Cheddar Ales’ first foray into craft beer

Jem Ham M.D. and Richard Norman (brewer) with one of their prize winning beers.

Jem Ham M.D. and Richard Norman (brewer) with one of their prize winning beers. - Credit: Archant

FOR the past eight-and-a-half years, a brewery in Cheddar has been growing by around 10 per cent a year.

Cheddar Ales.

Cheddar Ales. - Credit: Archant

Jem Ham began brewing in 1990, but launched his own business called Cheddar Ales in 2006.

This spring, the brewery is launching its new Firewitch, a Belgian-style craft beer which promises a kick of lemon, coriander, black pepper and coconut flavours on the palette.

Cheddar Ales, which is based at Winchester Farm in Draycott Road, has six full-time products, ranging from the best bitter called Gorge Best to the Totty Pot porter.

Its most popular beer is the golden ale called Potholer, which has won a number of awards.

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It also sells the IPA called Goat’s Leap, the Bitter Bully and Crown And Glory which was originally launched to coincide with the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics, but proved so popular it is now sold every year.

Jem said the Firewitch is its first foray into something completely different and will be available until stocks run out.

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He said: “The difference is in the yeast we used. It is a Belgian yeast, and the haze it gives is like a wheat beer.

“The yeast itself has its own character and flavour. It’s a different way of using raw materials.

“What we want are slightly different styles and not necessarily what everyone is brewing, because there are so many out there.”

The entire brewing process is carried out onsite, including the bottling and the labelling.

Jem said: “Doing everything on-site means we can monitor everything.

“We have invested a lot of money in the business. I spent £10-12,000 on the filtering equipment so we can do it faster.

“I try other people’s beers regularly and that gives me ideas.

“We brew the beers we like drinking, because if we brewed stuff we didn’t like, it would be hard to be enthusiastic while selling them.”

Cheddar Ale’s first beer was the Gorge Best, as a product which could compete with Butcombe.

Jem said: “The Potholer was the second beer and it is very popular. We find the consistency and quality is very good.

“We manage to protect the consistency of our beers, so they are the same week in, week out and we get repeat business.

“We don’t pasteurise our beer, but we do filter them, which gives them a much better shelf-life.

“The filtering is done through a membrane and it takes out the yeast.”

* Cheddar Ales is holding a fashion show on May 16 at 7.30pm to raise money for St Margaret’s Hospice. The event will also mark the launch of the Firewitch.

Tickets, priced £15, are available from

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