It may be an island that’s modest in size, but Guernsey’s community of local producers and gourmet artisans is seriously impressive. Founder of Guernsey’s first craft brewery, White Rock Brewery, Ross Gledhill is an important figure in the island’s food and drink community. A proud supplier to The Old Government House Hotel & Spa, here Ross talks us through the story behind the brewery and explains why Guernsey is such a fantastic destination for foodies and beer lovers alike.
How did the idea for White Rock Brewery come about?
‘White Rock Brewery was born from a simple question: where can you go in Guernsey to get locally brewed craft beer? The silence that followed the question was enough to get us thinking of filling this gap, so in 2013 we set about researching and developing our first beer. Following time at university reading Biomedical Science and a handful of years in the finance industry, I put the skills I had learnt into practice and started our journey.’
What do you think makes Guernsey such a good location for a craft brewery?
‘Due to its size, Guernsey provides us with instant feedback on our products as we are not having to drive our beer up and down the country perhaps never hearing back. People also have a lot of love for Guernsey and, as such, each person is a brand ambassador for everything Guernsey both locally and when they travel off island. Guernsey also gives us a USP; we stand out from the rest by having the island as our island of origin.’
Can you talk us through the creative process behind producing a new beer?
‘When we want to create a new beer, we start at the end and work back. Firstly, we identify any gaps in the market and any beers that are missing from our range. From then, we decide how strong it should be, and if it will sell. If we are looking for a high volume summery, golden beer then 10% is going to be too strong. We then decide the flavour profile – floral, citrus, pine, bitter etc. Once we have this, we then research hop characteristics to find hops that fit our requirements. Finally, we decide how sweet and how much body we want the beer to have by changing the ratio of cara malts to roasted malts. Once we have made all these decisions we then get busy designing the pump clip and bottle label.’
Alongside the White Rock Brewery core beers and limited edition brews, you’ve also launched Unit Six gin. Why did you decide to branch out into gin production?
‘We’ve witnessed the boom that the Gin industry is currently experiencing, and we wanted to showcase our skills by producing gin. We believe the art of gin making is a science. As such, we have taken an innovative approach to distilling our gin. Each stage of the process has been exhaustively controlled, empirically trailed, and engineered solely to extract and preserve the most desirable characteristics of each botanical. In doing this, we’ve unlocked deeper flavours that traditional distillation methods simply can’t reach. Vacuum distillation allows us to lower the boiling point of alcohol to below 20 degrees, meaning that no heat is involved in the boiling process, therefore none of the flavour is lost due to vaporisation.'
Have you noticed a rising trend for craft brewing and artisan spirits in Guernsey?
‘I think the rising demand is everywhere, but yes, Guernsey does not move away from the trend and the demand here is the same as the UK exhibits. Consumers are more careful about how they spend their money these days; they are looking for better quality, hence the increased demand for artisan drinks.’
What are your favourite pubs on the island?
‘I love The Crown Club if I want something exclusive – they serve several of our beers and I’m also a fan of The Golden Lion, which is known locally for its range craft beers. I also like to venture out of town and will often enjoy a beer somewhere traditional.’
How do you like to spend your days off?
‘Days off are often hard to come by, but when I do have some time off I enjoy my sport. I can be found playing volleyball, or if it’s sunny, I’ll be out on the golf course. I am a huge foodie and like to get out and socialise, so I can often be found enjoying the vast selection of great restaurants that Guernsey has to offer.’
Are there any other local producers that you admire?
‘I admire all local producers. There is such an array of local produce here given the size of our population, and we definitely punch above our weight when it comes to local producers. I love my cheese, so I’ve always had huge admiration for Fenella and Fort Grey Cheese. I am involved in Taste Guernsey and the variety of stalls when we hold our food festival weekends always amazes me, the local produce ranges from pies and pastries to ice cream, seafood and cured meats. I’m also a big fan of Rocquette Cider and Haut Maison, along with both Wheadon’s & Blue Bottle Gin.’
Sample White Rock Brewery’s locally brewed ale for yourself when you visit The Old Government House Hotel & Spa.
Image Credits: Lead image © iStock/Chalffy, Bottles of beer © iStock/YESBRASIL.All other images courtesy of White Rock Brewery.