“We hate the idea of chain pubs that all feel the same”
By Adam Chambers
The rise of Derby Brewing Company is a success story that should bring a rosy glow of pride to the cheeks of Derbyshire beer and pub lovers. Passionate about great ale, unique pubs and local produce, Derby Brewing Company has played a leading role in driving Derby’s beer revival and in the process has breathed new life into four closed or run-down venues, creating pubs with individuality, charm and soul.
We caught up with director Paul Harris, son of founder Trevor Harris, to find out where it all started, how the company has grown, and its plans for the future.
“It began in 1987 when Dad bought and completely regenerated The Brunswick Inn on Railway Terrace in Derby,” said Paul. “The pub was in a bad state – just a shell really – but he transformed it into a shrine to cask ale, with 17 handpulls, creating one of the first true free houses.”
In 1991 Trevor added a microbrewery to one end of this historic former railway tavern. This became the Brunswick Brewing Company and at the time was the first brewery to operate in Derby for many years.
Fastforward to 2002 and Trevor, having ploughed his energy into creating something special, decided it was time to hang up his brewer’s overalls. He chatted with Everards and struck a deal to sell The Brunswick to the Leicestershire-based brewer and pub owner. However, Trevor’s retirement proved short lived.
Ever the beer enthusiast, Trevor was soon brewing again, and it wasn’t long before he’d set up Derby Brewing Company with his wife Kes.
Paul told Great Food Club: “In 2007 I joined the family business. In addition to my business degree, I’d gained experience with Molson Coors and Constellation Europe in a marketing role, which gave me some useful industry knowledge. With Dad’s strong reputation from his days at The Brunswick, he’d become busy again quickly and needed a helping hand.”
The next step was to secure a pub where they could showcase and sell their many beers, which are brewed on Nottingham Road in Derby.
That pub was The Tap, which sits on the bank of the river Derwent at 1 Derwent Street, Derby. It had been empty for two years and was in a bad state of disrepair before Derby Brewing Company got its hands on it. Paul hunted down the owners and bought the site in June 2008. It started life as The Royal Standard, and then became The Brewery Tap, Derby’s Royal Standard. Locals began to refer to it as ‘The Tap’ which has stuck.
“Following a major refurbishment we turned The Tap into a specialist beer and spirit house, showcasing over 75 beers and ciders and 70 spirits,” said Paul. “It’s a Victorian building with a fantastic roof terrace overlooking the river, and a past winner of Derby CAMRA Pub of the Year.”
In 2009, The Greyhound on Derby’s Friar Gate was added to the portfolio. This had been closed for three years before being bought and lovingly restored. “We worked with local artist Martin Hyde to bring the Greyhound back to life,” said Paul. “As with all our venues, we wanted to create a pub with its own individual style that remains in keeping with its local ‘microclimate’, far removed from the feel of a chain pub.”
To match the unique, vibrant feel, Paul brought in UK and US craft beers to complement Derby Brewing Company’s own cask products, and started serving locally sourced dishes influenced by street food, including jerk chicken burritos, pulled pork burgers and Korean beef.
To secure their third site, the team rekindled their relationship with Everards Brewery. The Queen’s Head in Little Eaton is a ‘Project William’ pub owned by Everards and run by Derby Brewing Company. Working in partnership with Everards, Paul and Trevor took this 19th century coaching inn by the scruff of its neck to create a cosy, atmospheric village pub that offers plenty of locally sourced food. Ingredients come from the village butcher (located literally next door) and the local greengrocer, and the beers are – naturally – from Derby Brewing Company and Everards, plus other local brewers.
Derby Brewing Company’s fourth site is its biggest project of all: 18th century Kedleston Country House on the Kedleston Estate, just north of Derby, designed by Georgian architect Robert Adam.
“Kedleston Hotel as it used to be known had been shut since 2010,” said Paul. “We’d seen it looking sad and empty for years, so when I read that the previous tenant was leaving, I rang the Kedleston Estate Office to express our interest. After successfully becoming the approved tenants following a pitching process, we worked with the Curzon family of the Kedleston Estate to restore the old hotel, creating a relaxed restaurant, bar, wedding venue and boutique hotel. It opened in August 2015, the culmination of an almost five year project.”
Against a tough economic background, Derby Brewing Company has resurrected four venues (five if you include the still thriving Brunswick Inn). It has also created a respected beer brand. How have Paul, Trevor and team done it? Last word to Paul: “We are passionate about brewing top quality beer and also about creating unique, individual venues that are suited to the microclimates in which they exist. We hate the idea of ‘chain’ pubs that all look and feel the same.”