Moor Beer

Somerset Magazine 1997

By Adrian Tierney-Jones

Up until a year ago Arthur Frampton was just an ordinary Somerset dairy farmer. His farm is set among the green rolling fields around Ashcott, a pretty village which sits on the Polden Hills looking out over the Somerset Levels. The farm has been in the family for four generations. However the BSE crisis was starting to hit the Framptons hard. An unlikely salvation was to come in the shape of a pint glass. Arthur had always liked the odd real ale or two but he started to think that maybe he could do as well, if not better, than some of the brewers whose beer he drank. So, although he had never before even tried a home brew kit he decided to have a go. Perhaps amazingly the beer was delicious and Moor Beer Company was born as Somerset's newest real ale brewery. The first pint was pulled just a year ago on February 29th. Now it's a thriving concern.

Two sheepdogs welcome visitors to a farmyard cluttered with tractors and agricultural implements. They keep trying to sneak into the disused cow shed that is home to a collection of wooden-sided brewing vessels; Arthur's wife Annette has to keep shooing them away. Moor Beer is a family operation with Annette also helping out on the admin, design and brewing side while Arthur's father, Mr Frampton senior, does most of the deliveries. Faded photographs of past Framptons keep watch on the family's fortunes from a wall in the brewery. Added assistance comes from friends John Ditchfield and Keith Darke who were involved in the initial setting up of Moor.

'We've always been small dairy farmers,' says Arthur, 'but there's not much money in it. As a small farmer it was getting to the stage of a joke. Luckily we did this just as the BSE thing broke and it became an incentive to do more. We were going to do two brews a month but it got to the stage where we are doing four a month. And now we are doing four a week.'

'We also had a lot of help from the local district council. We thought we would have real trouble getting this passed as a brewery because it was an agricultural shed but they turned up and had a look through the front door and said they liked the idea and would give us whatever help they could. I thought it was going to take six months, but they actually pushed it into the meeting within about four weeks and it was passed.'

In the 12 months since they started trading Moor Brewery's distinctive and delicious beers have endeared themselves to real ale drinkers of Somerset from Bruton to Luxborough. Their debut ale was the excellent Withy Cutter, a slightly malty, pale brown beer, with a moderate bitter finish: very tasty and refreshing it's a more than adequate celebration of one of the Somerset Levels' most famous products. Further ales have included the stunning amber-coloured, malty, full-bodied Merlin's Magic and a straw-coloured refreshing premium ale Chandos Gold which has a marvellous hoppy back of the throat finish. Watch out also for their birthday beer, Moor Anniversary, which will be available during February and March and a, so far unnamed, special beer brewed for the Somerset branch of CAMRA's real ale festival which will be held in Taunton this March.

A further local seal of approval came from Bridgwater MP Tom King who visited the brewery a couple of months ago and thoroughly enjoyed a pint of Withy as Arthur explained how he'd set up the operation.

'We contacted him because we thought it would be interesting to try and get Withy into the House of Parliament bar,' recalls Arthur. 'And also to find out his thoughts on the Beer Laws. He got in touch last June and eventually turned up in October. He seemed to enjoy himself. We showed round the brewery and gave him a pint of Withy. He showed a fair bit of interest in the beer-making process.'

So what goes into a Moor pint? Moor get their malt from Nottingham and Newton Abbot. The hops are English and the liquor is good plain Somerset water. The yeast is a dried strain, though there are plans to skim their own. But, says Arthur, they are trying to get the beer side of things straight before doing anything so adventurous. An added bonus of being based on a farm is that used malt is recycled straight to the pigs, a couple of delightful Gloucester Old Spots called Connie and Pru. The farm is still home to a herd of 27 cows but Arthur can see this side being phased out as the brewery goes from strength to strength.

'I want the business to trundle along without it getting too big, he says. 'I still enjoy the farming side,'but it's the time factor now there's the brewery to look after. We're still running about having to feed cattle during the winter and there's also the pigs and assorted horses, including a young draught horse called Gorgeous Breeze who we aim to have as the brewery horse one day.' Delightful visions of Moor Beer dray horses steadily trotting through the lanes and by-ways of Somerset spring to mind.

Arthur sees Moor as part of a strengthening real ale scene in the county. He echoes the views of several local brewers who say that the county is becoming a Mecca for lovers of good beer. 'Somerset is good for real ale,' says Arthur. 'There's a lot of free houses around, especially on the Poldens, and it goes down well.' Which just goes to show how seriously the drinkers of the county take the company's slogan - Drink Moor Beer!

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Adrian Tierney-Jones