Gun Brewery in East Sussex is going from strength to strength having opened up a new state-of-the-art brewery, a stunning taproom and a number of fun events – all open to the general public. Eileen Leahy chats to co-founder Mark Berry about how he and Toby Smallpiece have gone from selling one pint to over two million – many in our favourite local pubs – in just seven years…
On hearing the words ‘indie microbrewery’ most of us would conjure up images of uber trendy urban set-ups in the likes of East London and Manchester, but Gun Brewery, which is located within 140 acres of beautiful East Sussex farmland is a very different operation all together.
If you’re a fan of artisan lagers, pale ales and stouts and you frequent the bars and pubs of Tunbridge Wells on a regular basis then you’re bound to have already sampled some of Gun’s award-winning nectar.
The brand is stocked in lots of local hostelries including The Ragged Trousers on The Pantiles, Roddy Burger on Camden Road, Fuggles on Grosvenor Road and The George on Mount Ephraim.
But it’s in the stunning Wealden countryside where all the magic happens…
Located not far from the charming village of Chiddingly on the top of Gun Hill – hence the origin of the name – this mini but mighty brewery is certainly doing things differently.
Firstly, all its beers are brewed with Sussex spring water drawn from beneath the organic farm on Gun Hill. The beers’ characteristic style is naturally unhazy and unfined, and most are suitable for vegans. Gun also has a few offerings which are gluten free such as Chummy Bluster, Project Babylon and Numb Angel.
Secondly, the site is open to the general public – including to kids and dogs – from Thursday to Sunday when you can rock up for a pint or two. At the weekend visitors can also enjoy a bite to eat courtesy of the various food trucks who roll up the hill and into action.
On Saturdays Gun hosts a special tour (tickets cost £20 pp) which gives beer enthusiasts the chance to inspect every aspect of the brewing process, and of course to sample the many beers on offer.
And as of earlier this year Gun Brewery is also hosting lots of social events which so far have included a retro games night, fun quizzes, a vinyl spin off and a Feast and Fire night. In December there will be a seasonal Makers Market where you can browse and buy from fellow indie artisan creatives on December 11. And rather excitingly there will also be an exclusive solo music gig by Noble Jacks’ frontman and local lad Will Page on December 14 and a New Year’s Eve party on December 31.
“We’re hoping to grow our events offering more,” says co-founder Mark Berry as he shows me around the place. “They’ve been very popular so far and we want to do more. We’re also investing in a stretch tent which will sit on our terrace and be available to hire for private functions which will be especially good in the summer months,” he adds.
So what’s the story with Gun? Mark tells me it was launched back in 2015 by himself and his friend and business partner Toby Smallpiece.
“If you’re a fan of artisan beers and you frequent the bars and pubs of Tunbridge Wells you’re bound to have already sampled some of Gun’s award-winning nectar”
Since they sold their first pint seven years ago, the pair have gone on to sell over two million more, increasing their team to nearly ten and winning a slew of awards, including seven prestigious Great Taste ones alongside gaining coveted Great Taste Producer status.
The brewery has also achieved bronze, silver, and gold awards from the SIBA National Independent Beer Awards, Free From Awards and South East Independent Beer Awards.
As well as selling their cans and kegs to the finest establishments in Tunbridge Wells, Gun Brewery also sells across the South East and around the UK.
Its success over the past few years means that it had to get a bigger brewing operation in order to cope with demand. So in September 2020 – and yes, right in the middle of the Covid pandemic – Toby and Mark decided to put a spade in the ground in order to create a grander offering.
The build took around 18 months and now boasts a state-of-the-art brewery, including a cold store and the aforementioned fantastic taproom. Both officially launched in March this year. And Mark tells me there’s ‘plenty of room to grow still’. “We can probably triple in size,” he says.
The Gun team make a collection of seven consciously-brewed beers alongside 25 special beers brewed throughout the year. The core beers are available all year round in cases, and cask barrels from their website and shop. Some beers are also available on draught in many of the aforementioned local pubs.
“We also offer free delivery anywhere in the country on orders over £25,” continues Mark. “We can send up to 30 kilos with next day delivery for free. We sell beer in a few formats including cans, mini kegs and growlers which are refillable and take 3 ½ pints. At Christmas we’re going to provide one that has a capacity for 18 pints.”
Combining old and new brewing techniques, Gun Brewery aims to make the best beer using only the best ingredients explains Mark.
“Our beers are brewed on site from natural spring water located at a source deep below the farmland. The water is purified using microfilters and UV treatment for clean fresh water that is perfect for brewing.
“We want as many people to come here and enjoy the beers we are making but to also enjoy the surroundings and know they are welcome – whether it’s for a beer or an afternoon eating delicious food with family.”
We’ll certainly drink to that!
A taste of Gun
- Chummy Bluster – Best Bitter 4.4% V, GF
- Numb Angel – Lager 4.0% V, GF
- Project Babylon – Pale Ale, 4.6% V, GF
- Scaramanga – Extra Pale, 3.9% V, GF
- How’s the Serenity? – Vermont Pale 4.4% V
- Zamzama – IPA 6.5% V
- Parabellum – Milk Stout 4.1%
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
What’s on at Gun this December:
Friday, December 9 is ‘Off the Beaten Track’ Vinyl Night with a selection of soul, Jazz, country, and funk tunes. This free event will be jamming from 4pm – 10pm at the Taproom.
Sunday, December 11 sees the best local independent makers and creators setting up shop from 11am – 4pm. This is a chance to support local craftspeople, pick up some Christmas shopping and grab a warm glass of mulled cider (and Gun beer of course)
Wednesday December 14 Nobel Jack’s Will Page will be taking centre stage as he performs an exclusive solo show of Americana and folk melodies with his quick fiddle and genius lyrics. Taproom doors opening at 6pm. Tickets for this event are £15 and spaces are limited.
Saturday, December 31 Gun Brewery will be celebrating another successful year with its New Year’s party. With live music from local band Hope Grove and a range of street vendors to dine from, the Taproom will be seeing 2023 in style. Tickets are £12, starting from 8pm.