Micro-brewery is on a quest for ancient bottles

Simon Watson and Tim Nicol, of Stoney Ford
Simon Watson and Tim Nicol, of Stoney Ford

A micro-brewery based in Ryhall is on a quest for ancient bottles of beer to try and reactivate old yeast strains.

Stoney Ford Brew Company, which has been supplying local pubs and hotels since March last year, hopes to develop more beers based on the local brewing heritage.

The name Stoney Ford comes from the Roman name for Stamford, and the brewery aims to be as true to its home town’s historical roots and reinvigorate the brewing culture.

Tim Nicol, co-owner of Stoney Ford, said: “We want to represent Stamford in our beers and restore the proud tradition of brewing that Stamford once had.

“Our current ales are made from all-English ingredients, with the malts from Lincolnshire and Norfolk, and all the hops are from Kent and Herefordshire rather than from the USA and New Zealand.”

Simon Watson, co-owner and brewer, feels equally strongly about the local nature of his beers.

He said: “We want to use ingredients even closer to home wherever possible. For example, we brewed a special winter stout in November with added blackberries, which we picked locally, and it went down incredibly well.

“We have also experimented with an unknown variety of hops that we found on a farm in Belmesthorpe. Now we want to go further.

“We know that it’s possible to take an old bottle of beer and re-activate and grow the yeast that was used, even if centuries old. We would be delighted if we could recreate a historical Stamford ale as well as use such a yeast strain in the design of other more modern beers.”

Simon said that last year a 220-year-old bottle of beer was recovered from the wreck of a British trading ship off Australia and a beer called Preservation Ale was recreated in Tasmania using the reanimated yeast that had survived in good condition in the unopened bottle.

He added: “In Denmark, Carlsberg have recreated a beer from a 100 year old sample, so it is technically possible, if we can find a sample and if the yeast can be reactivated.”

Stamford’s breweries of old include: Hunts, and St Martins, (later Philipps), both in Water Street; St George’s, in Wharf Road; the West St Brewery; Lowe, Son and Cobbold (St Michael’s) in Broad Street/North St; and All Saints, later Melbourns, in All Saints Street. Many produced beers in bottles as well as draught in barrels.

Tim added: “No doubt collectors will have some of the old empties as the bottles themselves are collectable and ornamental, but what we are after is the contents.”

If anyone has such a relic of Stamford’s brewing history they are asked to e-mail tim@stoneyfordbrewco.co.uk or phone 01780 753747.