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Trial #1: as the name suggests, there's more innovation to come,starting this autumn

History in the making: Hook Norton brews its first lager

Nearly 170 years after it was founded, Hook Norton Brewery has brewed its first lager.

Trial #1 – its working name - is described as a ‘continental-style’ 4% abv brew. It’s the first of a series of new keg beers that will flow from research and development trials on the Oxfordshire family brewer’s five-barrel pilot plant.

It’s currently on trial in three tied houses and Hook Norton’s on-site brewery tap, the Malthouse Kitchen.

“We’ll do three brews and see what the feedback is like,” said managing director James Clarke. “We’re very conscious that novelty plays a large part in people’s reactions, so we’ll run the trial for a while, but I reckon we’re about 80% there. It may need a few tweaks before we launch it properly, but we’re really pleased with it.

“Once we’ve got the recipe right we’d like to do some canning, which will give us access to festivals and other glass-free events.”

Customer demand encouraged Hook Norton to make the break from ales following experiments with one-off specials and the success of its first keg beer, Cotswold Pale, Clarke explained.

“Two or three years ago we wouldn’t have thought of doing a lager, it’s a real departure for us. But since we’ve had the microbrewery people have been telling us what they’d like to see.

“At the end of the day, if the founder hadn’t produced drinks of the moment, we wouldn’t be here. I think our forebears would acknowledge we are in a different world today - if stainless steel had been available all those years ago they wouldn’t have used copper in the brewery!”

A second new beer, being brewed for the autumn, will be a dark IPA, aptly named Trial #2.

“When I started working here in 1991 we brewed three beers – a bitter, a mild and a stronger ale. So this is exciting for the guys in the brewery,” said Clarke.

“People are drinking less but are more exploratory and it’s important to have a range, to be able to offer them variety.”

Phil Mellows
24th May 2018

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