer.