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Raise a glass to Brewboard in Harston, the region's newest micro-brewery

By Mike Scialom

From left, Nick Davis, Stuart Chambers, Paul Archer and Oliver Pugh at BrewBoard in Harston. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left, Nick Davis, Stuart Chambers, Paul Archer and Oliver Pugh at BrewBoard in Harston. Picture: Keith Heppell

Who wouldn't want to try beers called Ripchord, Fathergrime and Turmoil?

The BrewBoard range
The BrewBoard range

The region’s newest craft beers have been unveiled at a launch party in Harston.

BrewBoard, which began life earlier in the year, has created four new beers – Ripchord, Lakota, Fathergrime and Turmoil. The range is already available at Bacchanalia and Cambridge Wine Merchants, both of whom are distributors as well as retailers, plus other south Cambridge outlets.

“We threw a party because we’re going out to market with our four core beers,” says creative director Oliver Pugh of the launch event on Friday September 29 – a tap night at the firm’s HQ. “We exist, and we’re now trying to pave our way in the craft beer world.”

The branding is what immediately catches the eye. “Each beer has its own character,” says Oliver, “so we’ll have loads of oddball characters with artwork which we’ll use for T-shirts, hoodies, caps, glasses and full-on art prints further down the line. Everything that goes out the door has to fit the brand – it all has to be a further projection of the quality of our beer.”

A BrewBoard T-shirt
A BrewBoard T-shirt

The launch range of cans and kegs consists of Ripchord, a 4.7 per cent session pale ale, whose character is a drummer with a trombone as a head. Lakota, a 5.1 per cent American pale ale, is a native American with an eagle sitting on his axe. Fathergrime is especially diverting: a 5.3 per cent stout depicting a cardinal carrying a scythe with an hourglass for a head. Turmoil is hilarious: this 6.5 per cent India pale ale has a man in a suit and tie with a huge valve for a head nonchalantly encouraging a nodding donkey on his oil field to work more productively.

What’s the process involved with creating these iconic images?

“We meet regularly,” Oliver says of himself and the three other directors – production director Stuart Chambers, finance director Paul Archer and sales director Nick Davis, “and we chat a load of nonsense and through that nonsense hopefully there’s something of sense that emerges.

“The factors driving the decision process? At 6.5 per cent abv, Turmoil is a reasonably aggressive beer so I thought I’d design a character that fits that bill, a bit aggressive, and that’s what I came up with. Ripchord has a musical theme; we’ll be having guerrilla pop-up musical events and mini-festivals so our session pale ale is perfect for that. Lakota alludes to an interesting tribal background, hopefully. The next one up will be called Handroid…”

The Harston brewery
The Harston brewery

BrewBoard’s team all know each other well. “Stuart is a mutual friend of Nick and I,” says Paul, who has worked for WorldPay and RBS among others, “and Ollie lives next door to The Plough in Shepreth, which is run by Nick.

“Stuart started off with home brewing, which he experimented with for three or four years, and he was trying to get Nick and I to start a brewery with him, and finally we succumbed!”

Stuart says: “My oldest son, Alex, who brews with me and does the IT here, pushed me into thinking we can do this commercially. You’ve got to be abreast of the competition to know what you’re doing, trying different beers, sampling them, attempting to match them – not copy or plagiarise, but just get on a level playing field with them. It’s been a constant striving for me, it’s an underlying passion – all the chemistry involved, the maths, the technology of course, and all the multi-tasking. I really enjoy the brewing process – I’m a hands-on person.”

The team moved into their home on a Harston industrial estate on January 1. “It had been a brewery before,” says Paul. “There was lots of cleaning up and we ordered the kit in March, and the new brewery was commissioned in early June.” The site already had a licence for the twice-monthly tap nights, which was transferred over to BrewBoard, and the brewery has jumped through all HMRC’s hoops to register as a brewery and pay beer duty.

A BrewBoard T-shirt
A BrewBoard T-shirt

Beer sales in the UK are around 70 per cent lager, 25 per cent bitter and five per cent craft ales. That five per cent is growing as tastes switch from the classic to the novel, but it’s not just novelty that sells beer, and I say that because I’ve tried three of them and they’re excellent: Lakota is a favourite, Turmoil is a very serious proposition and Ripchord is, er, “satisfying”. Fathergrime is a challenge to look forward to.

“We’re a craft brewery building nationwide distribution and it’s really starting to happen,” says Paul. “It’s about reaching out to wherever our customers are.”

“We’ll build the brand organically,” says Nick, “grow a reputation, locally initially, together with creating a BrewBoard movement. The best way for us to get noticed is via the consumer, so we engage with our followers, let people know we’re here and, most importantly, have fun with them.”

In production terms the existing site has three 18-barrel fermenting vessels, a mash tun and a ‘copper’ where the actual brewing is done, as well as two huge hot and cold water tanks. Once ready the beer goes into 330ml cans and 30-litre kegs.

“We can brew around 2,300 litres in one week,” says Stuart. “That’s 4,050 pints. It’s about expansion on the site at the moment – more fermenters and fine-tuning production.”

That’s enough for now, but the situation is likely to change. BrewBoard has deals with Bacchanalia, the Cambridge Wine Merchants and the Cambridge Blue group of pubs – the one in Gwydir Street plus the Royal Standard on Mill Road, and the Blue Moon in Norfolk Street. With a “soft” launch – on social media – going well, BrewBoard now has a busy events schedule, not least the tap nights, which take place every fortnight.

“We’ve made the tap nights as much about music and food as the beer,” says Paul. “Of course, our Harston locals really love it – particularly as they have lost three pubs in recent times – and with good beer and music as well as the food vans, our reputation for providing something a little different is growing fast.”

Regulars on the foodie guest list include Provenance Kitchen, Guerrilla Kitchen, Fired-Up Pizza, Sub120, Warm & Toastie and Honest Burgers. You’ll also find the BrewBoard range, says Nick, on October 11 at the ‘BrewBoard Invasion’ at The Cambridge Blue as part of their 10-year birthday celebrations.

Cheers – lots to celebrate!


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