Hidden away in a nondescript warehouse, just a stone’s throw from Portland Square in St Paul’s, something brand new is brewing – and it’s sure to get beer lovers bounding back into the classroom.
It is now about four years since Noel James went through a self-confessed midlife crisis and packed in a 20-hour-a-day work schedule to do something he loved.
Several awards later, the New Bristol Brewery is a firmly established favourite and the small team who spend their days honing the perfect pint are ready to share their skills with the launch of the aptly named Bristol Brewing School.
Behind the walls of a former furniture warehouse in Wilson Street, the finishing touches are being added to this new venture as we speak.
All exposed metals, polished woods and chalk boards, the effect is rustically charming, but it is the huge brewing containers that make the school truly unique – for it is the only one in the country to have the classroom inside a working brewery.
“There are three brewery schools up north, but we are the first brewing in the south of England,” says Noel proudly.
“I always had it in the back of my mind to open a brewery school. This place was used as an old furniture warehouse and we were next door for three years struggling for space. We had been on the lookout for premises so when this became available, we said ‘let’s do it’.”
Noel co-owns Bristol Brewery School with partner Maria Knowles and they have brought former head brewer at Bristol Beer Factory Jonny Mills on board to run the majority of the courses.
There will be classes to suit all tastes and abilities, from one-day crash courses to full diploma options.
“People can expect a lot of fun,” says Noel. “We coincide the courses with brew days. Everything is done by hand so participants can get really hands-on experience. They can see me mashing and then digging out (sifting out excess material) and get involved.”
Noel’s brother, Tom, has been involved in the business from the start and assistant brewer Robin Eggels completes the team. Brewery dog Joss is also a regular on the scene.
As well as a large bar area for those keen to enjoy the fruits of their labours, Bristol Brewery School will play host to a number of events and groups, from regular bike meet-ups, to beer yoga – apparently making its debut in the UK here.
There will be an opening party on Saturday, July 15 and the school will be opening the doors to its first students at the end of July.
New Bristol Brewery, 20A Wilson Street, St Paul’s, Bristol, BS2 9HH
07947 572777 or 07837 976871