Raising a Glass to Castle Rock – Nottinghamshire Brewer Turns 40!
Whether you’ve been for a long walk through Nottinghamshire’s countryside, are catching up with friends, or celebrating a special occasion, nothing’s quite like a sip of refreshing Castle Rock beer. Brewed with local pride and expert knowledge, every pint offers a delicious taste of Nottinghamshire.
We have a proud brewing heritage here, and at the forefront of this is Castle Rock, who brew award-winning ales, which are distributed across the county and beyond.
Ahead of their 40th birthday bash, we caught up with Head of Marketing, Lewis Townsend to discuss what makes Castle Rock beers special and to find out more about the plans for their birthday celebrations.
What makes Castle Rock beers different?
I started working at Castle Rock Brewery six years ago, and honestly, it might not be the most exciting word in the world but what makes Castle Rock beer stand out, above anything else, is their consistency. Thanks to Adrian Redgrove, now Jon Edger and a great brewing team, they really do know the science of consistency – brewing a great beer once is good, but the real challenge (and I’m sure many brewers would agree), is getting it right time and time again.
Other than that, I’ve always said that Castle Rock continue to try and bridge the gap between tradition and modernity; we’re not a brewer that turns its nose up at traditional beer, but equally we’re not a brewer who is stubbornly waiting for this “craft beer thing” to go away. We’re often trying out new things as well as making sure we get the basics right.
We know you like to highlight some fantastic Notts characters with your beers, could you tell us a little about the George Africanus beer?
George Africanus was a really interesting one, and certainly got the brewery way more media attention than we expected. George Africanus is referred to as Nottingham’s first black entrepreneur. As someone trafficked from Sierra Leone into slavery, to come out as an active member of the community and respected businessman is quite amazing.
The beer was launched serendipitously at the same time the Belong (Nottingham) charity were given a grant to do more research into George’s life in Nottingham. It’s a great tale that reveals his determination and we were proud to immortalise that in beer.
Harvest Pale is obviously a local favourite, what’s the story behind it?
Harvest Pale actually began life as a beer called Trammie Dodger, which was brewed to celebrate the opening of the Nottingham Tram Network!
I think it was about 4.3% and we just knew at the time that we wanted to make a pale ale and use American hops, something which only one or two other brewers were really doing. The recipe was amended slightly and when Adrian Redgrove joined as head brewer in 2004, it just went from strength to strength. It won a whole host of local and regional awards before winning Champion Bitter of Britain in 2007 and then the big one (Supreme Champion Beer of Britain) in 2010.
It’s still the beer we produce most of and we’re extremely proud of it – and yes – a lot of people love it! We’ve tried not to rest on our laurels though, and Harvest is in good company with a solid range of core beers: Preservation (lovely reddish best bitter), Elsie Mo (delicate floral golden ale), Sherwood Reserve (coffee stout) and Screech Owl (American IPA).
What other beers have you brewed recently?
I’ve been working extremely hard with the brewers to develop a new range of beers that, for short, we’re kind of calling the 2.0 range. It’s just as much about moving forward as it is about keeping classics like Harvest Pale right, and I wanted these beers to be a bit of a statement in that Castle Rock are here to stay.
It’s a more modern range of beers, more in-line with craft beers that have been exploding for quite a few years now. Modern, considered brews is the tagline! It might not be the most punchy tagline ever but I want people to know that there’s a real element of integrity to these beers.
I wasn’t prepared for us to just throw out any beer, give it a “cool” name, edgy artwork and call it craft beer. I wanted to get it right. As a big lover of craft beer myself (not that I like the term), I’ve seen SO MANY breweries shamelessly trying to jump on the bandwagon and put out really disappointing beers to make a quick buck. I really wanted to make sure that didn’t happen as I’d be first in line to call us out for it!
We started with Session IPA, a 4% pale dry hopped with lots of Simcoe, a really juicy American hop. We then moved onto Wheat, a 4.5% classic wheat come hop bomb. It’s brewed with Sorachi Ace hops from Japan and dry hopped with Citra from the US and has an almost pina colada quality to it. They’re both available now in cask and keg.
Where’s your favourite place to enjoy a pint and what is your tipple of choice?
I’m not just saying this because they’re Castle Rock pubs, but when I’m out in Nottingham I’m normally found in the Vat & Fiddle or the Kean’s Head. They’re both just amazing in their own way. I’ve been proud to call the Vat my regular for many years now, it’s just such a lovely pub with great staff and great customers. The Kean’s has been killing it for years in terms of great food and amazing beer, much like the Canalhouse.
As to my tipple of choice I couldn’t possibly think of one! I just like beer made by lovely people who give a damn about what they do, which sounds cringeworthingly twee I know.
I tend to lean towards juicy pale ales, IPAs or double IPAs though, and I absolutely LOVE sour/wild fermented beers whether it be something from the UK (like Wild Beer or Chorlton) or somewhere a bit further afield like a classic Geuze or anything by Lervig.
Tell us a little about the 40th celebrations – what can people expect?
We’re basically just doing what we do in our pubs (in terms of beer) but on a bigger scale! I’m really proud to say that Castle Rock pubs have supported beer from other brewers for a long, long time and not just forced their own down people’s throats.
Historically, the business actually started out as a pub group and so we know that diversity on the bar is important. So while this festival is a celebration of Castle Rock being 40 and a way to showcase our new beers and pubs, it’s also about celebrating good beer, from everywhere, across all forms of dispense.
We’ve got 40+ cask beers (from classics to the weird and wonderful), 40+ keg beers (20 at a time, and all of them are just wonderful), a whole host of canned and bottled beers, three local brewery tap takeovers at the Vat & Fiddle (Totally Brewed, Abstract Jungle and Black Iris), street food, open house brewery tours, a “Can Your Own Beer” service, a Family Fun Day (11am-4pm on Saturday 3rd) and oh – some really really awesome live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday! So lots to go out, and tickets are still available via Gigantic or in Castle Rock pubs.