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Q&A with Jamie Newton of Three Acre Brewery

Jamie Newton of Three Acres Brewery at the BITE Sussex food and drink awards 2021 (credit Julia Claxton)

Your name, age and some background about you

I’m Jamie – I’m 25 years old, and I’m head brewer and co-founder at Three Acre Brewery. I studied Architecture at Brighton University, but my love of beer ended up coming first!

I was born and raised in the Sussex countryside, surrounded by some of the best pubs in the world, which is where the inspiration for the brewery came from.

Where is your business and how did the idea for your business come about?

The brewery is based just outside of East Hoathly, just down the road from where my co-founders and I grew up.

Before we started the brewery, we spent our younger years riding bikes, building treehouses and playing sport in the ‘Three Acres’ – and we became a great team in the process. Even at a young age, we were always working on some project or other together, and in our late teens we became fixated on the idea of running a business together.

We already enjoyed home brewing as a hobby, experimenting in a plastic home brew kit in a garden shed. It was our ‘No.8 IPA’ test recipe which was the turning point – with some juicy, tropical mango flavours – a sudden breakthrough which outclassed anything we’d brewed until that point. That was the moment when we decided to get serious. The rest is history.

Three Acre Brewery's pale ale

Give a quick lowdown on the beers and your process…

Brewing is an age-old craft. Whilst the process has not changed for over a hundred years, the equipment used and ingredients available has advanced considerably. Our process is fairly traditional as we don’t add adjuncts to our beers, and we extract all the qualities of the beers from the best ingredients.

The process begins with extracting sugars from the grain in a vessel called the Mash Tun. This is done by adding hot water (63°C - 69°C) which breaks down the starches in the grain into sugar. This is where the beer get its body and colour.

The sugary wort from the Mash – which the sweet liquid that beer is fermented from – then enters the Kettle where it boils for an hour. This is where you add hops at various stages to get bitterness and aroma.

The Wort is then crashed to around 20°C, and transferred to the fermenter. The yeast will then be added and the conversion of sugar to alcohol starts. Once the wort has been fully fermented into beer, it is crash cooled to clear it and racked in casks. The casks will then be stored for between 1 and 8 weeks to condition. Conditioning time will depend on the beer style.

There are many techniques we use to produce the highest quality beers and we are always experimenting with old and new processes. Working out the best process for any particular beer style is a huge part of beer production.

How many others are on your team and who are they?

My two co-founders, Chester and Peter, are both childhood friends of mine.

Chester covers the marketing strategy and communications side of things, and Peter runs the financial and legal side – as well as being my partner in crime with recipe creation and beer development.

Our team has grown a lot over the past six months – now eight of us in total – which we’re really proud of. I can’t wait to see what we’ll achieve with more hands on deck.

Jamie at work in the Three Acre Brewery

How have adapted during the pandemic?

When the first lockdown came in, we had only been selling beer to pubs for five months! We had barely found our feet, and we had no equipment – or budget – to get our beers into cans or bottles, and no direct-to-consumer customer base: we knew we had to do something fast.

After a few weeks of soul-searching, we found a food packaging wholesaler online and ordered a few hundred milk cartons. This gave us the ability to pour beer into cartons directly from our casks – which were previously destined for pub taps.

Once the beer was in a carton, it only had a shelf life of about 4-5 days, but it was something. With pubs closed, we were one of the only sources of true cask beer around.

We spread the word via friends and family, then flyered a couple of local postcodes, and before long the snowball started to roll. Over a few months, we sold thousands of cartons of beer in just four local postcode areas. Before long, we were brewing more beer again. Even though we have since moved onto cans, bottles, mini casks and beer boxes – we still have customers who swear by our cartons.

What would you like to tell people about your business?

Our mantra is ‘modernising the traditional’. We brew beers which are inspired by the rich brewing history of the UK, with a contemporary spin. Whether you swear by traditional real ales, or you’re into more modern craft beer, we’ve got something for you.

We won our first awards late last year, too – a Society of Independent Brewers bronze award for our Porter, and I was humbled to take home the Bite Sussex Young Food & Drink Producer of the Year in November. It was an amazing feeling to get that recognition after three years of hard work.

What are your plans for the future?

We’re mid-way through upscaling the brewery and we’ve got bigger and better brewing equipment arriving in February. We’ve been struggling to keep up with demand for months, so we can’t wait to get it set up and running. Lots more beer on the way and a whole bunch of new styles up our sleeve.

Next up, keg beer. Until now, all of our barrels in pubs have been casks: the more traditional way of brewing and storing beer, pulled from a handpump on the bar. We’ll never turn our back on cask, but having experimented with more and more beer styles, we decided that it’s time to take the next step.

Our first keg beers are launching on 10 February, with our IPA and brand new English Pale coming out first. Kegs will allow us to do some exciting things with our new recipes and breathe new life into a few old favourites, too.

The last one I’ll call out is our upcoming membership scheme. Members will get themselves a regular delivery of our beer, along with a whole load of other perks – including members-only tasting events, free samples of our new test recipes, members’ glasses, and much more.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

All three of us co-founders are 25 years old… we have reason to believe we’re the youngest commercial brewers in the UK. Who knows – perhaps even worldwide. If there’s anyone younger than us out there, feel free to correct me.

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