A COUPLE from Matfield are celebrating three months in the beer-making business after commercially launching Cellar Head Brewing to much fanfare at the end of May.

Chris and Julia McKenzie set up their small company near Uckfield with help and investment from several friends, many of whom are from the Tunbridge Wells area.

It comes as increasing demand for craft ales has seen a boom in the establishment of microbreweries, with 1,700 currently recorded in the UK, up 65 per cent from just six years ago, according to accountancy group UHY Hacker Young.

Closer to home, Cellar Head has joined the likes of the recently founded Tonbridge Brewery, and Pig and Porter in Tunbridge Wells, as well as the slightly older Larkins Brewery in Chiddingstone.

Mr McKenzie explained the couple had decided to try their hand at brewing, not only because his former industry, oil and gas, was in ‘serious decline’, but because it was also the right time to ‘end the long days working overseas’.

“Being relative novices to all things brewing, Julia and I sought to explore this fascinating new world and see if it was really for us and, more importantly, whether we could really
make a living doing it,” said Mr McKenzie, adding: “After many months of research visiting
numerous breweries, countless reworking of spreadsheets and a good dose of soulsearching, we decided to take the plunge.” Armed with their newfound knowledge, the couple were able to convince a group of like-minded friends and family members to provide the final financing required to get business off the starting blocks.

“The missing cog in creating a successful brewery is, of course, the brewer – and finding a good one,” Mr McKenzie continued. “We were fortunate to be approached by David Berry, who was eager to take the next step in his brewing career by becoming Head Brewer and creating his own beers.

“David, aside from being an avid and longstanding home brewer, gained his commercial
brewing experience and valuable knowledge firstly with The Old Dairy Brewery in Tenterden, and latterly with Tonbridge Brewery.”

Cellar Head currently produces four core ales – a 3.5 per cent Session Bitter, a 4.3 per cent Golden Ale, a 4.6 per cent Single Hop Pale Ale which changes monthly, and a 5.0 per cent IPA.

So far, the company has produced 18 Gyles [brews]. Each brew is the equivalent of around 1,500 pints. This has been achieved using over four tons of malt and more than half of ton of hops.

And the brewery’s products are proving popular, having reached more than 60 outlets in the area since their first cask was sold to the Hare and Hounds in Framfield.

“It has been a great start for Cellar Head, and we continue to build our brand and range of beer,” Mr McKenzie remarked.