A couple of years ago a bottle of beer caught my eye in a specialist drink shop in Braunton, Devon. It was called ‘Druids Fluid’ and was produced by a local brewery called Wizard Ales based in Ilfracombe. I purchased a bottle, took it back to the campsite and predictably sent a picture of it to Twitter.
When returning to the area in April this year I was pleasantly suprised to see a couple of local pubs serving Lundy Gold from Wizard Ales – of course it would of been rude of me not to sample a few pints in the name of research. I also found that a local Tesco Supermarket was stocking the bottles and that the brewery had won the 2009 Tesco Drinks Awards for the South West region! Unfortunately, the bottle of Druids Fluid that I got from Tesco was flat, had no life and didn’t quite taste like I remembered – I put it down to a one off bad bottle.
This weekend I found out that the brewery was actually located not more than a mile away from our current pitch in Woolacombe, so I got the number from the website and gave them a ring to see if I could pop over and pick up some stock.
As you will see from the pictures, the small plant is pretty impressive. Mike the owner of Wizard Ales did a few of the morning jobs, adjusted the temperature and checked the gravity. He said he moved to Ilfracombe about three years ago after running a CAMRA pub of the year pub in the Cotswolds which had a brewery attached mainly to serve the pub. He certainly knew his stuff and knows exactly what he wants out of running the small brewery – it’s not about expansion or working really hard, he’s done that and now is happy for this to tick along supplying beer to local pubs.
Winning the Tesco award has brought mixed blessings – the massive influx of demand obviously created the dilema of supply and Mike took the decision to put the work out to another brewery using his full set of exact instructions and recipie. The problem is that the beer that was supplied to Tesco wasn’t of the same level of quality as usual, this has caused a drop in sales at Tesco and the potential for consumers to get the wrong idea about the real quality of the brew. This is exactly what I had experienced earlier this year with the bottle I purchased from Tesco.
Anyway, I grabbed a case of Lundy Gold and hot trotted back to my caravan. Unfortunately it was still only 10.30am so I had at least 30 mins to wait before I could open it 😉