Producer of the month: Kettlesmiths Brewing Company

by Sal Godfrey

05 October 2017

Antony and Caroline from Kettlesmith Brewing Company are on a mission: to get foodies to take beer as seriously as they take wine...

This tiny microbrewery in the beautiful little town of Bradford-on-Avon produces a core range of six favourites, all a match made in heaven for different dishes (check out their website for food pairing suggestions), plus plenty of seasonal specials and limited-edition experimental beers, inspired by American and Belgian brewing.

Antony started brewing his own beer during his university years, like many a poor but thirsty student before and after him. But it wasn’t until he moved to California that he really started to take brewing seriously, inspired by the modern boom in craft beer that started in the US before making its way, in more recent years, to the UK. Antony had intended to open a brewery in California but when family ties drew him back to England, he decided not to give up on the grand plan – and thus Kettlesmith was born. He brought plenty of American influence back with him though, and two of the beers are named in honour of San Francisco, where he first started imagining his own commercial brewery. Faultline, of course, recalls the famous San Andreas fault, while Fogline refers to the unique foggy conditions peculiar to San Francisco itself.

This has started a whole naming tradition at Kettlesmith where each beer has the word ‘line’ in its name – like Coastline, a vibrant summery lager, or Plotline, a dark, chocolatey stout. There’s a pleasing symmetry and simplicity to the idea, echoed in the beautiful signature artwork produced for each beer by graphic designer Craig Palmer. While the current fashion in craft beer is for bold and bright, Kettlesmith stands out with clean, cool branding, inspired by a combination of mid-century minimalist artwork and the colour palette of early 70s design.

But it’s not a question of style over substance – what’s inside those beautiful bottles is even better, and Kettlesmith have the trophy cabinet to prove it. At the Society for Independent Brewers Regional Keg Beer Awards in 2017, they picked up a fistful of gold, silver and bronze baubles for the mantelpiece. They’re a hit with the locals too – Kettlesmith is currently in the running for Best Food & Drink Producer in the Bradford on Avon Business Awards, hoping to repeat last year’s win. Connecting with the local community is something that’s really important for Antony and Caroline, and has inspired their hugely popular open days, where visitors can pick up their favourite beers or stop by for a drink, with food and music provided by other brilliant local indies. And if you’re keen to get even more involved, you’ll be excited to hear that they’re also planning to launch brewing courses, for homebrewers keen to take it to the next level. Watch this space!

Despite his homebrewing roots (he still owns and uses his old homebrew kit) Antony is definitely no amateur – he holds the title of Certified Cicerone, the second level of a certification issued by The Craft Beer Institute which is the beer equivalent of a sommelier in the wine world. And while he’s not averse to a glass of wine, he’s keen for the British public to give beer a little more of the respect that wine usually commands. His argument is threefold – first, that even mediocre wine is pretty expensive in restaurants, and for the same money as the bog-standard house red you could get some really sensational beer. Second, while you’d probably end up ordering a bottle of wine to accompany your entire meal, beer is much better suited to pairing on a course-by-course basis (especially since the lower ABV means you won’t end up with a horrible mixing headache the next day). And finally, of course, there’s such a huge and wonderful variety in the world of brewing that for some dishes, a beer is going to draw out flavours and qualities that might otherwise be missed.

Of course, the key problem is that lots of restaurants don’t offer such beers, sticking to a shortlist of bland crowd pleasers while the wine list is as long as your arm. But microbreweries like Kettlesmith are doing their damnedest to make a difference – and we say cheers to that.

Taste of Bath - Sal Godfrey