What’s Brewing? Hanlons’ Yellow Hammer Time After Time
Grow Talk and photos by Sofy Robertson
What’s Brewing? brought to you by Grow Talk brings you a run-down of the fantastic breweries, cider presses and distilleries that our area has to offer.
In July, Grow wrote about the launch of the exciting Exeter Food and Drink Trail, set to secure Exeter and its surrounding area as the foodie destination for Devon. A fantastic amount of local food and drinkeries signed up to the trail (full map available here) in order to promote the wealth of local produce that we are lucky enough to have on our doorsteps.
Exeter and Greater Exeter has been growing as a foodie destination for years, with the annual Food Festival at Exeter Castle, Powderham Food Festival growing in strength each year and of course the recent Great Food and Drink Show at WestPoint. But it is the drinking culture slowly brewing in the background that equally deserves celebrating.
When I first came to the city, I was surprised and excited (forgive me, I was a Uni student after all) about the diversity of the pub culture that Exeter had to offer. I wrote about the strength of Exeter’s independent pub scene last month so now it’s time to focus in a little further and consider how the booze itself puts our area at the forefront of Devon’s drinking scene.
In the spotlight this week we have Hanlons Brewery, situated just outside of Exeter in Newton St. Cyres. Open for both commercial and individual trade during the week, Hanlons also run regular events including live music and rugby. If you visit on a Friday from 5pm, you can enjoy the atmosphere of the upstairs bar space and order some delicious locally-sourced food that, of course, incorporates at least one of their brews.
On one such Friday evening, whilst waiting for my husband to join me for dinner, I took the opportunity to chat to Dan Taylor, owner of Hanlons Brewery. We took a tour around the heart of the beer’s engine whilst enjoying our drinks. I was supping a pint of Stormstay, my favourite of their brews, while Dan had a Devon Red from Sandford Orchards (watch this space, Crediton-based Sandford will be featured later in our series). I joked with him about drinking cider rather than his own ales and he laughed and shrugged, explaining he liked to have something different every now and then.
Dan, can you tell our readers how all of this started?
“Sam and I got married and we had our favourite beer, which was Yellow Hammer at the time, at our wedding. We started talking to John and Liz [O’Hanlon, the founders of the brewery who opened their first pub in London] about the brewery. At the time, I was doing a Foundations Degree in Agriculture at Bicton because I was trying to do something with my mum and dad’s farm. We talked to John and Liz and managed to do a deal to take over the brewery. At the same time, we got planning permission for the brewery at the farm. It was meant to be.
Five years ago, we started brewing knowing nothing about the brewing industry or the pubs or anything. It’s been a really steep learning curve but it’s a lovely industry to be in and full of really lovely people. We found that after working in several different industries, it’s probably the most passionate set of people that we’ve come across. With the raw materials, everything we buy is the best we can possibly get our hands on. We buy Warminster Maltings which are the oldest maltings in the UK. They are amazingly passionate about their industry. We buy all of our hops by batch to try and give us a level of consistency throughout the year. The guys doing the brewing, it’s a life job you know. They’re massively into their beers and into the techniques in the industry. They work very hard which people probably don’t know. They see the romance about making beer and how wonderful it is but actually the guys work really blumming hard.
We have inherited a lot of equipment and spent the last five years updating equipment and processes to get our level of consistency absolutely perfect. It’s a very tough industry. Ten years ago there were three hundred brewers and now there’s seventeen hundred brewers.”
Would you say that is as much of a good thing as a bad thing?
“It is, it makes it really competitive. That’s really brought on different techniques and different styles of beer. It’s really brought on the quality of beer as well. There aren’t that many breweries now that are producing bad beer.”
How would you describe your approach to brewing; is it modern or traditional?
“I think we have really tried to aim at getting our consistency. We have a bespoke panel that is bespoke to us which gives us a level of consistency throughout our products. There are only eighteen members here; we’re a small family company. We didn’t want to be a massive mass-produced brewery. We’re very much about the quality and the level of service to all of our customers and hopefully producing a really lovely beer.
We tend to run with five beers all year around and then every month we’ll do a different seasonal. It gives us a good insight into where the industry is. We’ve just done an IPA. We were only meant to do one brew and we’ve just done five so it’s been really positive for us.”
If you were to have a drink, apart from the Sandford Cider you’ve got at the moment, what would it be?
“I think it would be Yellow Hammer. It’s always been my favourite. It’s our editor’s favourite as well. It’s a stand-out beer and I think people get lost in real hoppy beers but I think what we do is a beer that you can drink and have a few and feel good the next day. You can come back to it time after time.”
I thanked Dan for talking with me and returned upstairs to see if my husband had decided to make an appearance.
To find out more about Hanlons Brewery or to book in for an event or dinner, click here.