We went to check out Hepworth Brewery set in the heart of the Sussex countryside. The brewery was created by Andy Hepworth, who moved to the area in 1980, after getting a job with King and Barnes in Horsham. He eventually became the youngest head brewer in the country. After the brewery was sold in 2000, Andy and three former colleagues set up Hepworth & Co Brewers Ltd. Since then, their beers have won a whole host of awards, including the International Beer Challenge, SIBA and Taste Of Sussex and in June 2016 they made the bold move to build a new brewery that was built to spec.
Hepworth’s range include plenty of traditional brews including one of our favourites Prospect, a light, golden brew, with a slightly tropical aroma and a hint of lemon zest. A bold blast of banana in the flavour, sweet apple and a dry, bitter-hoppy bite in the finish.
They’ve recently released a slightly more crafty range in the form of Crazy Horse – an American style Pale Ale, brewed with Chinook and Cascade hops, and Charger – an epic IPA that is brewed with four British Hops.
When we entered the building, we were immediately in the shop where there is row upon row of the beers that they produce for both themselves and other companies. We were greeted by Andy who had just been brewing for Toast Ale.
The brewery has a traditional ethos. They don’t use additives or preservatives, just time along with a mix of technology and tradition. Their triple filtered full bodied lager Saxon, is a fantastic testament to this, produced to traditional German Purity laws, using only four ingredients.
All of their beers are vegan and organic, using locally sourced ingredients including barley from the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex and award-winning hops from Bodiam in East Sussex. One of the beers that uses these ingredients is Sussex – a crisp pale ale, with a malty backbone and hoppy finish.
More notably their beers are also naturally gluten-free as Andy explained, “We use good quality ingredients, we have a traditional brewhouse and we take our time. These things combined mean that our beers are naturally gluten-free because the gluten naturally drops out by itself.”
And it doesn’t end there. Hepworth pride themselves on being green, putting the environment at the forefront of everything that they do. The brewery is part of the Sustainable Business Partnership CIC, which is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Andy explained why this is so important to them, “I don’t think that you should damage the planet creating something that’s for pleasure. As much as I love beer it is really a luxury and if you can do it in a way that does not damage the planet, you should do. That’s what we want to do, economically it makes sense, but it doesn’t have to make sense very quickly. When we built site, we had a long term mindset, not 2 or 3 years but 20 or 30 years. When it came to investment in ecological things, we thought, we’re going to be here for a long time. Let’s do it now, because in 5, 6, 7 years when those costs dissolve out, we’ll actually be in a far, far better place.”
As well as being accredited by the Soil Association, Hepworth’s has a whole list of things that they’re doing to help preserve the planet. They’re using reed beds for waste-water, recycling compacted cardboard and glass, sending hops and spent grain to local farms for animal feed, and their heat is powered by 30 kW of solar on the roof, with the remainder brought in from a renewable source. One of the more innovative things is how they are utilising heat waste, using waste heat recovered from their chillers to power the underfloor heating of the office, shop and business centre by using a collection of commercial equipment, that cost 300 quid.
“What astonished us was, at that time, we were burning 2000 litres of oil per week but we’ve dropped to 1600 litres a week and we’re brewing more than twice as much as on the old site! It spurs you on to do other things, I’m just astonished that more people aren’t doing it.”
It’s great to see how Hepworth’s can be environmentally responsible whilst creating fantastic beer.
“This isn’t a two-day affair or a couple of years, we want to build something that has value in more than cash terms. We’re proud that we’ve built this because we have something to show for it. Eventually, in 5 years we will be 100% self-sufficient, for us, it just makes good business sense and that should be the driver because it will drive other people.”
After chatting with Andy he gave us the grand tour of where all of the magic happens! The main brewhouse was a work of art and we were transfixed by the automated bottling and packaging lines. Finishing off in the shop, Andy gave us a few brews to take away including his favourite, Classic Old Ale, an old Sussex traditional winter brew that’s rich, dark and can be served mulled!
Hepworth are by far one of the industry leaders in brewing sustainability. Andy has big plans for the future of the brewery and they’ve shown that you can be sustainable, while creating an award winning range!
For more info on where you can get your hands Hepworth’s beer click here! If you’d like to check out the brewery, you can book a brewery tour on 01403 269696