Visited on: Saturday 8th July 2017
Considering this brewery was first set up in 2011 it has made rapid progress since, being very innovative yet not losing sight of its origins in cask-conditioned ale. The brewery was founded in 2011 although the story begins a little earlier. Its founder was Phil Saltonstall who was a helicopter pilot in the services. His wife Harriet, was a diplomat at the United Nations in New York and eventually Phil went there also.
In New York he started home brewing in the couple’s apartment and became very interested in it. He was at a dinner at the UN when he met a guest who had a connection with the Triumph Brewery in Princeton, New Jersey. Phil visited them and temporarily became a “brew monkey”, in his own words.
The first brewery of his own was set up on his return to the UK. It was located in the garage of his house in the town of Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
The brewery was very small being of one barrel (bbl) capacity capable of producing just four firkins per brew. As mentioned above, this was 2011 and yet great things happened very quickly, as one of his beers won Champion Beer at the CAMRA York Beer Festival that year. This was achieved after being in business for just two months! His house was located on Brass Castle Hill, hence the brewery’s name. It was at this York beer festival that Phil met Ian Goodall who was to become his business partner.
Brewing at his home proved to have many constraints and so, in less than six months, brewing was transferred to the historic brew-house of Lord Halifax in a barn on his Garrowby Estate.
Previously this brewery had only been used once a year, prior to Christmas. This was when brewers from Sam Smith visited and brewed a seasonal beer for the staff of the estate. At this time Phil was brewing part-time whilst he worked at the Coastguard Control Centre at Bridlington.
Again, demand eventually exceeded the capacity of Phil’s brewery. So two years later in 2013, he re-located to Malton, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. This small market town between York and Scarborough was well known in the past as a brewing centre.
These days it has acquired the moniker of “Foodie Capital of Yorkshire”. So, a brewery was a perfect complement to the other artisan businesses already found there.
This brewery of 12 barrels (bbls) capacity is capable of producing 200 casks a week when used to the maximum. A considerable amount of the output is packaged in bottles and cans along with some in keg form.
All of the beer from this brewery is suitable for vegetarian and vegan consumers. Also, a considerable amount of it is gluten-free and that includes all of the canned beer.
Over the years from 2013 Brass Castle has won many awards including SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers Association) Gold for Sunshine (5.7%). Also in a SIBA competition, Bad Kitty Vanilla Porter (5.5%) has won a Bronze medal. CAMRA beer festivals also appear to be fruitful stomping grounds with awards at York, Peterborough, Birmingham, Headingley, Huddersfield and Guisborough.
I visited in July 2017 and a major development earlier that year was the establishment of the Tap House, which opened its doors for the first time on Friday 27th January.
Phil and Ian had always had a relaxed attitude to brewery visitors and Monday to Friday it was possible to drop in for an impromptu tour but this is something different, a proper pub. It is open from Thursday to Sunday, please see below for times.
I had previously met Phil in February 2015 at the CAMRA National Winter Ales Festival held at the Round House in Derby. There he had his own stand and my wife Linda worked on it with him serving the thirsty punters. Our paths crossed again a few months later when he made an address to the members at the CAMRA AGM in Nottingham.
So it was with a certain amount of anticipation I approached the new Tap House. As a first time visitor I was rather impressed with what I found. It is an L-shaped (in reverse) room with the bar counter directly in front as you enter. To the left there are a few tall stools and high chairs facing a shelf along the outside window. The rest of the space is occupied by shop / take away area with shelves with products and a large fridge containing many canned and bottled beers including a good selection of Belgians.
The space to the right of the entrance door is taken up by a L-shaped bench seat facing inwards in front of a large table with loose chairs and stools. Further along the right side of the room is an old one-armed bandit machine, sadly not working. Then there was a book-shelf and at the rear a further table. There are several upturned barrels masquerading as tables.
It is not a large pub and imagine it could be quite crowded at times. In nice weather there are seats and a large table in the yard 'twixt the pub and the brewery building.
On the day I was there Phil was in attendance and had escorted two groups around the brewery. I had a few questions to ask him but he answered them in his address to the groups. I just said hello and he invited me to walk across to the brewery and take some photographs.
I have mentioned previously mentioned that this was a very progressive brewery and one thing I haven’t previously mentioned is the Crowler. I’m sure some explanation is required. A Growler is a glass jar with a clamp top which holds 32 or 64 fluid ounces. As can be surmised from these quantities it is of US origin, being two or four US pints.
However, I mentioned Crowler. This is an amalgam of a growler and a can and is a new concept. In the pub was a device that cans beer into 32 oz containers. These cans are made of aluminium and have a polymer interior coating. Your beer in canned in front of you in the pub so is very fresh. It is suitable for both cask and keg so is very useful to take-away. I wish I had taken one now. Phil wishes to develop the concept so that they can be sent anywhere in the UK as a mail order item. See a photo of the machine on the right.
Returning to my visit, there were two cask beers available and a number of keg offerings. The two cask were Session mini-IPA (3.6%) and Northern Blonde (3.9%) and I liked them both with Session being especially good.
The pub sells cider and wine, also speciality gins along with tea and various coffees. Food is covered by pizzas being served 16.00 to 20.00. There are also pies and I had a vegetable version on the house as the groups visiting earlier had not consumed them.
To bring the story up to date; Phil’s wife Harriet returned to the USA in August 2017 in another diplomatic job as the UK’s Vice-Consul in Boston. This meant another move for him with a new venture and job.
He is retaining his controlling interest in Brass Castle. His idea is to import Brass Castle beers into the USA for distribution in New England and use the returning casks to send beer from small US producers over for the UK market. It sounds like an interesting project and I look forward to tasting the results of his endeavours.
The Tap House is a pub that should not be missed if you are anywhere in North Yorkshire.
Brass Castle Brewery Tap House, 10 Yorkersgate, Malton YO17 7AB. Tel: 01653 698683
Hours: Monday-Wednesday Closed; Thursday 16.00-21.00;
Friday-Saturday 12.00-22.00; Sunday 12.00-20.00
The Tap House is very easy to get to. It is just a few minutes walk from the bus and railway stations.
From the railway station cross the car park, go along Railway Street passing the bus station on the right. Cross the river bridge and you will soon see the pub in Yorkergate at the point where Railway Street joins.
Malton station is served by Trans-Pennine Express trains to Scarborough from Manchester, Leeds & York.
Malton Bus station is served by Coastliner buses from Leeds and York to Pickering, Whitby & Scarborough.