An interview with a special little Surrey brewer - Chris Gill of Ascot Ales
Chris Gill of Ascot Ales
What variety of beer did you first brew?
The very first brew was Posh Pooch our 4.2% Best Bitter. This is the beer we're best known for & is still our best seller. The recipe has changed a little since June 2007 - we've changed the bitter hop from Chinook to Perle as a lot of people found it had too harsh a flavour.
Chris, you are a smaller-sized artisan brewer - how hard is it? Do you find yourself regularly working into the night?
We're a 4Bbl micro brewery, which means a brew will typically yield 16 x 9 Gallon Firkins (1152 pints). Some of the more established brewers in the area are 40Bbl, so we do feel we're a bit like David versus Goliath. Still we're not looking for world domination and are happy to stay at a micro level.
This does mean that we have to brew more often to keep up with demand so typically we're brewing 5 days a week. Most of business is cask for pubs, but we bottle 3 of our regular beers. The biggest problem is on our scale, we're too small to make worthwhile getting our beer bottled for us by a larger brewery.
So we bottle in house on a 4 arm bottle filler which is very labour & time consuming. We'd typically bottle 1000 bottles in a day, whereas an automated bottling line could do that in an hour!
Do you have a few favourite beers you keep coming back to when having a beer yourself?
Orval, it's a desert island beer for me. I've been to the monastery a few times & visited the brewery were we met the head brewer and tried Orval on draught.
What is the most impressive food/beer pairing you can recall?
Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout with a Stilton. It worked really well, better than a red wine would.
Are there any varieties of beer you haven't brewed before that you may brew in future?
I've recently add a Red IPA which I'm very pleased with, it's very heavily hopped with New World hop varieties. It was a beer I'd wanted to brew for a long time based on some of the great USA IPA's out there.
Going forward they'll be a Hefeweiss for Spring & a couple of oak aged strong beers for the end of 2012. They'll also a low ABV 3.3% golden ale as soon as we can fit it into the brew schedule.
I'd like to try creating a smoked beer, possible a wheat beer. I'm not sure if that combination will work, but it intrigues me. Also a tea infused beer & another idea would be to mix up 2 popular styles, a wheatbeer IPA. Again, no idea how it would turn out, but watch this space.