Lager-brewing Under-30s farmer

Farmers Club Under-30s member Alec Williamson seeks success with on-farm lager-brewing

 Alec Williamson Brewery

Like many I wanted to return to the family farm, but needed another enterprise to make it viable. In my case this led to the idea of starting a lager brewery, named Calvors. 

This was a little unique compared to the normal ale microbreweries and I believe I was the third lager-only microbrewery in the UK. Despite knowing the production process is considerably more expensive and longer than ale, and that drinkers are more brand loyal to their lager, I decided it would be worth trying to see if a niche existed.   

Lager is renowned in the UK for being poor quality. However, few know that it is more complicated to make than ale. A significant reason people believe lager tastes of very little is due to mainstream brands brewing them to high alcohol percentages, then watering them down to make the production process cheaper. I wanted to make lager in a genuine, more Continental way, which would mean it also has flavour, albeit delicate. 

I embarked on the journey in 2007 by securing planning permission for change of use of a building and had a 1000 litre brewery installed. I had learned the basics, and over many months eventually overcame the added difficulties of brewing lager on a small scale.   

In 2008 I started selling a 5% bottled lager and then set up the ability to fill kegs. More lagers followed, including two dark in colour, and then in 2012, after proving there was a niche for craft English lagers, I needed to invest in a brewery that would give the ability to make money, as the lager process was not viable using a 1000 litre brewhouse.   

Lager comes from the word ‘lagerung’, which means to store in German. All of our lagers are stored for five weeks longer than our ales, which of course takes a lot of tanks. In late 2012 I started to install my new 6500litre brewhouse, which I am pleased to say was all built in England. 

In early 2012 I purchased a local pub ‘The Rampant Horse Inn’ which now promotes our beers along with fresh food made on-site.  It is a pleasure to run a pub that has been open for 472 years! 

My quest for efficiency continued, and unfortunately it meant the end of my lager-only status, as I would have been silly not to utilise the distribution we already had and make the far easier, less expensive, and quicker ‘Ale’.  I purchased a number of casks and now sell two permanent ales in casks, kegs and bottles. 

The craft beer movement seems to have happened around me, which has been fantastic. However, it means a lot more people to compete in a market that sees declining beer sales year on year and a declining number of pubs.  

 

Alec Williamson

Founder
Calvors Brewery Ltd
Home Farm
Coddenham Green
Ipswich
Suffolk
IP6 9UN
07796626105
01449 711055