IT’S a pint-sized affair, the Leatherbritches brewery.
In more ways than one.
Squeezed between the four walls of a former washhouse and coalstore — the size of a couple of old saloon cars parked bumper to bumper — Leatherbritches is a true microbrewery producing real old English ales . . . with the help, literally, of the smallest of small staffs.
In fact, the youngest member of the production team busily bottling beer for a big order from Budgens is just half the size and a fraction the age of his boss — who just happens to be his dad.
Because this miniature brewery is a real family affair. Headed by Edward Allingham and his wife Sandra, who does all the paperwork, and backed by their brewer, Dave Corby, the production line team is completed (at least for rush jobs) by the Allinghams’ sons, Alex, 12, and Mathew, seven. The lads have become dab hands at helping to label and pack the 4,500 pints of beer they produce every week.
Leatherbritches, which is tucked away at the back of the picturesque Bentley Brook Inn at Fenny Bentley, has been earning itself a reputation for cask-conditioned ales since Bill Allingham, the youngest son of the family, founded the craft brewery back in 1993.
Four years ago, when he returned from America where he had made something of a name for himself as a professional golfer — and nightclub owner — Edward, now 39, and Bill’s elder brother, took over the brewery which had been left in his parents’ David and Jean Allingham’s hands.
David and Jean sold the Bentley Brook just before Christmas and Edward and Sandra now rent their premises from the new owner.
Edward invested in new equipment to bottle beers as traditional bottle conditioned ales and these, together with the original cask ales, are now sold to more than 50 real ale pubs and inns as well as specialist shops across the country.
The demand continues to grow, leaving Edward and the rest of his team struggling to cope with the ever-increasing orders for their award-winning ales.
You can see why when you hear of the care put into their production.
"Our premium quality beers are brewed using traditional brewing methods and by using only the finest ingredients," Edward says.
"Prime barley malt and hops from English gardens, a proven strain of yeast and a local water source are brought together by the skill of the brewer to give that bespoke flavour that is unique to all Leatherbritches beers."
And it’s this which attracted the attention of convenience food chain Budgens.
The store, which has an outlet in Melbourne, Derbyshire, where the family now live, will be running Leatherbritches ales as part of a new line, concentrating on locally produced food and drink.
Leatherbritches is one of fourteen specialist producers from the region which will be supplying 10 Budgens stores across the East Midlands with a wide range of food and drink, including meat, pickles, oils, puddings, flour, beer, ice cream and specialist breads. All will be sold under the banner of East Midlands Fine Foods.
The scheme will also help to reduce the distance that food travels before it reaches the plate, which helps to cut food miles and is better for the environment, says Edward.
It also means he has only to make one trip a week to Transfresh, in Nottingham, from where the crates are distributed across the East Midlands, rather than make individual deliveries to each outlet as he does with his individual clients.
"There is a new demand for quality products and people are prepared to pay for them," says Edward. This goes for Budgens, as well as small specialist shops and pubs, which is offering Edward a good price for his brew.
There is also a demand for something unique, which Edward is able to offer with the help of Dave, who creates a new recipe on a regular basis. One of these recently won the Society of Small Independent Brewers’ gold award for a premium beer.
It is a different life for the former professional golfer, his wife and children, than the one they enjoyed in the states where they lived for a time running nightcubs in Chicago and Florida.
But he and his family love the challenge thrown up by their rapidly expanding business, as well as the pleasure they take in their product.
"The worst thing about this job, apart from the socialising that I have to do when I deliver it," Edward smiles, "is that I have to taste most of it."
Read more: http://www.ashbournenewstelegraph.co.uk/News/Little-brewery-withbrbig-taste-for-quality.htm#ixzz2v6HfLjoB