Q and A, UK Beer and Breweries

8 Sail Brewery | Q&A

8 Sail Brewery | Q&A
Originally Posted on Mar 23, 2016

Are you curious to know about the people behind the beers you buy? Or perhaps you want to know what inspires brewers to brew and beer bloggers to blog? Our “Q&A” posts are a light hearted way of getting to know people working in, and connected to, the beer and alcohol industry.
Today’s post features 8 Sail Brewery.

Please tell us about the brewery and how it started   Located in the shadows of the unique eight-sailed windmill in the rural village of Heckington near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, 8 Sail Brewery was established in 2010 when proprietor Tony realised a personal dream. The five barrel brewery produced its first beer in June of that year. Steve joined the brewing team in September 2012 and the brewery has steadily grown in reputation, gaining awards along the way.
The brewery aims to recreate traditional beer styles that were once popular as well as beers to suit the modern taste. Our partnership with Heckington’s working eight-sailed windmill makes the brewery unique. With the majority of our grain grown locally, malted locally and now some of it being milled next door, 8 Sail Brewery beers are truly ‘from field to flagon’.
Heckington is a pleasant rural village situated on the edge of the Lincolnshire Fens just off the A17 (Newark to Kings Lynn road) and, with its nineteenth century railway station situated right beside the windmill and brewery, trains on the Nottingham-Grantham-Skegness Poacher Line stop at Heckington on their way to and from the famous coastal resort.

Who are you/what do you do?   8 Sail Brewery is a microbrewery that employs two staff.  Brewing, selling, deliveries, pump clip and label design….in fact EVERYTHING is carried out by the brewers Tony and Steve.

How did you get into this line of work?   After 30 years in teaching Tony decided to fulfil a personal dream.  Initially, running the brewery as a part-time venture, Tony finally retired from teaching and put his full efforts into the brewery when Steve joined the brewery two years later.  Steve retired from the Royal Air Force in 2012 having flown for 32 years.

What do you think makes a great beer?  Great brewers!!

What is your favourite style of beer?   Tony prefers dark beers – Milds, Porters and Stouts, whilst Steve prefers IPAs and Pale Ales ……so between us we have most styles pretty much covered!!

Bottled or canned beer?   Tony says that he stopped drinking canned beer when he became old enough not to have to drink Watney’s Party Sevens!!
If you have to pick, which would be your top three beers in the whole world?   Tony’s top three are beers that got him into appreciating real ale and are Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter, Hanson’s Mild and the original Theakston’s Old Peculiar.  Steve’s selection would include Laganitus IPA, Stone Brewing Ruination and Fuller’s Bengal Lancer.

What is the best part of your job?   The whole brewing process is interesting, and fun, particularly the formulation of new recipes. I think it would be also fair to say, it is very satisfying when someone comes up to you in a local pub to tell you how much they enjoy your beers.

What inspired you to start up the brewery?   After 30 years in the teaching profession, Tony had decided that he wanted the satisfaction of being involved in creating something.  The idea had been on the ‘back-burner’ since the mid-1990s but, with the opportunity to set up at Heckington Windmill became available, he decided it was time to fulfil his dream.

Where do you see, or hope to see, the brewery in 5 years time?   Size wise, I guess we will be pretty much as we are now.  The brewery is located on the historical site of the 8-Sailed Heckington Windmill.  The site is currently under a five year regeneration programme.  Once complete the site should be a major Lincolnshire tourist attraction and the windmill, brewery and bakehouse will all be open to the public.  Although separate businesses, 8 Sail Brewery and Heckington Windmill Trust work together to bring the historical links between brewing and milling to the public.  There are no plans, at present, to extend the brewery or its capacity, however, as we are now picking up awards for our beers, we may have to re-think this one.

Are there any other breweries which have influenced you?  It’s not so much breweries but beers that influence us.  The microbrewery revolution in the 1990’s has certainly opened up people’s eyes to the variety of beers that could be made and opening up the opportunity to be able to brew a wide range of beers.

Out of all the beers you brew, which is your favourite? Why is that?   Whilst Tony prefers darker beers and Steve prefers paler beers, the most interesting of our beers is our Rolling Stone 4.3% ‘Stone-ground’ Pale Ale.  It is the first beer brewed with locally grown barley which has been malted only fifteen miles from the brewery and then ground on a dedicated set of stones at Western Europe’s only working eight-sailed windmill which stands only feet away from the brewery.  Working closely with the malsters and the millers to get the grain just right for brewing has been a challenging but interesting project.

Where did you learn to brew?  We are still learning and thoroughly enjoying the journey, but Tony attended courses at BrewLab and Porter Brewing whilst Steve attended the courses at Learn2Brew and University of Nottingham.

What is the hardest thing to master when learning to brew?  Initially, consistency as it is important that drinkers, when they find a beer they like, can guarantee it being the same every time they drink it.  The challenge to the brewer is getting this right when the grain and hops are constantly changing.

Thanks to Tony and Steve for chatting to us!

You can view and buy beers from 8 Sail Brewery here.