It’s no surprise when you meet a great brewer that they’re passionate about the brewing process – the science, the technology and the alchemy – that turns a few simple ingredients into a drink that has heartened warriors, consoled lovers and kept the wheels of agriculture and industry rolling for centuries.
It’s a little more unusual to hear terms such as sustainability, environmental impact and carbon footprint tripping from their tongue, but this is the ethos behind Long Man Brewery in the tiny East Sussex village of Litlington.
Our story starts with people who like beer!
Tom O’Neill, Long Man Brewery, Sussex
We first heard about Long Man when we met the Colombotti family of Deerview who’ve created an ale chutney with one of their brews. We’re only sorry it took us so long to sample it for ourselves.
In common with hundreds of other craft beer-makers – from small, kitchen sink concerns to larger artisan producers – Long Man’s focus is on producing a core range of real ales but it’s their business set up and focus on “green” issues that makes it unique.
A partnership between Duncan Ellis, a fourth generation farmer, and Steve Lees, commercial director of drinks giant H.T. White gives them local rural expertise plus industry know-how.
Situated in the South Down’s National Park they took their name from the nearby Long Man of Wilmington, a chalk figure on Church Farm’s own downland.
And the farm is the heart of the business, which has been going for just over five years.
The barley for malting is grown there; the water comes from a borehole on the land; hops are locally grown in Sussex or Kent; the yeast is their own, carefully cultivated and constantly refreshed; the power is from a bank of 100 solar panels on site; excess water is recycled and used for crop irrigation and the spent grain is fed to livestock, carefully mixed in with general feed so the animals don’t get hooked on the yeasty stuff and become too fussy to eat the normal feeds.
Head brewer Jamie Simm says, “I know many breweries are doing some of this but I don’t know of any who are able to do it all. Even our workforce is local – nearly all our 15 staff live in or near the village.”
Minimising their impact on the local environment makes business sense too – for example they don’t have to pay anyone to take away their dirty water. The site has a well established reed-bed nearby which they want to make use of in future for water treatment.
Jamie jokes, “Those reeds are so sturdy they’d pretty much eat you up if you fell in.”
Tom says they’d like to do even more locally. “We have to send our barley away to be malted and bottling is also done off-site but pretty much everything else happens here.
When we first started we had just the one barn set up as the brewhouse but as we’ve expanded Duncan has re-purposed derelict farm buildings so we now have offices, a corporate area, more storage and so on. That means we can continue to grow but still stay local.”
So what about the beer?
Long Man’s not planning to change the real ale world with their brews (although four took prizes in the National Best Beer Awards in December 2016). Instead they focus on producing consistently high quality beers with all the flavour drinkers expect from a hand-crafted, cask-conditioned brew.
Their beers cover a good range of tastes – a Best Bitter, Long Blonde and an American Pale Ale – then they have a series of seasonal ales with enticing names to attract new customers; Wild Man, Old Man, Laughing Man, Green Man and so on.
If some of these specials become popular they have the flexibility to add them to their core range later on.
Even with these expansion plans Tom says they’ll stay true to their roots, “This flint barn will always be the brewery, and our corporate table is Duncan’s grandfather’s old wooden dining table. No matter how big we get, that table will always be here.”
More about Long Man Brewery
You can sample Long Man beers by buying online at The Long Man Brewery or visiting local pubs in Litlington, Ringmer and Alfriston.
We were invited on a private tour of the brewery and given some samples to taste. I’m not much of a beer drinker but I really enjoyed their long blonde. Pork Belly’s a real ale fan and enjoyed their strong pale ale, Sussex Pride.