ALE Summer 2002 No. 307

City of Cambridge Brewery


Soon after the start of brewing at Cheddars Lane in 1997 we realised the limitations on space for storage and expansion. It took a few years to establish the business with a track record of stability before we tried to do something about this problem. My wife spotted the Acacias on the A10 at Chittering with two large barns and a stable block was for sale : after a visit we felt it was ideal.

We applied for planning permission to put a brewery on site and were granted this with the proviso we satisfied the authorities on effluent disposal, in view of the lack of mains drainage. In an uncharacteristic flurry of optimism, I said 'no problem'.

We gained the support of the Cambridge Building Society, sold our house in Ely, lived with my parents for a couple of months 'with our kids' while we waited for the sale to go through on the Acacias. We moved in once we made the site habitable as it was in an appalling state. We are still cleaning the site after 18 months of occupation and are on our eleventh skip!

We stopped brewing in Cheddars Lane in October 2001 so we could concentrate on converting the buildings to use as a brewery. Mighty Oak Brewing Company in collaboration with ourselves brewed Hobsons Choice and Boathouse Bitter for us, and they did an excellent job.

Apart from getting the services linked, completely stripping and rebuilding the stable block, our biggest challenge was to find a suitable way of disposing of our effluent, a task you remember me saying 'no problem' to. Far from it, it took us all the 18 months to find a solution after every effluent system we could find, here and abroad, had been looked at and ruled out either by cost or unsatisfactory performance. It looked like the only way was to store all the waste water in tanks and have it bulked out in tankers : this did not make economic sense.

The solution came by a discussion with Nick Upton, Environmental Management Adviser at Business Link who suggested we look at the possibility of a reed-bed. What a fantastic idea! After consultation with the experts, we now have built this exciting project in our back field, creating a wonderful wildlife habitat in the process. Nature's way is always the best. And we won the Cambridgeshire Waste Challenge 2002 'Most Innovative Approach' Award for our efforts.

Our first brew (Hobson's Choice, of course!) was made on 19 June 2002. Come and see! What's more, we are now listed with the new Asda in Cambridge for Hobson's Choice, Boathouse Bitter and Attomsplitter, so keep an eye out for them next time you're there!

Steve Draper

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Cambridge & District CAMRA