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Inside Stroud's new brewery: organic brewer is targeting a doubling of capacity

Stroud stays the course with organic brewing operations

Stroud Brewery founder Greg Piley has affirmed his commitment to organic brewing as the company officially opened its new brewery and tap toom on the outskirts of the Gloucestershire town.

Its existing 20-barrel plant has been transferred from a neighbouring industrial estate to the site, which is four times the size. It will enable the business to double capacity over time as well as welcome customers to an extended tap room and upstairs event space.

Piley, however, believes Stroud can take advantage of the expansion and continue to grow on the back of being one of only a handful of all-organic brewers in the country.

“We’ve made organic beers for eight years and have been entirely organic for the last two years. That comes at a cost but with the benefits of biodiversity, standards and a basis for bringing high quality products to the market.”

While conceding that the market for cask ale is “saturated” he said there was “still scope to grow local cask sales - but the real growth will come from bottles and cans. 

“The ethical market is still growing and there is a market for organic products in independent retailers such as restaurants, delis and cafes – value-based businesses.

“Costs are higher for us, but it’s our niche. We’re committed to it and it’s the right thing to do. It requires a real commitment and belief, which might explain why more brewers aren’t doing it.

“Sourcing the base malts are not a challenge but there are fewer speciality malts available to us,” he elaborated. “The main difference, though, is the hops. There’s less of a range for us to work with.”

Stroud has an “ongoing dialogue” with Charles Faram, its main supplier, over sourcing organic hops.

“They need us to be a bigger customer, but with expansion I’m hoping we might have the buying power to source direct from organic farmers. What we don’t want to do is import.”

Stroud crowdfunded £300,000 towards the £1.2 million project to build the brewery from an empty shell, and Piley admits “it was not our vision when we started the company 13 years ago – we just wanted to brew good beer”.

“But we have a 25-year lease here which gives us a secure home and allows our production and bar business to grow.

“As an enterprise it feels like we have evolved and changed our relationship with our customers.”
That’s exemplified by a tap room which opens out onto a canal-side outdoor area and incorporates a kitchen that serves pizzas plus pastries that make use of the brewery’s spent grains. 

The plant’s heat exchanger channels warmth to the tap room’s underfloor heating while waste water is used to flush the toilets.

Opening all day, every day, and a beer destination as well as acting as a local pub, it promises to make a substantial contribution to Stroud’s business.

“Even at the old building – where the much small tap room was open only three days a week - 10% of our production was sold through the bar and accounted for 25% of our turnover and 40% of net profit, and that’s only going to increase now. We’ve already been gobsmacked at how busy we’ve been.

“We have regular customers who can walk to the brewery but people come here on day trips from London, too. It’s a whole mix. 

“We’ve been proactive at being as family-friendly as we can and we want to enable the community. It’s an open space where people can sit down with strangers on the benches and there are activities for the kids and a busy programme of events including live music, films and bingo.

“We’re losing many of our institutions, pubs, churches and community centres, and there’s a role for us to play there.”

Phil Mellows 
30th April 2019

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