PUBLISHED: 13:38 22 January 2014 | UPDATED: 13:38 22 January 2014
St Austell Brewery has been creating beer for more than 160 years garnering numerous awards for its bottled and cask ales. We meet its head brewer - and newly named Fellow of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling - Roger Ryman
Pop into any pub in Cornwall and you will likely find a row of gleaming pumps with the St Austell Brewery livery proudly displayed, along with a growing selection of specialist bottled beers, ales and stouts. But head to the home of the brewery - still in the hometown that gave it its name, and you will discover a beer-lover’s paradise: its visitor’s centre.
Brewing Director Roger Ryman is my enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide through the 163 years of St Austell Brewery. He himself joined the team in 1999. His skills in brewing go back much further - Roger brewed his first beer at 14 with a Boots Home Brewing Kit. His first beer for St Austell was Daylight Robbery, celebrating the solar eclipse which proved so popular it has become the brewery’s flagship beer, now better known as Tribute.
The brewery was started by farmer Walter Hicks, who mortgaged his farm for £1,500 to start his business providing malt to inns and ale houses. Fifteen years later he bought his first pub, the Seven Stars Inn in St Austell, which remains part of the company’s portfolio.
Today his ancestors still own the brewery which has grown to include more than 170 pubs in the South West serving beers and ales with intriguing names like Admiral’s Ale, Clouded Yellow and Proper Job.
If brewing is a kind of alchemy, than Roger is the chief alchemist. Beer has essentially four ingredients: water, malt (from barley), yeast and the hops – which provide the ‘spice’ of beer. But there are endless variations of how these ingredients are used and the ingredients themselves are as varied. Roger spends much of his time sourcing the right ingredients and members of the brewing team also get the opportunity to create their own beers – helping to train master brewers of the future, as well as a creative outlet for his team – with very limited edition beers such as its Mo-Teezer, a creamy-headed beer inspired by the men’s health awareness Movember month.
The brewery tour takes you through the whole brewing process - from the spring that supplies all the brewery’s water to the fascinating stories behind its growing range of beers. St Austell’s Proper Job uses Cornish spring water and a blend of malts which includes Cornish-grown barley. 1913 – the first stout at the brewery since rationing during the Great War restricted the availability of the dark malt needed - was created by Roger who turned to St Austell Brewery’s ancient brewing journals to recreate the century-old stout.
The brewery tours run 11am-3pm Monday to Friday and last for around one hour. Tickets are £10 and include free samples and two half pints. After the tour - head to the Hicks Bar in the visitor’s centre for lunch and a taste of some of St Austell’s finest.