Real traditional English ales made with diligence and mindfulness in a small family brewery - can it get better than that? Yes, when you taste those carefully made beers and find them to be delicious!
I was invited by Jon and Jane Draycott to visit the micro-brewery at their warm and welcoming home in Buckden. The two of them have been brewing since 2009. The process involves very concentrated man (and woman) hours to bottle and label the beers. This after Jon has spent an intense 12 or 14 hour day brewing.
Jon is inspiring and knowledgeable about real ale, and Jane is enthusiastic and full of cheer, and their two lovely children, well they've grown up with it and have achieved a benign resignation!
When Jon is brewing he uses only four ingredients; malted barley, hops, yeast and hot water.
The hot water passes from the HLT, a large stainless steel vessel, into the Mash Tun, (another large vessel), where crushed malted barley (malt) is mixed with the water to make a thick porridge. This is left for up to 2 hours to release the sugars from the malt. Hot water is then sprayed into the mash tun (sparging) whilst the sugary liquid (Wort) is drained into the boiler.
The Wort is then boiled for two hours whist adding hops to flavour. It is then cooled and pumped into fermentation vessels where yeast is added to turn the sugars into alcohol. The final process is bottling after seven days of fermenting, adding a small amount of sugar to the bottles to allow second fermentation in heated cupboards in the barn.
This second fermentation is what qualifies the beers to be CAMRA accredited Real Ales (Real Ales are second fermented, not pasteurised, this gives a natural effervescence).
At the moment Jon brews every three weeks, producing 600 pints on a brew day. This is where space does become an issue in micro-brewing, though the brew room itself is compact - storing all the beer once bottled requires quite a lot of space.
I enjoy real ales, so was very pleased to be offered a taste of two of them, for a comparison, the lightest in colour, Buckden Pale Ale, and the darkest, Buckden Black Porter. Normally I prefer darker beers, but the Pale Ale was so delicious, light and fresh, that I'd be hard pushed to chose one over the other.
In the words of the CAMRA beer taster (what a job!) the Pale Ale "has light notes of caramel and honey with a follow on aroma of peaches and cream. A light crisp ale. (ABV 4%)
And of the ‘Buckden Black’ he said "it is a dark beer, but not too heavy. Dark garnet brown in colour with a welcoming aroma of biscuit malt, with a touch of liquorice and fruit. (ABV 4.5%)
There are four CAMRA accredited ales produced at Draycott Brewery, the other two are Buckden Ruby Bitter and Buckden Bronze Bitter.
The beers are lovely, and if you'd like to try them, they can be bought at the following shops;
The Smiling Grape, St Neots, Grafham Community Shop and Johnsons of Old Hurst.
Also they are served at The Marriott Hotel, Huntingdon and at St Neots Football Club.
You can give Jon and Jane a call or email to see which beer festivals they may be at, or Jon will deliver the ales to you (within a reasonable distance.)
Telephone: 01480 812404 or 07740 374710