Kent is well known for its excellent local produce and, as hops are one of the ingredients that thrives in the county, it also has its fair share of decent breweries. A new initiative has brought some of the county’s food and drinks producers together and produced ‘food trails’ – guides that send visitors on a themed tour, including cheers & dairy, apples & cider and, of course, beer & hops.
One of the breweries trail followers are invited to call in on is the Old Dairy Brewery. Until we were introduced to this trail initiative we were unfamiliar with the Old Dairy Brewery’s beers, but we sampled a few of their bottles and, as of now, they’re our new favourite brewery.
To find out a little more about their brewing business, and the importance of being based in Kent, we caught up with brewery manager Ginny Hodge…
Your brewery is situated in the heart of the Kent countryside, an area famed for growing produce, including hops. How important is locality to the beers you make?
We actively try and source as many of our hops as possible from the local area, as Kent is home to hop growing in the UK and customers are more aware of where ingredients come from. We and many other local businesses use the connections, information and support offered through Kent food and drinks trade organisation Produced in Kent.
As we are based in the ‘Garden of England’, famous for its fruit and hops (which were first grown here in the 15th century) we are in a prime position to choose the pick of the hops! National Award winning hop grower Hukins Hops is just 3 miles away so it is obvious to us that we should use only the best award-winning hops. We are also keen to reduce our impact on the environment and using local goes towards reducing our carbon footprint.
You’re part of the Kent Food Trails initiative – what can visitors to your brewery expect to see when they call by?
We are located in the picturesque town of Tenterden and our brewery is located behind the Kent and East Sussex Steam Railway. On Thursdays and Saturdays we hold brewery tours, so you can be shown round the brewery and find out how we brew our beers, and we also have a Brewery Shop where we sell a selection of our award-winning beers. Our shop is on the site that we brew our beers, so if you drop by you may be lucky and see our brewers in action.
Alongside your range of core beers you also produce special seasonal ales – how do you decide on what to brew for these?
The Old Dairy team, whether it be the brewing team or the office staff, are all passionate about our beers and we all actively have a point of view about what special seasonal brews we produce. We also closely listen to our customers to see if they have any special beers that might appeal to their market. It takes quite a few months from conception to the final brew to achieve the taste and style for any new special beer. We aim to brew beers with a modern twist for different moods and occasions, taking our Old Dairy customers though a journey of styles, seasons and continents.
Among these seasonal ales is a beer that uses green hops. Tell us a little more about this.
We brew ‘green hop’ beers which are available in September only. These beers use the hops fresh from the annual harvest and, instead of being dried and packed into sacks in the Oast House for future use, are picked and go straight into the Copper in the brewery. The result is a beer with a powerful fresh, earthy aroma and flavour.
What special beers have you got planned for later this year?
As summer is nearly here we will be brewing Summer Top, our 3.6% light summer ale, and at the moment we are brewing Spring Top, our 4% spring bitter.
Over the year we have also brewed a range of vintage beers and they are always eagerly awaited by our customers. We are currently barrel-ageing our Snow Top in red wine barrels, which will hopefully be ready in bottles around Christmas time.
Finally, what’s the best Kent food and beer combination to enjoy after a hard days brewing?
Romney Marsh lamb and our Blue Top IPA, as Blue Top is brewed with the most local hops.
The Old Dairy Brewery Beers
In order for us to know a little more about the Old Dairy Brewery beers Ginny kindly sent us a box of their core range, and we were mightily impressed. They’re brewed along traditional lines, with the full flavour of hops and grains apparent, and they’re mostly delivered at a sessional strength in 500ml bottles. But they also tease out a few modern, fruity hop flavours to give them an appeal beyond traditional drinkers and were certainly very well received by everyone we shared them with.
Among the highlights was Red Top (3.8%), a bitter rammed with clean and malty flavours from Maris Otter, Crystal, Brown and Chocolate Malts, along with a mix of hops (Easy Kent Golding, English Cascade and Challenger) that gave the beer a good level of bitterness and a slight citrus fruitiness to enhance the sweet malts.
A more modern range of hops (Citra, Chinook and Equinox) features in Über Brew, a pale ale that is full of depth, despite being only 3.8%. Fresh, fragrant and packed with punchy fruity hop flavours it’s one of the most enjoyable pale ales we’ve had for a while.
For more information on Kent Food Trails visit kentfoodtrails.co.uk
For more information on the Old Dairy Brewery visit olddairybrewery.com