Raising a glass with Derek Orford

SoGlos sits down for a pint with Hillside Brewery’s master brewer, Derek Orford, to discuss its ever-growing collection of ales, rare hops, the loss of 35,000 pints, and how anyone can have a go at making their own in its on-site nano brewery.

Derek, please tell our readers a little about the brewing process at Hillside Brewery and the ales you produce.

We pride ourselves on producing high quality ales in small batches using traditional methods, the finest ingredients from around the world and heritage hops from our local area. Using methods that have been developed and mastered over a lifetime, we simply want to share our passion for great beer.

We have a classic collection of ales available all year round, which include: Legend of Hillside, a traditional English IPA with a subtle honey flavour; Pinnacle, a great session beer with a fresh and fruity finish; Legless Cow, a best bitter with a rich caramel flavour and citrus hop finish; Over the Hill, a full bodied, single-hop, malty dark mild; and Severn Surge, a seven-malt, modern-style porter with a dark berry aroma finish.

We also have smaller one-off brews, including Centurion, a heavily hopped American IPA, packed with tropical and citrus fruit flavours; and Jolly Jester, a fresh and fruity Belgian style beer, made using the brand new British Jester hop, which has limited and rare availability.

Would you say brewing is more of an art or science?

I would say at small scale, it is definitely more of an art. This is because of the influence of the raw materials, and how they change with the seasons is more critical on a smaller scale.

Science comes into play in terms of key elements of the brewing process, where we need to be spot-on with temperatures and times.

What training do you do to become a master brewer?

I was a pupil of a head brewer for about a year. During this time, I learned to complete every task by hand, from the cleaning and ingredient additions to packaging, bottling and cask filling.

This was followed by more formal training and a further 10 years’ experience, leading to the Master Brewer Qualification from the Institute of Brewing.

What’s the best thing about your job and why?

Seeing a drinker savour a pint of beer that I’ve made. The feeling that I have created something which someone can enjoy so much, based on the recipe and production.

There are several breweries established in Gloucestershire. What makes Hillside stand out?

Everything we do is completed in-house and by hand, from the mixing of the grain to the bottling and labelling.

We have invested in state-of-the-art brewing equipment which allows us to achieve a top quality and consistent beer, and also use our own borehole water, which is mineral-rich and perfect for making ales.

One of the main reasons we love working at the brewery is the stunning location; having lovely views over the Cotswolds and being set in classic renovated barns.

We also have a nano brewery that allows us to make trial batches of new recipes, but also for people to come and brew their own beer for a special event or wedding. These can even have a custom label or pump clip to make them even more personal.

We might just have to try making a SoGlos brew in that case! How do you come up with new flavours and styles of ale?

We are always on the lookout for new hop varieties and local or seasonal ingredients. These are constantly changing throughout the year.

There are at least 40 different beer styles and over time we will aim to brew all of them as well as create our own unique ones.

Tell us about any unique ingredients you use at Hillside Brewery.

We have just produced a brand new summer ale; a golden ale that has a beautiful, smooth elderflower finish. We picked all of the elderflowers by hand from our on-site farm.

We have also produced a Belgian Trippel beer using a brand new British hop called Jester. This is grown by our neighbour in Bosbury, Mark Andrews, who is one of the leading hop growers in the UK. This beer has fantastic flavours of banana and pear drops and nine per cent ABV for a kick. We include some muscovado sugar to help get the higher ABV but also to give subtle candy-like flavours.

Fascinating. Would you say Jester is your favourite hop this year?

Yes. Not only is it grown locally, but it’s in short supply and brand new. It’s always great for us as brewers to experiment with new hops to see what we can achieve from them.

So what’s your personal favourite Hillside Brewery tipple?

I would have to say it’s Over the Hill, our 3.5 per cent dark mild. This beer has strong coffee and chocolate flavours with a good amount of body to back it up. It’s a neglected and almost forgotten style of beer, which we are trying to resurrect and promote. Our drinkers are giving us a lot of praise for this beer and it’s rapidly becoming one of our most popular.

What brewing trends do you predict over the next 12 months?

We think there will be an increase in the use of local ingredients, which we strongly focus on anyway.

Have you had any brewing nightmares in your time?

I once opened the wrong valve on a tank and lost 20,000 litres, which is roughly 35,000 pints of beer! Luckily that was at a previous brewery and it was a drop in the ocean for a mega brewery like that!

Phew! What qualities do you think a successful brewer should possess?

They should have three main priorities: quality, quality, quality. The drinker always comes first.

And what advice would you give to an aspiring home brewer?

Come and have a full day’s training with me and learn how to make best use of all the ingredients, of course!

Where can ale drinkers sup a Hillside brew in Gloucestershire?

We have guest ales in quite a few pubs around the county. Try looking in The Fountain Inn in Gloucester; The Red Hart Inn in Blaisdon; and The Royal Exchange in Hartpury.

How do you think Hillside Brewery will have developed in a year’s time?

Drinkers are demanding that we brew more, so we will be doubling the capacity as soon as we can. We also plan to host a lot of on-site events and hopefully a beer festival too.

What else is likely to tempt our readers to visit Hillside Brewery?

We offer brewery tours which last around an hour and a half. These provide an insight into the background of brewing and allow visitors to touch and smell the ingredients used, and learn about the process, before the fun bit – tasting our classic ales!

We also share the site with BattleSports Glos, which offers a laser combat experience with multiple obstacles such as a London cab, and the chance to range over the local hills and woodland area. Experience it for yourselves, finishing off with a brewery tour, or have a beer with us while the kids enjoy the BattleSports experience.

For more information see Hillside Brewery, call (01452) 830222, email info@hillsidebrewery.com or visit hillsidebrewery.com directly.

By Shelly McCatty

© SoGlos
Monday 18 August 2014

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