Visiting a brewery is always special. Visiting a brewery so close to home that is also undergoing some kind of transformation is even more special. In that regard, my visit to Arundel Brewery was perfectly timed. The brewery was founded way back in 1992 so they are probably one of the most established breweries in West Sussex. What may not be so widely known is that there was a change of ownership nearly twelve months ago and it was new owner, Neil Walker, and sales guy Bob Clark, who welcomed me and showed me round when I visited yesterday.
The brewery is not easy to find unless you know where it is. Heading south out of the village of Yapton on the B2233 you turn left on the edge of the village before you get to the old Ford Airfield (signposted to Ford Airfield Industrial Estate). If you are lucky there will be an A board on the side of the road pointing you in the right direction.
The brewery has expanded over the years and it occupies two units now and it is unit 10 that houses the 20-barrel plant which is where I was shown into first of all. They were busy brewing the Heritage IPA when I visited and the usual delightful smells filled the air. When chatting with Bob on Twitter prior to my arrival he promised me something special. It wasn't long before I discovered just how special.
Before working in sales for Arundel Bob worked at the superb craft beer pub, The Southover, in Brighton. He has been keen to get the brewery to brew a beer that would satisfy the growing mass market appeal of American pale ales. To reach out to this market they have swapped recipes with US craft brewer Wild Heaven from Georgia. Black Stallion Mild went across the pond to Georgia and a stunning pale ale came back in return. The very first batch was just ready to leave the fermenters and I got to sample it. Lucky lucky me!! Packed with Citra, Summit, Sorachi Ace and Nelson Sauvin hops I was in hoppy heaven. This 5.2% ABV beer will be very popular and I can't wait to try more of it. They have named it after the US brewer that supplied the recipe, Wild Heaven, and it will be available at the Hove Beer Festival next month. Get there early before I drink it all.
I am fairly familiar with the Arundel core range and Neil was keen to tell me about the rebranding that has taken place. Arundel wish to establish their bottled beer range, which currently consists of Sussex Gold (a 4.2% ABV golden refreshing bitter), Arundel ASB (a malty premium bitter with a bittersweet finish) and Old Knucker (a sweetish malty dark ale), as a national brand. The range can already be found in Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose and it is hoped that with the forthcoming rebranding they can get a more widespread national distribution with these supermarket chains as well as others. The current labels for these beers are somewhat outdated and the rebranding is now complete and Neil unveiled the new look bottles to me which are ready to be shipped out for the first time. All three now have a classic consistent look and a renaming has occurred to match this new look. Sussex Gold remains the same, the ASB has become Sussex IPA and the Old Knucker has become Sussex Dark. They look great and Neil and Bob are quite rightly delighted with the results. The pump clips look equally impressive too. I do have some reservation about the renaming of a classic beer like Old Knucker and it will be interesting to see how the new name is received by the masses.
After passing out of the main unit we moved into the fermenting room. From here it was a short hop into the sampling room. It was here where Neil explained about their other latest venture. They have never kegged their beers before but it is something they are trialing and which they intend to use with the recently produced cask lager along with one or two other beers for, particularly, the Brighton craft scene. If successful they will be looking to the export market too.
By now the Wild Heaven was gone and I was offered further refreshment with a generous sample of Old Knucker (Sussex Dark). I have enjoyed this award winning winter classic in bottles for many years but I have amazingly never had it in cask. The name may have changed but the taste is still amazing. The flavour is full of blackberry with sweet toffee and chocolate notes. At 5.5% ABV it is rich and robust and this was as good as it gets. Absolutely superb.
Arundel Brewery have made great strides in the past twelve months under new ownership and the hard work is now being seen with their rebranding and their launch of Wild Heaven. With a planned house move to Yapton I will hopefully be within a stone's throw of the brewery shortly and I have a feeling that Wild Heaven will become a regular favourite of mine. Many thanks to Neil and Bob for showing me round and sharing their plans and I wish them continued success.