I recently spent some time at the Horncastle Ales microbrewery. And I have to say that I’ve never met anyone who’s more enthusiastic about beer and brewing than head brewer, Lizzie Clarke.
Lizzie’s mum and dad, Ross and Sally Ellis, bought Old Nick’s Tavern in Horncastle in 2005, so you might assume that beer was in her blood. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, her conversion to ale enthusiast was very much a “road to Damascus” affair.
Fulstow Brewery was one of the local breweries supplying the pub and, one day, head brewer Phil Ellis (no relation) invited Sally to visit his Louth site. Lizzie was at a loose end, so she went along for the ride.
That visit changed Lizzie’s life. From having no interest in beer, she became fascinated with brewing and determined to get involved. For five months, she worked as an unpaid assistant with Phil. Having learned her craft, she worked for a couple of months at Milestone Brewery before returning to Fulstow. She was employed in sales with the promise that, if demand increased enough to justify an extra brew, she could do it. Lizzie was so successful that she brewed on a regular basis. Unfortunately, Fulstow was forced to downsize and she was made redundant in 2013.
At about the same time that Lizzie was bitten by the brewing bug, Ross and Sally had decided that installing a microbrewery in outbuildings behind the pub might be a shrewd business move. The project took a number of years and there were many setbacks along the way. But with Ross, a former builder, doing much of the work, the sub-standard outbuildings were demolished and replaced with a new pub kitchen and brewhouse. A bespoke, 3-barrel brewing kit, including four fermenting vessels, was installed and, after an enforced break of nine months, Lizzie opened her own brewery in July 2014.
Lizzie started with just one brew a week to supply mum and dad’s pub, but she is now up to three and supplies outlets as far afield as Barton on Humber and Grantham. And she was delighted when her Midnight Tempter mild was selected to be on one of the bars at last year’s Great British Beer Festival.
Brewery tours and brew days at Horncastle Ales can be booked by contacting Old Nick’s Tavern.
And what about the beer? Lilith’s Lust (4.1% ABV) is one of Lizzie’s best sellers. It is a traditional English bitter with a malty flavour and a subtle, bitter kick in the aftertaste. It’s certainly a beer to get enthusiastic about.