With very limited initial funds (a car sale here, a re-mortgage there), we scraped together just under £50,000 – a lot of money to us, but meagre funds so far as buying breweries go. But we were able to buy and refurbish the 5 barrel starter brewery that had belonged to Castle Rock, along with a hundred plastic casks, and found the perfect site to house it, in the old dairy and barns at South Farm, in the Waveney Valley, Alburgh, Norfolk.
The aim was to pay our mortgages, run the business the way we wanted to run it, and brew the best beer possible. Cask beer was where we began, and is still an important part of what we are about.
Geoff has a talent for coming up with good ideas, and drawing on our location in the heart of Britain’s best barley growing land, with Maris Otter grown almost on our doorstep, he came up with the name ‘Grain’. Simple, apt, and it gave us the chance to play around with wood themes, hence the tree-based names of many of our beers (recently ‘Lignum Vitae’ which means ‘Tree of Life’), and our wooden pump clips.
There was a lot of work involved in converting the buildings into anything slightly resembling a brewery, but we were able to bring in the skills and enthusiasm (people will do a lot when beer is involved) of friends and family, as well as the excited farmers. And by July 2006 we produced our first beer, Oak, a 3.8% bitter, which remains to this day as our best seller.
We added more beers to our portfolio, went through some learning experiences, but the idea was always to run our own pubs as well as brew beer. And in 2010 we signed the lease of our first Grain pub – The Plough, St Benedict’s St, Norwich. With a large, almost secret, beer garden, and the style of a polished pair of old brogues, it suited Grain perfectly. More pubs followed.
We replaced the out-grown brew kit in 2012, with a shiny new, efficient, and purpose built brewery, tripling our output, but still homed at South Farm. By expanding into neighbouring barns, we have added more fermenters and storage, and having dabbled with keg beer for a couple of years, we went into full keg production and built our lagering room in the old farm shoot room.
You’ll notice our logo and pump clips look different from how they did a couple of years back. Grain evolved through its first ten years of life, and so we changed the brand to reflect where we had reached, and where we still wanted to go. But of course, the wooden pump clips stayed. And we added some more pubs to the portfolio.
What next? More good stuff.