THE ART OF BEER … HIGH WEALD BREWERY

England was forged on the iron of the High Weald. Where today are serene woodlands, gentle hills and commuter towns, The Weald once panted the puff of bellows and breathed the fire of the bloomeries and blast furnaces. The wealth of Wealden iron was first identified in prehistoric times, and its use was hugely expanded during Roman times with more than 100 sites around the Sussex & Kent Weald. By the 1600s, the industry was in full swing – England needed cannons, and the ochre stone of the Weald provided it. The fuel for smelting this iron was charcoal, which had an abundant source in the area’s heavy woods.

Today, it’s more often steam carrying the smells of barley and hops that waft into the Sussex air. In a part of the country curiously lacking an abundance of breweries, Andy Somerville saw an opportunity to expand his part-time nano-brewery High Weald, and in November 2015 he launched his three core beers in bottle. Chronicle is a delightfully drinkable 3.8% Sussex Bitter and Greenstede (the original name of East Grinstead where the brewery is based) is a golden ale at 4%, but the one that first caught our attention at the Great British Beer Festival is Charcoal Burner, an lucious oatmeal stout.

“The High Weald has an old, ancient feel to it,” explains Andy “It’s an evocative name and I wanted the artwork to reflect that. And it’s important to look good. You’ve got to pull them in with the art and then hook them with the beer.”

The brewery were already using a hammer and anvil as their logo, but it wasn’t until designer Will Parr showed Andy the potential for the brand by adding a distinctive character. “We went for the most out-there option he presented,” says Andy. “It had skeletons riding chickens – who could resist that?”

Will had worked with many breweries, creating some of the most identifiable beers on the shelves, before setting up Studio Parr in Sussex. “I started out on my own in order to talk directly to some of the UK’s most exciting craft brewers, I saw something in the early labels of High Weald that I liked, but more importantly the beers were really good.”

Charcoal Burner is a great oatmeal stout, full of flavour and life, and the first that Andy and Will worked on. “The area is so rich in history that we could build on to add in characters,” explains Will. “All of the stories on the bottles are based on Anglo Saxon folklore. It could be a battle or the wheat workers being chased by the ‘charcoal burner’.  A quirky English lion was too good an opportunity to miss to use for Chronicle and the skeletal characters we have are reminiscent of those in Anglo-Saxon folklore, but we have a bit of fun with them. Those on the Chronicle label are having a piss-up in the brewery!”

High Weald’s beers are resolutely English. “We’re using really good English hops,” Andy says. “They’re more complex and the flavours change and develop. English hops are more of a watercolour than modern art. And there are some really interesting English hops coming through, such as Jester. We’re looking at doing a 6% IPA with tons of English hops, and also a hefeweizen. With every beer, we want to tell a different story”.   DN

/  highwealdbrewery.co.uk

/ studioparr.co.uk