Change is Brewing – a tour and talk at Stroud Brewery 8th December 2021

For the festive season we arranged a tour of Stroud Brewery with a talk by Greg Pilley, founder and Managing Director

David Austin relates what was experienced:


The Christmas trip this year was a visit to Stroud Brewery; yes our very own and the tour and talk was hosted by the founder Greg Pilley.

We gathered on the ground floor where there is a large space with a bar selling all the beers that are produced, and an in-house Pizzeria from which delicious aromas were wafting. We were led through a door into the working part of the brewery, through the gleaming stainless steel vessels which tower overhead, and where there are racks up to the roof with bags of hops, barley and pallets of cans for filling. There in the space on the concrete floor were wooden benches and in front of each a beer keg with sample cans of the beers, and small samples of the malted barley and the dry hops. There was also a table with large jugs of the beer; there were 17 members on this visit so there would be plenty to go around.

Greg gave the talk and started by telling us part of his biography since he had left university having studied ecology. He had led a peripatetic life following several lines always with an interest in ecology and human response to environment. This culminated in four years spent in Africa, where he encountered the tradition of making beers from a number of local ingredients, and he became really interested in brewing. When he returned to Stroud, he was looking for something more settled in life and ended up following the brewing interest, at first in a local and co-operative small scale way which gave him contacts with organic producers of the brewing ingredients.
Then in the mid-nineties, there was the launch by the government of a scheme to capitalise small breweries with a grant, which he took up, renting a small industrial unit just a few yards from the present site. They tried out several names for the new enterprise but kept coming back to Stroud Brewery, which also felt like a tribute to the former brewery and a connection to Stroud past. At that time there were about five thousand local small breweries, and it also coincided with growing voices from CAMRA the Campaign for Real Ale, and a willingness on the part of pubs to add local brews to their offering.

Ten years in and their Landlord offered them larger premises next door just opposite the former works of Edwin Budding and they were able to expand capacity and also begin their associated bar and beer garden which proved to be popular.

Five years ago they were nudged into expanding when their present site became available. This offered a generous area for a purpose built brewery with a frontage onto the canal. There was also the possibility of a large public space with rooms above, a galley and performance space. The concept was developed with Austin Design Works and the landlord carried out the scheme. The building strikes a style of utility coupled with interesting spaces for the public, and incorporates not just the bar but also the Pizzeria and a beer garden with access from the canal.

We sampled several beers throughout the talk from their first number called Budding to one of their latest called Hop Drop, and even a nettle beer. The organic malted barley is sourced from Wiltshire and they also have organic hop producers. Greg explained the subtle effect of different combinations of bitters used in the brew, and the stages of brewing. Also outlined was the way the beer is distributed in kegs for draught sales in pubs. He explained their research into recyclable and reusable bottles, which was abandoned because of the weight issue and because they were seldom reusable. The choice was instead the aluminium can which can be recycled endlessly.

It was quite chilly in the brewing area and so we were all delighted to come out to the waiting Pizza which was piping hot. It had been a delightful visit and an insight into a local industry. It was revealing how difficult the commercial climate has been since the financial crash in 2008 to the Covid emergency of 2020. On both occasions a local support circle has been formed to help; the first was a limited loan option with interest and a 20% reduction on beer for members, and the latest was a crowdfunding which drew in many local supporters.

All in all, this was an fascinating insight into a local business and a wonderful opportunity for members to get together, to enjoy a drink and some good food.