Made in Bedfordshire: Ampthill Brewhouse has hopped to the top

“TWO years ago I never thought my life would be dedicated to beer.”

It may have come as a surprise to Mary Jeffrey, who runs the operations at Ampthill Brewhouse, but one year on the company is on the right track.

The Brewhouse was set up officially in September last year after the team managed to secure equipment from the former brewery based on the site at the Ampthill Brewing Company, which lasted just over one year.

Mary told BoS: “Brewing has been lost from Ampthill for more than 80 years and we saw a return which felt amazing for the area.

“When this folded we did not want to see the gap in the trade we had witnessed since the 1920s so a team of us came together and invested in Ampthill Brewhouse.”

But making the decision to set up a brewery is different to actually making it a viable business, and it was a lot of work for Mary, her husband Peter and fellow investor Rainer Schopp.

Mary said: “My husband had been a home brewer for about 15 years in our cellar but we all needed to know what to do if we were to become brewers, so we went on a training course in Lancashire which gave us the basics.

“From that point it became about finding our signature taste, trying recipes, having them sampled by our 20 investors, and creating a product we are proud of.”

When Mary says ‘creating a product’ it sounds relatively simple, but there is an art and science to this which starts with water and barley and goes through a lengthy process of mashing, fermentation, adding ingredients and so much more to finally become a beer.

But one thing that is close to Mary’s heart is the ‘craft’ processes that go into each bottle or cask.

She said: “A lot of veers put craft on the label and it is meaningless, but we are real independents, bottling by hand, working long hours and it really is a craft product at the end of it.”

Rainer added: “I started my career as a builder and thought this would be a more relaxing job which is not the case, but it is so interesting and we have all learned so much.”

But despite the small size, the company has had a great first year with its three core beers, two seasonal beers including Honey Trap over summer and its Hoppy Birthday IPA, which will be added to the core roster.

Brewhouse will also be launching a dark Christmas ale named Rudoplh’s Ruin, which was named following a Facebook campaign.

And though Mary and Rainer didn’t start beer mad, they have grown to respect the process much more.

Rainer, a self-professed lager fan, said: “It certainly has opened my tastebuds quite a bit, and my wife’s, who now regularly enjoys dark ale.”

And now they have had a taste of success, there is no sign of stopping.

Mary said: “I am always looking to the future and we want to expand further. We would love to get more equipment so we can brew and experiment more with our beers as we hope to have four new seasonal specials a year.

“We are so proud we have been able to keep brewing going in Ampthill and we are determined to keep it that way.”

You can see the work that goes on behind the scenes at a brewery with a tour or by paying a visit to their on-site shop on the Station Road Industrial Estate.

For details visit ampthillbrewhouse.co.uk

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