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Interview exclusive: Bobby Beer

By Amber Rolt on 19/06/14 10:00 AM

This week Bring a Bottle catches up with Jonnie Ritchie, the manager of Bobby Beer, a new 4.8% premium British lager that is brewed in the Cotswolds. Ritchie has been working at Bobby Beer for the past six months with the company’s owner, Sam Pearman, and oversees the running of the business. We talk to him about what it is like to work in the beer industry, and what is in store for the future of British lager.  


Where did the idea for Bobby Beer come from?

It’s an obvious thing to say, but there are so many people who drink lager. Take the world cup for instance; it has been estimated that 37 million pints of lager would have been consumed last Friday night in England alone as we saw a 2-1 defeat by Italy. The vast majority of lager at our local pub or supermarket is European, even if it is actually brewed in Glasgow or Northampton. There are few UK based household premium lagers for the masses, and there are even less that taste good. The idea for Bobby Beer was born out of this apparent lack of quality UK lager. It is accessible to all levels of beer lovers; from the devoted beer snob to the average Joe enjoying an after-work pint.

What is it about the brewing process that makes Bobby so special?

We use a blend of the finest German and American hops in our recipe (Willamette, Amarillo and Halletauer Tradition), which are the fundamental providers of our unique flavour, which is crisp and clean, yet complex through a subtle depth of flavours. During the maturation period, we leave the beer to lager (sit in a cool-tank) for over two weeks. This long lagering time gives the hops enough time to react with the yeast, and slowly release the delicious and refreshing flavour. Many lagers (especially mass produced lagers) only leave their beer in the cooling tank for 3-4 days. As a result, and without naming any names, much of the popular European and globally mass-produced beer is watery, tasteless and lacks the refreshing flavour which good beer should possess. We brew patiently, and do not compromise the flavour of our beer by trying to speed up the process in order to produce and sell as much as possible. Good things come to those who wait.

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 What are your other favourite beers at the moment?

I went to a beer festival in Belgium last month and I really enjoyed ‘Saisons’ (a type of farmhouse ale); they have one specifically called ‘Chouffe’ with a little gnome on the label, that’s really good. I also like how clean and crisp Vedett is. My favourite UK produced beer is Curious Brew; made at the Chapeldown winery in Kent, using Champagne yeast.

What is it like working in the beer business, and is there any advice that you would offer someone looking to get involved?

It has been great so far. It is a very hands on job, where being cheerful, flexible and approachable are all things that work in your favour. No two days working for Bobby have been the same, and being a link between the brewer, the customers and the bar managers that I deal with on a day to day basis is key to things running smoothly. Although there are frequent tasting sessions and free pints, there is also a good balance of office based work, forecasting, brew-plans, deliveries, logistics-planning and sales trips. To anyone looking to get involved, I would say go for it. The rise in microbreweries and ‘craft’ beer has exploded in the UK over the last few years, with more active breweries now than ever. If possible, go for a small brewery, because you will get to learn first hand all the teething problems, which is inevitable but essential for any company looking to expand and grow.

What has the biggest challenge been so far on the Bobby beer journey, and what do you hope the following months will bring?

The biggest challenge so far has been keeping up with the demand! When I joined we massively underestimated how quickly our second batch of bottles and kegs would go, and so have since considerably upped production. There is always that horrible feeling that by brewing more we will have a warehouse full of beer which will just sit there slowly deteriorating, but thankfully this hasn’t happened yet. Another big challenge has been getting the consistency of the beer at a level we are happy with. Through trial and error we are now in a place where we are content in the knowledge that we are on course. With summer pretty much here, we are focusing on keeping production steady, and customers happy. Our batch 3 bottles will be ready next week and there are many sites who have ordered our bottles as soon as possible, so next week will be a big week of delivery to sites in the Cotswolds, Bristol, Bath, Somerset, Oxford and London. Getting our beer out to independent drinks/ spirits shops is also something which is on our radar for the coming months.

And finally, where did the name come from, who is Bobby?

He’s your uncle.

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To find out more about Bobby Beer and where you can find some, head to their website or follow them on twitter.