Spilsbury and Jones Brewing Company
Fri, Feb 28, 2020
Spilsbury & Jones Brewing Company
Stanford Bridge, Worcestershire
It’s a warm, radiantly sunny September day and something wonderful is definitely brewing in the Teme Valley, Worcestershire…
We’re filming at Tom and Amber Spilsbury’s hop farm in Orleton Court, Worcestershire, in the middle of their busiest month of year. Its harvest time; when the last eleven hard months of planting, tending and spraying their five varieties of hops finally – literally – pay off. There’ll be a quick break once the hop harvest is complete to celebrate with a few pints then it’ll be time to collect the farm’s apple crop to send off for cider making.
It’s like a scene from the Darling Buds of May here, with a barn-sized hop-processor that’s best described as ‘vintage’. Sometimes the machine has to be revived using a store of spares filleted from old machines bought up from former hop farmers as they retire or close their business. The number of barn conversions in the area called ‘The Hop Kiln’ hint at how many other businesses haven’t made it into the 21st century.
Here, though, it’s buzzing with activity and future plans. For the past eighteen months Tom’s been producing his own lager and bitter on site, with partner and experienced brewer Tony Jones leading the way after a chance encounter and meeting of minds. The ultimate plan is to create the first true ‘single estate’ brew using only hops, water and malt from the farm. For now, their ‘Tom Jones’ lager (made with ‘Challenger’ and ‘Fuggles’ hops, beer-buffs) is a community vote-winner, served in local pubs and restaurants – and the Spilsburys’ own pop-up pub.
On the first Friday of every month Tom and Amber (with a little help from friends) throw open the doors of The White Pheasant, adapted from one of the farmhouses’ cellars, to friends, locals and anyone who’s tracked down its busy Facebook page. It’s been a popular venue for riotous weddings and barbecues throughout the summer and has kept Amber busy with bed-and-breakfast rooms in the farmhouse for guests, while powering through a considerable number of kegs of Tom’s brew. Already the pub is - a bit like the Spilsbury family itself – one of the hubs of the local community. There’s no longer any need to advertise it in the parish magazine as word has spread about the amazing views and brews.
For now, Tom’s back in the barn, with his pride and joy, the new drying kiln he frequently sits until the early hours of the morning to make sure the humidity is exactly right. That’s a month of late nights until the harvest is collected, dried, baled and despatched to brewers in the UK and USA. In another barn nearby is the shiny brewery equipment, waiting for the hops Tom has kept back to create his next batch, and ready for the next brewing project.
Yes it’s hard work. But it’s a happy family life with a bright future and a dream well on the way to reality. And these days, really, that’s no small beer…
Know anyone who you think makes their community a better place or who’s building a business that benefits the region – let us know!