Our three founding fathers – Roger Jones, Richard Dempster and Craig Lewis – visited St Austell Brewery to brew up a beauty.
Jewel in the Crown – with half a nod to our flagship amber ale Gem – is a traditional English ale packed with plenty of fresh green hops. It’s available in cask in late October and early November, so if you want to see if the Old Boys still have it, you’d best beat your way down to the St Austell Brewery’s Visitor Centre or your local Small Batch Beer Club pub before it all runs out.
But apart from crafting a great brew, there was another reason for the visit of the Bath Ales trio, which was to sit with St Austell Brewery’s Archivist Chris Knight to chat about their early years in the business. Bath Ales grew amongst a very busy brewing trade around the Bath and Bristol area, home to early giants such as George’s and Courage.
The St Austell Brewery team wanted to know what had inspired the trio and why Bath Ales had become such a phenomenal success and, as Roger Jones explained, the reason was pretty simple; “All three of us had plenty of experience working within the business. Richard and I started as barmen for Smiles Brewery at Highbury Vaults and Craig had a strong background in brewing and we all felt that there was a lot of complacency in the business. We wanted to create a quality beer that we loved to drink and which hopefully our customers would love to drink as well.”
Starting off on a rented 10-barrel kit in a disused aircraft hangar Bath Ales, and in particular Gem, soon became a hit locally and through sheer will power, sweat and determination, a beautiful brand was born. The rest, as they say, is history.
And as for us picking up where they left off? Both Craig and Richard agree that even though the company wasn’t really for sale when conversations started between the two companies, the Bath Ales brands couldn’t be in better brands. Richard said, “We were always about quality first and so is St Austell. We were never prepared to compromise on that which is why all of our beers went down so well. What St Austell brings is the opportunity to build those brands to even greater heights so we’re really happy to be able to take a back seat now and watch to see where they go next. ”
And what next for the trio? As Craig says, they are resting for the moment, but there’s a glint in each of their eyes when the mention of new projects comes up. He added, “We’ll definitely do something together again. We work well as a team and we’ve never had a cross word, so watch this space!”
The Bath Ales early years project is part of an ongoing archive project at the Brewery, and the Founders’ story will be available to view at St Austell Brewery’s Brewing Experience in due course.