Brewer Jon's Ale Tale
Pubs often feature in #OurCanterburyTales – the places where we gather to gossip, fall in (and out of) love, meet family and friends, share food and drink and dreams. Canterbury is fortunate to have many pubs, but only one of them actually has a brewery and distillery on the premises.
Over some excellent coffee, we talked to Jon Mills, director and co-owner of The Foundry Brew Pub, about this independent, family-run brewery, distillery, bar and restaurant in Canterbury city centre. Housed in a Victorian industrial foundry, it’s the perfect spot in which to plan your own Canterbury Tale…
The idea of the British pub as just ‘the local’ has changed, with posh gastropubs at one end and tiny micropubs at the other. So what makes The Foundry Brewpub special?
Most pubs sell ales and beer, but they don’t brew them. We’ve always had a keen interest in craft brewing, and we now produce more than 16 beers and ciders, including several multi-award-winners.
Now we also distil premier gin, rum, and apple moonshine, and have just started to make our own whiskey, which will be ready in summer 2022. We’re proud to be one of the few distilleries in the UK that produces its own alcohol from a natural base – we use English barley for our gin and vodka, and ferment Grade A molasses for our spiced rum and white rum. There’s also a Canterbury Agave spirit, which is similar to tequila, in the offing...
In early September, along with other Kent breweries, we make a Green Hop Beer from the local harvest while the hops are still fresh, or green; most beer is made with dried hops. It’s a very special seasonal release, available in late September – there’s more information on http://www.kentgreenhopbeer.com.
All this activity happens on the premises, so as well as enjoying our drinks, you can actually see them being made, from grain to glass. It’s one more thing that makes us special.
What do your customers most enjoy when they visit you?
Our beer tasting flights are definitely the most popular! People love the immersive experience of being able to view the brewing and distilling action from behind glass (for hygiene and safety) while holding a glass (for sheer pleasure!) It really makes the connection for them in a unique way.
I also host Tour & Tasting experiences; guests are welcomed with a Foundry drink before being taken into the brewery/distillery. Here I tell them about brewing and distilling, and our own craft production. The guided tasting that follows is always enjoyed and the guests more often than not stay on for food and more drinks, including our new Foundry Cocktail menu!
And, of course, you can always just come in for a quiet pint or glass of wine in our historic building, and enjoy the warm hospitality that Canterbury pubs have offered for centuries.
#OurCanterburyTales celebrates the closeness of city, coast and countryside – what does it mean to you?
We feel truly embedded in the city we love; our four children go to the local schools and we play an active role in the Canterbury Business Improvement District (BID), by being on the board and supporting other local enterprises.
Living so close to the coast means I can go off to the sea with my family early in the morning and be back just as everyone else is starting their day. And of course, the countryside is amazing – and the natural world is much closer than you might think. For example, we found the yeast for making our whiskey on some wild cherries growing at St Augustine’s Abbey, part of the World Heritage Site just outside the city walls.
The biosciences team at Canterbury Christchurch University helped identify the best sources of wild yeast for our purposes, an example of this small city’s surprising connections and ways of celebrating the closeness of nature and culture!