Behind the scenes of Bedlam Brewery, Albourne Wine Estate & Trenchmore Farm
Back in April, I was invited on a tour of Bedlam Brewery at the Albourne Estate in West Sussex, to find out what makes the brewery such a force in the UK craft beer community. With enviable views across the South Downs, Jack & Jill in sight at one end and Devil’s Dyke at another, it was a stunning location for the event.
Bedlam Brewery: The environmentally conscience brewery
Bedlam is a young company but one trying hard to make as small an impact as possible on the environment. By growing its own hops on-site (a Pilgram and a Sussex hop) it reduces carbon emissions via transportation and through distributing all its spent grain to Trenchmore Farm for free as cattle feed, it reduces waste. Most impressively all its energy is generated via solar power, tapping into a natural resource and putting electricity back into the national grid. These environmentally conscience decisions run through the business and flow into the smallest marketing decisions such as the branding on the beer bottles, which are screen printed instead of paper printed to avoid the creation of another waste product.
The Brewers: A German, Argentinean and Italian brewing ‘real ale’ in Sussex
Bedlam started selling its brews at the end of July last year, which Head Brewer Fabio from Germany redesigned with his international brewing team, (pinched from his former employers London Fields Brewery). It now produces five beers:
- A kegged offering in the form of a traditional pilsner and four cask efforts
- A perfectly balanced IPA
- A refreshing Golden Ale
- A sessionable amber ale — aptly named Benchmark
- A robust and complex Porter
There are also two new draft keg beers coming this summer, expected in the first week of June and then four weeks later.
I tried two beers, the draft Pilsner at 4.2% and the first craft beer Bedlam launched. Owner, Dominic explained:
“A lot of craft breweries are focused on high strength, high hopped, strong beers, but most people are drinking 3-4% beers. We’re not reinventing the wheel… it’s just a simple refreshingly pint of pilsner lager… If you like a Carling or Kronenberg this is for you.”
In addition, I also tried the IPA, Indian Pale Ale, which is hoppy and the oldest beer that has existed. It’s a real ale, served on the cast and hand pumped. The origin of IPA dates back to the days of The British Empire when we used to ship beer to India. Discovering it went off when travelling all that way brewers looked for a way to combat this. Brewing higher alcohol content beers with hops (as a preservative) was the answer to surviving the distance.
Albourne Wine Estate: Producing English Fizz & Rosé
Not limiting itself to solely brewing, Albourne is also turning into a significant wine estate, with an impressive variety of 48,000 vines making up sparkling wines just like Ridgeview and Nyetimber. Just eight years prior, the estate was a ploughed field but now, Albourne is in its second harvest of wine with fizz going through a secondary fermentation now and rosé expected to be ready this year. What’s more, none of the grapes are brought in, compare that to Ridgeview, which would have 28,000 vines and buy 90% of the grapes and it’s an exciting new estate, with the scope to be four times bigger.
Trenchmore Farm: A hotel for cows
As well as the beer tasting, chefs from The Bull in Ditchling also put on a BBQ for us with slow grown 28-day dry aged beef from Trenchmore Farm in Cowfold, described by Dominic who has visited as “a hotel for cows”. Trenchmore’s mission is to produce high welfare sustainable beef that tastes fantastic and is healthier. The supermarket route was off the cards as there would be pressure to do things cheaper and quicker and faster. Instead, the company decided to go the other way and produce it slower and better. Half or a whole animal is sold to chefs at premium restaurants like Ockenden Manor, South Lodge Hotel, The Crabtree, The Ginger Fox and The Salt Rooms, who’ll happily use the whole animal for nose-to-tail cooking as well as the neglected cuts like, short-rib which taste incredible slow-cooked.
The secret to Trenchmore’s tender beef is The Wagyu Bull which the cows breed with. Wagyu has a strong genetic potential to lay down fat within the muscle rather than on the back. This means the intermuscular fat is essentially basting itself, so it tastes tender soft and has a low melting point. The cattle are all grass-fed too, making the beef high in Omega 3 and 6. In winter, they are hay/silage fed, mixed with Bedlam’s grains. Pomace from the apples for Silly Moo cider (another Trenchmore creation) are also fed to the cattle and they go crazy for it, hence the name ‘Silly Moo’ cider.
At the end of September last year, the farm offered its customers the chance to turn their leftover garden apples into cider. For every four kilos of apples delivered to the press, Trenchmore gave an IOU for a bottle to collect in the spring, which its now honoring (read the full story here).
My Lasting Thought…
What stood out from all the talks on the tour were the beautifully symbiotic relationships between the estate and its neighbouring businesses and local people. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see local businesses and people helping each other out and as a result making a success of their businesses. Long may it continue!
*Disclaimer: I was invited to review the Bedlam Brewery Tour, but as always, my opinion isn’t swayed by freebies and you are getting my honest opinion on the whole experience.