Originally Posted on Oct 07, 2015
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 The Norfolk Brewhouse. The Norfolk Brewhouse is owned and run by Rachel and David Holliday. The brewery is based in a previously redundant, old barn on the family farm in North Norfolk. Inspired by the wildlife around them, they make the most of what is around them. Chalk filtered water comes from the brewery’s own well and they use Norfolk’s finest malting barley, with the brewing grains being fed back to the cows.
Who are you/what do you do? I am David Holliday, co-founder and brewer at The Norfolk Brewhouse, a farm based brewery in North Norfolk, which I run with my wife Rachel.
Being a brewer may sound romantic – and yes it is pretty cool, but you also have to be multi skilled as the job tries to catch you out all the time, so I have had to learn to be a plumber, electrician, handy-man, chemist and cleaner.
We brew 5 regular ales and two lagers.
How did you get into this line of work? My working background has always been in the pub and leisure industry, but on the marketing side – and involved a lot of time spent in and around beers, and indeed visiting breweries, which is where my interest was sparked seeing the array of different beers available and the great community spirit within the brewing world – it became something which I wanted to be part of. So I went to learn how to brew, doing a couple of courses and learning hands on with brewery mates.
What is your favourite beer, wine or spirit? Well, beer wise it would be unfair to single any out as I like so many – and often the mood or occasion will determine which one you like. Clearly our own Moon Gazer ales are favourites but equally I’m fond of beers by the likes of St Austell, Thornbridge, Fyne Ales ( they’re Jarl in particular) , Durham Brewery, Eden Brewery nothing overly hopped but just nice, complex flavours and very quaffable.
Wine wise it has to be a nice Chablis, while spirit wise a quality gin always grabs my attention such as Hendricks.
What do you think makes a great beer? Malt and hops obviously – but the passion which goes into crafting it – a beer has to balance out so many things, the balance between the malt and the hops, bitterness and smoothness, aroma and conditioning. But simply, a beer has to do two things – grab your attention with its taste and bring pleasure to those that drink it. If it does those two things then it’s a great beer in my eyes.
What was your first drink and where were you when you had it? Well apart from the ubiquitous sherry at a great aunts or grandmas when a wee lad my first drink as an ‘adult’ was a Courage Best which I found so bitter at the time I instantly went to lager tops! Hey, forgive me it was an 80s thing. Thankfully, I soon discovered the light and found a love for real ale.
What drink can you no longer face having had one too many? That’s easy – tequila – well we have all done it haven’t we? Just too many slammers in one session and that last bite of lemon and salt tips you over the edge. My last taste was in The Magpie pub, in Norwich, probably 20 years ago and not a drop has touched my lips since. Don’t think it ever will.
What is your favourite style of beer? Pale ales and golden ales tend to be the ones I will plump for. But contrary to my first experience of Courage Best I do now tend to like a good bit of bitterness. Mind you too much hop – like on the big IPAs at the moment isn’t really to my taste – but I do love brewing them as they make it interesting.
Bottled or canned beer? Good beer is good beer – cans are fine but the hype about them creating the perfect storage for beer I don’t buy into – I have had some shockingly bad canned drinks from the UK craft beers- and some truly fantastic ones – and the same can be said for bottles.
What is important is the care the brewer takes and their knowledge and understanding of best before dates and processes regardless of can or bottle.
If you have to pick, which would be your top three beers in the whole world? OK I’ll cop out of this one as I couldn’t pick – it’s like my top 3 albums – depends on the mood I’m in.
What is the silliest thing you’ve done whilst drunk? Like I’m going to tell you that! Too many to mention when younger but thank fully a more restrained drink now!
What is the best part of your job? Watching someone drink one of my beers in a pub and enjoying it. To bring someone pleasure is a good feeling.
You are stuck on a desert island, what three things are you taking with you? Mash tun, kettle, fermenter = we have beer then!
What inspired you to start up the brewery / what was the inspiration for starting the brewery? A love of beer and a desire to leave the world of pen pushing behind and do something which allowed me to craft something more tangible and that would let me see people enjoy it.
How long have you been brewing at The Norfolk Brewhouse? A little over three years now – our first brew was in February 2012 – but we did suffer a set back as out borehole collapsed which put us instantly out of action for a few weeks. Thanks fully all is going well now.
Where do you see, or hope to see, the brewery in 5 years time? Pretty much as we are now – we don’t want to conquer the beer world, defo not – we just want to maintain our small team in North Norfolk in a sustainable way, to keep building on our reputation for good quality, consistent beers and having fun!
To put Moon Gazer ales firmly on the map and part of Norfolk’s rich food and drink heritage.
Are there any other breweries which have influenced you? Fyne Ales in Scotland – when I first drank it in Argyll it inspired me to want to brew myself – simply because at the time the bottle they were producing were perfectly carbonated and so close to cask ale. We went up to see the brewery as we were on holiday nearby and were enthused by their passion and the lifestyle which they had – the decision was made ‘this is the life for us!’ So thanks to the Delap family of Fyne Ales
Out of all the beers you brew, which is your favourite? Why is that? I genuinely don’t brew for myself – I brew for my customers so there are beers which I brew which I wouldn’t necessarily chose to drink on a night out and others which I would – but then that would be telling. They are all favourites as I know people really enjoy them – and that’s far more important to me than what I might think.
Where did you learn to brew? Where most brewers do – in their kitchens with a home brew kit and progressed from there really.
What is the hardest thing to master when learning to brew? Staying in control. Brew days can throw so much at you that you don’t expect but you have to stay calm and keep the process going. Also stopping smiling each time you brew – and thinking just how lucky I am to be doing something I love – we’re having a ball.
Thank you to David and The Norfolk Brewhouse for taking the time to take part.
You can view and buy beers from The Norfolk Brewhouse here.