Why BoB's forever blowing bubbles
Added: Saturday, January 26th 2013
There’s a new brewery in St Albans – it’s very small, shares equipment with an existing producer and, for good measure, makes beer that will give you a chuckle.
Martin Slaughter rents time and space at the Verulam Brewery behind the Farmers Boy in London Road (he's pictured in the copper). His beers carry the name of BoB, which he says can stand for either Best of British or Barrels of Beer...or anything you care to think of.
Most of his production goes into bottles and they are already on sale at the Hare & Hounds and Lower Red Lion pubs. He also produces beer for Townsend Tennis Club and he does a special brew for St Albans Football Club, which has gone down a storm.
Martin has always been a keen real ale drinker. When he left university he was torn between a career in computing or brewing. He was offered a job at Courage’s brewery near Tower Bridge in London but plumped for computing – a wise choice at the time as Courage closed in the 1980s. But Martin, who was born in Watford, never gave up his interest in beer and brewed at home, moving on from using kits to what is known as “full mash”: brewing with real malts and hops rather than syrups in cans.
“Then three years ago, with my family grown up, I started to wonder if I should have a go at brewing commercially,” he says. “I gave myself two years to learn and also develop my own recipes. I built a small brewery at home – a nano brewery – and recruited a panel of beer tasters to try my beers and give me feedback.”
In 2011 Martin contacted the Stewart Brewery near Edinburgh, a highly-rated small craft operation. “I liked their beer and I asked if I could work there for free. They are wonderfully helpful and friendly people and they agreed to take me on. I did all the jobs and found it a superbly useful experience. And I changed my own recipes as a result.”
In early 2012 Martin decided to take the plunge and start making beer for sale. Premises in St Albans were too expensive so he agreed with Kevin Yelland, who brews behind the Farmers Boy, to rent time on the plant there.
“I did a couple of brews with Kevin and convinced him I wouldn’t destroy the place,” Martin says. “In July I approached a few shops in St Albans and asked them to take the beer and now I’m supplying bottles to the Hare & Hounds and Lower Red Lion.”
He also does a small amount of beer in cask – I first tasted his beer, a Christmas special -- at the Hare & Hounds in late December. He will use spare space at the pub to store his bottles.
Business is brisk. “I won’t worry the big brewers, “Martin says, “but I hit my target for the number of bottles I needed to sell by the end of the year.” He’s convinced people want to buy local food and drink and he was impressed when he went to a stall in the market selling beer to hear many people asking if the beers were locally made.
To underscore that “localism”, he tries as far as possible to use British ingredients, such as Maris Otter malting barley and Fuggles, Goldings and Bramling Cross hop varieties.
He plans to have five core beers and some seasonal specials. He’s currently working on a sparkling barley wine and -- whisper it quietly -- is even planning a lager. He stresses it will be a proper Continental lager beer with taste rather than fizz. The lager aside, all his beers are “bottle conditioned”. This means they contain live yeast and will continue to mature and improve for a year or two.
The beer names are tongue-in-cheek and you need to keep the name Bob firmly in mind to grasp their meaning. There’s a dark mild called Sherunkel as in Bob’s Your Uncle. A red ale is named Bidazzler and a premium pale ale Slayah.
An exceptionally hoppy beer is labelled Erjob – any scouts among you will remember Bob a Job week. He plans a spring beer called Byngalong and his lager will have the Dutch-sounding name of Debilde. Bob Debilde – get it?
Any shopkeepers or publicans that would like to sample or sell Martin’s beers should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He’s true to his roots and still supports Watford football club but I was pleased to learn that he also follows the fortunes of my team, West Ham United. Martin says he’d love to brew a special beer for the Hammers. And why not – after all, it’s only a short step from Bob to Bobby, West Ham’s legendary hero. I’m sure the club would love to sell a brew called BeMoore.
*Reprinted from the Herts Advertiser, 24 January 2013.