Photography: Portia Crossley

 

A sunny spring evening is perfect for driving from Plymouth up to Princetown to visit the Dartmoor Brewery, and the journey across the moor is breathtaking. I’d only done it once before and that was in the dark. Now the full sweep of the hills and woodlands was either side of the road, rugged landscape dotted with ponies, sheep and cattle.

But I wasn’t here to admire the flora and fauna but to attend the official opening of the brewery extension, a key part of the development programme when new managing director, Richard Smith, arrived from Sharp’s last year, just after new head brewer, Ian Cobham.

The extension means there’s now a logical production route through the building, with raw ingredients in at one end and racked beer out of the other. The plan is to increase production to 20,000 brewers’ barrels a year and extend the brewery’s constituency from its West Country heartland to other parts of the UK. Indeed, this is already happening as a friend reported enjoying a pint of Dartmoor IPA at Farnham Rugby Club, in Surrey, recently.

The project cost £400,000, which was partly financed by the South West Growth Fund, and includes space for storage and processing. A new state-of-the-art boiler system has also been installed, which will improve brewing efficiency.

There was a chance to try the three core beers in the range — IPA, Legend and the famous Jail Ale — and news of a new craft beer series coming soon, under the 50º brand, with beers in cask format, the CAMRA guests were glad to hear.

Good, too, to meet Susie Mann, who has recently been recruited as director of marketing, with long experience in the brewing world, notably with Heineken. Dartmoor, of course, is a very different style of business, but marketing principles remain the same, whatever the scale.

For now, the emphasis is on stressing Dartmoor’s strengths as a quality producer — “Nothing leaves the gate unless it’s tip-top,” Richard tells me — and as a privately-owned, independent brewer. Here’s to Dartmoor flying the flag for the West Country for years to come.

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