Whether it’s their quirky monikers or the fact they have been a key part of Hertfordshire for three decades, we simply can’t get enough of Tring Brewery
Side Pocket for a Toad, Colley’s Dog, Death or Glory, Tea Kettle Stout… Whenever Tring Brewery announce the launch of a new creation, we wait with bated breath to not only taste it, but to see what name they have given it. But it’s the area in their company name – Tring – that is perhaps the most important element to what has made this brewery so special for 30 years.
“The local community is paramount to our mission,” says Jared White, one of the team at Tring Brewery. “The reason we keep a local tie via theme is to connect with the communities around us and keep the storytelling of Hertfordshire alive. Aside from local storytelling, we love to help charities and non-profit organisations every year with our ‘Charity of Choice’ programme. This sees a new partner announced each year, brewing 12 collaborative beers with them to raise funds and awareness for the cause.” Rennie Grove Hospice Care has been reaping the benefits as their charity partner for 2022.
Launched in 1992, Tring Brewery followed on from a history of beer swilling in the area, as Jared explains. “Tring received its Mark Town charter in the year 1315 and is thought to be one of many communities that were established along the ancient Ridgeway trading route. To this extent, brewing is thought to have taken place in the area for a very long time, pre-dating recorded history and mostly undertaken in a domestic environment – that is to say, brewed at home.
“It was not until the 1800s that Tring saw the emergence of commercial breweries in the town,” Jared continues, “as smart businessmen built brewhouses that would slake the thirsts of the many labourers that descended on the town to forge cuttings for the London to Birmingham railway line. By the late 1800s, there were at least three commercial breweries operating in the town, along with many pubs that likely brewed on site – the locals certainly got through it back then! The last of these commercial breweries to produce beer was Rodwells, who ceased brewing operations back in 1925.”
The town remained ‘dry’ of alcohol production until Richard Shardlow tapped into the same thing that inspired the smart businessmen of the 19th century. “He learnt to brew at Ruddles, Devinish and Greene King before joining his father Peter on a tour of the world, building commercial brewhouses under the company banner ‘Brewing Design Services’,” Jared says of Tring Brewery’s one of two directors. “Having built around 300 microbreweries worldwide, Richard fancied a kit of his own to satisfy thirsty palates that had been waiting for their own local brewer for over 50 years.”
Despite fierce competition, the brewery’s quality and ties to the local area soon set it apart. “Quality was achieved with top-of-the-range equipment installations along with many years of experience brewing at top-flight commercial breweries,” Jared says on how they captured beer drinkers’ imaginations. “A local tie was achieved with branding that told the story of folklore and history in the Home Counties, specifically Hertfordshire.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Fast forward to 2022 and the question is on the tip of my tongue: how do they create a new beer? “These days, new beers are created using our three decades’ worth of brewing experience, starting with a known style in mind, adding our own little spin to finish the brew,” Jared says. “We all do our homework by drinking different brews when travelling in the Home Counties and beyond, so if we find a style or technique we think works, then we’ll be sure to give it a go ourselves.”
And the quirky names? “Post-brew, our team thinks of a name and brand that keep on theme with Home Counties history. This is the hardest part, though also the most fun for the team. Once a name is decided, this is sent with an art moodboard to our designer who works with us closely to nail on the perfect pump-clip. The beer is then complete and ready for a photoshoot before it is released to the public.”
It’s been an all round exciting year for Tring Brewery, 30th anniversary aside. “This year has so far been benchmarked by the release of Alchemist Lager and Watford FC’s ‘Centenary Ale’,” Jared says excitedly. “Alchemist is our first ever lager, brewed with hops from both the Czech Republic and Germany. We’ve almost reached capacity with the current size of Alchemist brews, so are looking to up production already. Exciting times lay ahead for what we hope to become a brewery flagship product.
“‘Centenary Ale’ was brewed and released in August to mark the 100th year of football played at Vicarage Road Stadium by Watford Football Club,” Jared continues. “It was amazing to work directly with the club as well as one of their player legends (Tommy Smith) to produce a luscious golden ale that pays homage to ‘The Golden Boys’. This launch saw us connect with Watford FC’s fanbase both locally and globally, an audience of millions that have shown an amazing reception to the beer. The first batch has flown off the shelves!”
The future, then, looks as bright as the past has been fun. But there’s still time in 2022 for an old name to make a return: yes, Tring Brewery’s Santa’s Little Helper will be back for the festive season. Cheers!
Three of the best
Jared Ward picks out a trio of beers special to him and Tring Brewery
Ridgeway Bitter was the first beer that we ever brewed and we are elated that its popularity has endured for three decades. By style, Ridgeway is a Traditional English Bitter, a beer that is intrinsically linked to our unique history of cask conditioned ale. With this, we are thrilled that drinkers support and consume our delicious example of national beer heritage.
Death or Glory is our strongest beer at 7.2% and also our most award-winning. Death or Glory is a barley wine, which stylistically means it has an unctuous malt character, sweet, smooth and robust. These factors mean that the beer does very well when sent to industry competitions, as it leaves a lasting impression on the tasters, even when served in a modest sample-size judging measurement. We know that awards do not make a brewery, though they do affirm our mission of producing the highest quality beers. We’ll always raise a glass to that.
Last but not least is Side Pocket for a Toad, our eccentrically named, session-strength golden ale, dethroning Ridgeway Bitter as our flagship beer not long after it was first brewed in the year 2000. Going from strength to strength, Side Pocket for a Toad is one of the best-selling ales in Hertfordshire today and its growth shows no sign of slowing. Whilst we’re very excited for the growth of our progressive brews and our new signature lager, Side Pocket and Ridgeway will always be our stalwarts, championing cask-conditioned ale always.