A former bank clerk whose disillusionment led him to take up full time brewing celebrated his first pub sale last week, just six months after setting up his business.
Gregg Ellar decided to set up The Hildenborough Brewery Ltd after being made redundant from his job of 15 years as a bank clerk and the tragic death of his father within the space of a few months of each other last year.
‘I decided to take a leap of faith and turn my 10 year plus brewing hobby into a business. I had nearly all the equipment needed for a small commercial venture already having slowly built up my knowledge and brewing capacity over that time,’ Mr Ellar said.
Admitting his experience was, and remains, very daunting, Mr Ellar believes it was his ‘last chance’ to realise his ambition of becoming a full time brewer.
He now runs the business with his wife Catherine, who has taken on the role of company secretary, although he takes on most of the hands on tasks.
‘Everything is done by myself in our home, our kitchen is filled to the brim with tun, beer boiler, fermenters, water tank, hoses, pumps and bottles on a brew or bottle day,’ he explained.
Even though his business is classed as a ‘nano brewery’ – a loose definition for very small operations with a brew run of less than three barrels [288 pints] – it is still large enough to warrant a large degree of ingenuity.
‘Our beer boiler was built in Italy to hold olive oil, It was a bare food grade stainless steel container with one tap and a lid and that was it. I bought it and had it shipped over where I fitted a multitude of taps and strainers for separating hops and re-circulation. I also fitted 11,400 watts worth of heating elements.
‘Our fermenters were bare bones food grade conical fermenters from China which I designed, drilled and fitted with a multitude of ports, connectors, seals and cooling coils for a variety of processes. There is barely room in the kitchen,’ he said.
The lack of a designated space also means a very time consuming assembly a disassembly period which overall takes around 24 hours.
Since December his four beer products – a golden ale, golden lite, wheat beer and APA – have predominantly been targeted at the home market, however last week that changed.
‘My beer went on sale in the Greyhound pub in Charcott on Wednesday [June 6] and it happened to be a day when a group from CAMRA were visiting, which was a bit nerve-wracking.’
But Mr Ellar is already ‘in talks’ with another pub and claims that despite the cramped conditions there is probably room for ‘one more expansion’ before a separate premises would need to be sought.
Mr Ellar added: ‘I would like to get to the micro-brewing stage but I am not going to take on loans to do it. I would prefer to my business organically.’