Wednesday 19th June 2013
This brewery is based at Brogdale near Faversham, which is the home of the National Fruit Collection. It is in a large barn-type building that had been completely refurbished inside and out by the owners. To increase the appeal to visitors the management of Brogdale had decided to make an area on the site available for a small brewer to operate. I noticed that there seems to be a lot more enterprise going on at Brogdale since we last visited a few years ago.
My husband Bob and I were greeted by Peter Meaney, owner, proprietor, and pretty well everything else, and shown into the corner office. His son Mike was busy doing the racking in the main part of the barn. His wife Linda works at the weekends.
I asked about the name of the brewery, as I really liked the logo. Peter said it had been difficult choosing a name at first because they didn't know where the site was going to be. Names that sprang to mind had already been used by other people. One weekend wife his Linda said to him "Will you stop pacing round the house like a mad cat" and the name was born. He wanted to bounce around and try lots of new recipes and liked the dynamic nature of the name.
One of the premises he looked at was close to the Craft centre, Oad Street, about three miles south-west of Sittingbourne, where there is an established Craft Centre. Firstly though, Peter wanted some practical experience of serving the public, not as a brewer but in a more general manner. So when Brogdale held their annual Cider Festival Peter volunteered to work.
During that experience he made contact with those who matter. He was offered the building and it seemed superior to what he had looked at previously. It had just been re-clad and a new floor put in, with secure shutters. New drains and services were installed and the Landlord, Tony Hillier, was very helpful and supportive, as he wanted to diversify and get Brogdale to be a real visitor destination.
Many visitors come to see the Orchards at weekends and there are always those who show an interest in the Brewery as well. If you want a tour of the brewery then please book through Brogdale Collections, there is a £2 per head charge.
Peter's background is not in brewing but in the paper industry. He lives in Sittingbourne and used to be a Paper Technical Manager at Aylesford News Print. He was offered voluntary redundancy and decided to take it. The Brewery started up in December 2012 and the first brew was completed on 10th December. It was minus 3 or 4 degrees centigrade outside at the time and with no artificial heating and he found it very difficult.
The beers being produced then were as follows, with tasting notes: Golden India Pale Ale, 4.2% abv, with a peppery hop aroma and medium bodied mouth feel and a very slight chocolate flavour; Auburn Copper Ale, 4.2% abv, a best bitter, coppery-auburn in colour and bitter enough to tingle the taste buds but not overpowering. It is also malty with a medium body with a a bit of fruit and nut flavours; and lastly; Platinum Blonde Ale, 4.2% abv, the lightest coloured beer with a hoppy citrus / grapefruit aroma.
The brewery is an eight barrel plant supplied by David Porter of Bury, Greater Manchester, who also provided similar kit to the newly established Outstanding Brewing Co., also of Bury. Peter normally brews two days each week.
Peter took us to another building he named the Conditioning room. In it were 10 full firkins ready for sale and a lot more still conditioning.
He is experimenting with plastic barrels and they all have the distinctive blue, red and black colours. See the photograph of him showing how light they are compared with a conventional cask!
He sends some beer away in square tanks called Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) that hold 1100 litres, for bottling. They partially filter the beer but it still has some active yeast, but less than if they were to bottle on site. It is a compromise. The Leek (Staffs) Brewery does the bottling and labelling and it comes back all nicely packaged up.
Peter then showed us another unit next door he called the Malt and Hop Store. He uses Pale Crystal, Dark Crystal, Maris Otter, Amber, Roasted Barley Malts and Torified Wheat. He uses whole leaf hops: Cascade, Celeia from Slovakia (for its zestiness), Galaxy, Phoenix and Ringwood.
Pale Malt is usually used for Lager or Pilsener but Peter uses it for the Platinum Blonde, which does have an Ale yeast. He doesn't make Lager at all. He gets the gold colour from the Amber Malt so the IPA is darker than the Blonde.
He was going to do a first brew of a Honey Beer that week or the next. Later he had plans to brew a Stout. This is to be Jet Black Stout at 4.8% ABV, described by Peter to be black-ruby red, smooth full bodied, with warming hints of roasted coffee and a slightly hoppy backdrop. Peter's son Mike does most of the brewing. He got a taste for Real Ale at Cumbria University. Brewing takes place weekly, sometimes twice weekly. Visitors pass by as this is happening.
We headed back to the main brewery where we looked at the familiar brewing vessels, in order, the Hot Liquor Tank, Mash Tun, Underback, Copper, where the wort is boiled for an hour. The flow is then controlled into a Heat Exchanger and finally there are two Fermenters which each hold 1.3 cubic metres or 2600 bottles-worth or 32 firkins (8 brewer's barrels). Inside the building there is a very useful bench and the stillage were made by son Mike and his Granddad.
Peter then served us some beer and we then tasted the Platinum Blonde Ale, the Golden IPA and the Auburn Copper Ale, all on draught. We ended up taking 4 pints of the Auburn home with us, along with a nicely packaged box of three bottles which we thought had great presentation, all for £20.
Please see below regarding how to get to Brogdale; worthwhile at any time, but especially so at weekends when the brewery is open to serve the public with draught beer and also offering both draught and bottled beers to take away.
Mad Cat Brewery Ltd., Brogdale Farm, Brogdale Road, Faversham, Kent ME13 8XU
Tel: 07960 263615