Thursday, July 08, 2010

Five Towns Brewery - Homebrewer to Brewer

Five Towns is a brewery that deserves your attention. Why? Because Malcolm Bastow, who essentially is Five Towns, works full time. As in, in another job. Not in any old dull job either – as a Nurse. Any man who works for our health service whilst knocking out quality beers deserves a medal as far as I’m concerned, and it was whilst enjoying a pint of his at this year’s Leeds Beer Festival that I mused on how he fit it all in. So I asked him, dropping him an email, as you do. Many months later, he responded, but given his schedule, I’m honoured that he took the time at all. It’s been a pleasure to speak with Malcolm, and here’s what he had to say.

Leigh: Can you tell me a little about how Five Towns started?

Malcolm: Probably like many other brewers, I started making home-brewed beer in the mid eighties - 'John Bull' kits from Boots. In the early Nineties I discovered M&D Homebrew in Wakefield, and they introduced me to partial or full mash brews. I bought the necessary equipment and started full mash brewing and never looked back. I continued to brew 9 gallons of real ale about twice per month. I started thinking seriously about commercial brewing around 2001, finally making the decision to contact Dave Porter Brewing Consultants in 2006. From that point, it took a couple of years to sort out the planning permission sort out a loan etc before ‘going live’ in September 2008.
What - or who - is you inspiration to brew? What, would be Timothy Taylors' Landlord and almost every Rosters/Outlaw beer I drank! Who, would be Dave James - ex Fernandes Brewery, now East Coast Brewery. Dave set up Fernandes brewery below the Home Brew shop in Wakefield and opened the Brewery Tap; which was at the time the best outlet for real ale in Wakefield. I was still home-brewing whilst watching Dave take the plunge.

Tell me about your core brews.
Outwood Bound
is a chestnut coloured beer with a toffee nose and strong dry bitter finish. It’s brewed with American yeast and lots of Cascade Hops. Callum's Best is a dark coloured beer brewed with Maris Otter and Chocolate malt giving a full flavour and bitter finish. This was my first full mash beer while still home brewing.
Niamh's Nemesis is a full bodied IPA with hints of grapefruit before a dry finish. It’s inspired by Punk IPA and Empress of India. Outside Edge an easy drinking, light coloured, lightly flavoured beer finished with Cascade Hops. This is based on the type of beers I brewed before going commercial.
Which is your favourite? As you will see from my favourite beers from other breweries, i'm into strong and hoppy beers at the moment. So I will have to say that Niamh's Nemesis (5.7%) and Peculiar Blue (6%) are my current favourites. Strong but remaining bitter, with loads of Cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops.
....And your favourite brews from other breweries?

· Punk IPA - Brewdog
· Jaipur - Thornbridge
· Empress of India - East Coast
· Absolution - Abbeydale
· Old Peculiar - Theakstons (from the wood) (Oh, great choice – Leigh)

So, how do you find both working full-time and brewing? Hard work at times! It's like wearing two hats - both jobs are completely different. The nursing role I have is quite stressful at times and when I first went commercial I found that stressful as well. Suddenly having a Loan to pay which relies on you selling beer gave me some sleepless nights. It was only after the first five or six brews - when I felt comfortable with the equipment and started to get the positive feedback - did the stress lessen. Although most of my spare time is spent brewing, selling and delivering real ale, I enjoy that side of my life so much that it makes it all worth while.

Where can we find your beers? I try and sell to pubs that I know are going to look after the beer, so mainly pubs in the 'Good Beer guide. Mr Foley's (Leeds), The Star Inn (Huddersfield), North Riding Hotel (Scarborough), Bonhommes (Filey), West Riding Refreshment rooms (Dewsbury), The Navigation (Mirfield), Red Shed and O'Donohues (Wakefield), Brewers Pride (Ossett), Fat Cat (Sheffield), Market House (Elsecar) take most of my beers plus the Brown Cow Brewery and Boggart distribute further afield.

...And what are you plans for 2010? It's taken me so long to respond half the years gone! I have trialled bottling Callum’s Best and Niamh's Nemesis and plan to start producing regular bottle conditioned beers by the end of the year.
Any advice for budding brewers out there? If you can produce good quality full-mash brews as a home brewer, don't be put off by the hurdles of planning permission etc. The reward of being able to drink beer you have produced in a local pub makes it all worthwhile.

What makes Malcolm’s story resonate with me is that I am an all-grain homebrewer too – and one that harbours hopes of one day making the leap into producing beer that you all can enjoy. Malcolm makes that leap look altogether less scary on the outside - although he would probably disagree! There are plenty of us out there – Boak & Bailey dabble as well, for example - and Hardknott Dave has been logging his experiences on his blog. Homebrewing is the start of many great breweries that we know today. Five Town's Beers are solid, tasty and well balanced - I can recommend both Callum’s Best and Davy Jones’s locker, and I hope you give them a try. Give homebrewing a try too – I can honestly say that I’ve learnt more about Beer by brewing it than I ever would by simply drinking it. If you fancy dipping your toe in (so to speak), then I would start at the Jim’s Beer Kit forum – as well as ICB. They are both packed with excellent advice from enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable brewers.


TIW said...

All that and he's going to do a bottle conditioned beer too? The man's a marvel.

Anonymous said...

Excellent little brewery this one. We see a fair bit at The Star and it's invariably cock on. Interviews by email eh? Now there's an idea! Will (a swift one).

Leigh said...

Will - yeah man! Brewers are busy, you know!!

Rob of Ilkley said...

Leigh, really interesting article.

I was at Mr Foleys when they received their Leeds CAMRA pub of the year award (2008 - 2009). I tried the Five Towns Brewery Beer for the first time. I have to say it was absolutely excellent and definitely the best beer on sale that day.

I am amazed that Malcolm can also hold down a full time job in addition to his brewing.

Carry on brewing Malcolm!

Leigh said...

Rob - thanks mate. I was there that night too, probably stood right next to you at the bar as well! Yeah, it's a great story and (as far as I know) unique. I can't get my head around what he does, but he does. trooper.