Annie Tiner – Salcombe Brewery
Written by Joff Alexander-Frye, photos supplied by Salcombe Brewery
I’ve heard it said that many a great idea has been born over a pint or two of beer. As I recently found out when I visited their custom-built brewery overlooking Salcombe Ria, Salcombe Brewery (an exciting and impressive enterprise which is making waves nationally and internationally) is just such a company.
Originally from Guildford in Surrey, owners John and Gerry Tiner had holidayed near Salcombe for most of their lives and, during a routine summer trip to Hope Cove, were enjoying a drink or two in The Sun Bay Hotel. Half way through a particularly enjoyable pint of Shingle Bay (a 4.2% golden beer), John asked the barman where this wonderful brew was produced. It turned out that it was a local Churchstow brewery named Quercus who, the barman informed the Tiners, had put themselves up for sale after starting to struggle as a business. In the midst of this unfortunate but serendipitous turn of events, John and Gerry decided to buy the brewery and re-locate permanently from Surrey to the South Hams. And so, in 2011, the Salcombe Brewery journey began.
With Shingle Bay as their cornerstone product, John and Gerry continued to trade as Quercus, slowly developing their product line, attracting investment, building their network and devising a keen business strategy. It was just a couple of years ago, in September 2017, that Quercus rebranded to Salcombe Brewery.
This rebrand was carried out by John and Gerry’s daughter, Annie, who became their Marketing Manager in early 2017 and who I recently had the pleasure of meeting for a chat at Estuary View, their bespoke-built and eco-friendly new brewhouse.
This new state of the art, innovative brewery is built on the site of a decommissioned water reservoir and utilises the natural ambient temperature of the underground facility for storing their ales at perfect conditioning temperature. Add to that the fact that the brewery has its own dedicated borehole which supplies the brewery with its own source of pure Devonian water (perfect for ale brewing) and you can see how the brewery is both innovative and energy efficient – two things that are becoming increasingly important in modern business.
Annie told me how John and Gerry had cultivated a dream of establishing an eco-friendly and locally supportive brewery. Hearing about the impressive credentials of their new premises was the first of several moments during my chat with Annie that it struck me how successful they had been in achieving this dream.
As impressive as the eco-credentials of their new premises are, its design and capacity for scalability is equally so. Under the expert guidance of a new and young team of brewers (Sam Beaman, Chris Lang and Adam Weatherley), the twenty-barrel brewery has four fermenting vessels and is capable of producing 350 nine-gallon casks of ale per week. Such is the design of the building that tours and brew days are frequently organised for budding brewers or interested customers to come and see where the magic happens as well as sample some fine produce. In addition to this, the Brewery Shop is open throughout the week and sells beer, gift packs and branded merchandise.
This young team of brewers is led by Head Brewer Sam Beaman who joined Annie and I for a few minutes to talk me through the technical elements of their brewing process. He commented,
“We lean on age-old approaches to brewing, using a traditional British Mash Tun and sticking to tried and tested equipment and methods, rather than messing with the formula like some modern breweries. Consistency and quality are key and we use British Malt and British Hops for the bittering of our beers as well as some American, German and New Zealand hops too for variety and diversity within our product line.”
“Think of hops to beer like you would grapes to wine. The growing conditions greatly affect the end product and hops from different parts of the world will carry unique flavour characteristics – from the fruity, bold Australasian hops to the intense, rich and tropical hops of the Americas.”
I asked Sam how three guys can produce so much (and such good) beer and he surmised,
“A lot of hard work, passion and energy goes into our brewing. You don’t put the amount of time and effort that we do into something that you aren’t obsessed with. We love what we do and it shows in the beer that we produce.”
Another undoubted factor in the success of the brewery is the fact that they carry the Salcombe name as a business – synonymous with quality, luxury, heritage and prestige. There is clearly something in the water at Salcombe and, with such brand-strength nationally and internationally, the brewery’s entrenchment in the local community has meant that, both locally and beyond, they have gathered a reputation for excellence, success and their ability to carry out business with a conscience.
For example, take their choice of the seahorse as their logo. As the Salcombe Estuary is one of the only remaining places in the UK that both short-snouted and spiny seahorses can be found, Salcombe Brewery chose to select the animal as both their logo and, by association, their seal of approval. By partnering with the Devon-based Seahorse Trust, the brewery has forged a relationship whereby, for every bottle of their Seahorse ale that sells, they donate 5p to the charity who work to protect and preserve seahorses and their habitats. Furthermore, for every pint of Seahorse sold in May of this year, they will also donate 5p to the charity.
Another example of this ethically conscious and locally supportive approach is a similar initiative where, for all of this year, the brewery will donate 5p of every pint of their Lifesaver ale to Salcombe RNLI which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
So, having mentioned a couple of them, let me introduce you to the whole family of Salcombe Brewery beers. On top of Seahorse and Lifesaver, the brewery has five ‘permanents’ and three ‘seasonals’. Let me introduce you to: Salcombe Pale Ale (their first ever keg beer), Devon Amber (an easy-drinking 3.8% session ale), Shingle Bay (the 4.2% golden beer which originally hooked John Tiner’s taste buds), Salcombe Gold (their hoppiest beer to date and, again, 4,2%), Island Street Porter (a rich velvety 5.9% porter), Riptide (a seasonal 4.9%), Stormwash (seasonal later in the year) and Christmas Tide (bottled for the first time this year)
As Annie talked me through their range, she kindly offered me the chance to taste any of them that I wished to. Through gritted teeth I explained how I am not drinking alcohol this year and, as such, had to turn down the generous offer. One of the hardest moments of my career to date, I must admit…
Our conversation continued and Annie expanded,
“There is something in the water down here. But that will only get you so far. It’s one thing creating a product with a connection to our special location but turning that into a business with repeat custom is an entirely different matter and requires an excellent product that people want to consume time and time again.”
And Salcombe Brewery are clearly doing exactly that. Their wholesaler data shows that their beers are popular throughout the South West, along the M4/M5 corridor, in the South East, London, the Midlands and ‘up north’. More specifically, their beer sells particularly well in parts of the country where people travel from to visit Salcombe for their holidays.
When I asked Annie if she felt confident that their beer could thrive within the somewhat faddy world of alcoholic beverages, she retorted with a twinkle in her eye,
“Every drink has its day Joff, but beer has outlived every alcoholic fad of the last fifty years and there is a resurgence and trend towards more traditional drinks, such as ale and, more generally, beer. The recent craft beer revolution has been really good for us. Whilst we’re not trying to copy anyone or be like some of the big craft brewers, it has raised the profile and the standard of the beer offering in the UK, meaning that our excellent product has a stage to perform and impress upon! Also, it has meant that people don’t just go and order the same old beer when they go to the pub. People are so much more open to trying new, small-batch beers and that open-mindedness is really important for the sustainability and health of our industry.”
As our time together drew to a close, I was struck by how profound the Salcombe Brewery story has been so far. It embodies family, community, realising ones dreams, social conscience, good business, high standards and, possibly most importantly, really, really good beer. I, for one, will be putting my order in as soon as my ‘dry year’ is up on December 31st 2019…
Follow @SalcombeBrewery on Twitter or visit their website to stay up to date with their exciting journey.
Salcombe Brewery have been featured in the latest Food Drink Devon guide; find out more here.