Founded in 2018 by three life-long friends, Three Acre Brewery is a small Sussex beer enterprise thriving in the rolling fields of the East Sussex countryside. Peter Mayhew, Jamie Newton, and Chester Broad had a vision to modernise the traditional; to learn from the rich brewing history rooted deep in Sussex’s rich culture whilst incorporating modern brewing techniques and ingredients to produce high quality, ‘sessionable’ ales with a particular focus on cask beer. The three friends, who aim to open up the world of cask ales to a younger audience, have a strong passion for ensuring cask beer has a future and utilising the great local resources the county has to offer. On a cold winter’s eve in the middle of a dark January, I caught up with the owners to learn more about their endeavours in a post-pandemic world …
A very cliché opening question, but why did you decide to start your own business?
It was my 21st birthday [Peter] and a friend had bought some home-brew kits for me, Jamie, and Chester to try. What started as a bit of fun spiralled into a mad obsession with the delicate art and science that is brewing. We soon realised we had this great passion for brewing high quality, modern, real ale and wanted to champion refreshing cask beers in the local area. Before we knew it, Three Acre Brewery was born and it snow-balled into the commercial brewery we see today.
I’m sure you’re asked this a lot, but how did it feel when the government announced the National Lockdown back in March 2020?
Truthfully, we didn’t know what to expect. No one knew how long the pandemic would last for and by this point, we’d had very little business experience to be able to think ahead and predict what would come. At the time it certainly didn’t feel like it, but now we feel it was a blessing in disguise. The pandemic forced us to think creatively and we had to diversify our product offering and widen our range of high-quality ales in order to survive. When you’re thrown in at the deep end, you either sink or you swim.
So, how did you survive as a new business in a global pandemic? How did you diversify and widen your product range?
We started by rolling out a “milkman style” beer delivery service throughout all of the lockdowns, delivering fresh, high-quality cask ale traditionally found in pubs straight to customers’ doorsteps. It kept morale high for both us and our customers during a challenging lockdown. It got our name out there so when it came to distributing to pubs and restaurants, there was already a demand in the local area for our product.
Which part of the business has become more successful in a post-pandemic world?
Our brewing quality has increased leaps and bounds and after all the hard work of the past three years, it’s been great to be recognised for several notable awards. Our Ruby Porter and Best Bitter received the “Great Taste Award” and our Blood Orange Pale has recently received the SIBA Gold Award. It’s also been incredible to see our business grow and our product sold in larger establishments like Wetherspoons. We were even able to order a pint of Three Acre at Gatwick Airport at the start of our holiday!
How do you go about deciding on flavours for new beers? Talk me through the brewing and tasting process.
The brewing operation is headed up by Jamie along with the brewery team who experiment on a small scale with different ingredients. We aim to use new hops and modern brewing techniques to make ‘sessionable’ beers; easy-drinking, quality, real ales. We then like to give tasters to loyal customers who are our biggest supporters. They are great for giving honest feedback from which we then build our products based on what our customers want.
Where do you source your hops?
The more traditional style beers we source as locally as possible, predominantly the south-east and the Sussex region. For our more crafty, ‘hoppy’ styles, we do tend to look further afield, but we are increasingly swapping out new world hops for a new age of English varieties which are giving the established hops a run for their money!
What is it that makes your beers different? Do any standout?
My personal favourite [Peter] is the Ruby Porter. Porters aren’t traditionally seen as easy-drinking and ‘sessionable’, but we’ve designed ours to be just that. It’s a gateway for so many into the world of darker beers. Customers have commented that it almost tastes like chocolate, making it really smooth and warming to drink.
We are now living in a world that is determined to become “greener”. What is Three Acre Brewery doing to become a more sustainable business?
All of our spent grain is given to local farmers who then use the grain as animal feed. It’s great to see the grain have a second purpose and be used sustainably. All of our hops are composted and we reduce water consumption by having modern, efficient kits and re-using clean brewing water regularly throughout the process. We try and source our ingredients as locally as possible, such as UK-grown malts so we can reduce the mileage of every pint. A large proportion of our hops come from the UK and we’re looking to use UK hops more and more in our products.
Over the past few years it’s clear you’ve faced many challenges, so how do you manage turbulent times individually and as a business?
Naturally, it was the Covid-related lockdowns that proved to be our most challenging times, along with the restricted measures that were brought into pubs and restaurants for such a long time after. As young business owners with little experience, we have had to learn to deal with challenges as they arise, to plan logically, and to listen to customer feedback. We’ve learned to become quite receptive to feedback so we can grow and develop as a business. We want our beers to be accessible and widely enjoyed, so we need to listen to our consumers to achieve that! We always try to have a diverse range of beers and a seasonal line up so there is always a fresh offering for our customers whether it be a pub, the individual consumer or selling our produce at an event. The beer industry as a whole has gone through an exceptionally turbulent time, so customer support and feedback is always greatly valued.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their own business?
To be successful, you need to be passionate about what you’re doing; there is nothing that can substitute passion. You need to be knowledgeable; even if you don’t have the necessary experience, ask business owners and those “in the know”; it’s always good to learn from people who’ve done it for themselves. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes; it’s the only way you truly learn and we are no exception.
What’s the next step for Three Acre Brewery? What’s the next dream?
We have a couple of exciting irons in the fire for 2023 and beyond. First, we have our mobile “horse box bar” which we are looking to roll out at as many events possible and we look forward to interacting with new customers and supporters. We’re also expanding our range of beers and building off the success we enjoyed in 2022; we might even add a couple more accolades to our trophy cabinet! We’ve got some other exciting plans in the pipeline which we hope we can share with you soon.
Three Acre Brewery is available in pubs all over Sussex, or you can order their Sussex beer direct to your door at https://threeacrebrewery.com/. Feel free to drop Peter, Jamie, and Chester an email; they’d love to hear from you and look forward to welcoming you down to the brewery should you ever want to visit. Wherever you see them at home, events, or the tap of your local, Three Acre Brewery would love your feedback and to know where you’re enjoying their beer. Cheers!
Contributed by Daisy Thomas
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