DORSET's newest brewery is enjoying global success just six months after its launch. Brent Smith decided to take the plunge, investing half a million pounds in some of the world's most advanced brewing equipment, to launch Sunny Republic with wife Rosie earlier this year after working in the drinks industry for 24 years.
The brewery's philosophy is to lead and never follow, combining state-of-the-art technology, time honoured techniques and some of the finest ingredients available to create fresh, flavoursome ales. The beer drinking world appears to be impressed with the result, and Sunny Republic has already received orders from Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Australia.
The brewery is based in converted Georgian grain barns on North West Farm in Winterborne Kingston, near Blandford. The buildings needed major renovations to accommodate the business, and include a custom-made roof chamber for the bats that were already resident, plus another adaptation to house a little owl who had made a home in the historic building.
Brent is delighted to be based on a farm, as he is keen to promote the link between brewing and farming. The holding is actually one of 26 local barley farms that supply Warminster Maltings, so its produce actually ends up in Brent's brews.
Although most people who enjoy beer understand the importance of malt and hops, Brent explained that many brewers neglect the influence of the water they use, which amounts to more than 90 per cent of the finished product. Sunny Republic head brewer Bob Handy adds various minerals to the water that goes into his ales, creating the perfect composition to suit the malt and hops used in each recipe.
Explaining why he chose the name Sunny Republic, Brent explained that he wanted the brand to sound bright and upbeat, and to reflect the fact that (ignoring last summer) Dorset is an exceptionally sunny county. Sunny Republic's cheerful approach to brewing is also reflected in its slogan "Where your glass is always full" and Brent's insistence on his team wearing Hawaiian shirts on brewing days - even in the winter.
Brent's fondness for the bright and the bold also comes through in the names, flavours and aromas of his ales. Beach Blonde is a very drinkable Pacific-style pale ale with brilliant straw blonde appearance and refreshing, fruity aromas; Red Huna is a fruity red ale brewed with five malts, citrus hops and hibiscus - the flower that featured on many a Hawaiian shirt; Dolphin Amber is a copper coloured best bitter based on a 1920s recipe from the old Dolphin Brewery in Poole; Dorset Cross, named by drinkers who submitted suggestions via local pubs and online, is a premium bronze ale that sees another traditional recipe given the Sunny Republic twist; Hop Dog is a very modern Indian Pale Ale and, according to Brent, the New Zealand Kohatu hops and Dana hops give the sensation of being smacked in the mouth with a jar of marmalade!
If you want a real winter warmer, St White's Ale is the one to go for. Sunny Republic is thought to be the first British brewery to import Belgian Trappiste yeast. Combined with six varieties of malt and Brambling Cross and East Kent Goldings hops, the result is a limited edition ale described by its creator as "almost like a drinkable Christmas pudding or mince pie".
Commenting on his initiation to the frontline of brewing after working as a sales and marketing director, Brent said: "It has been tough. The workload has been crazy to get it started but I'm really enjoying it.
"Beer is easy to make but it is difficult to make great beer and to do it consistently. We want to make brilliant beer that is easy for pubs to work with. So far we have put out 3,000 casks and we have not had a single return.
"We have been beavering away and we feel we have perfected our recipes. It is time to tell people that we are here - we want to supply the world and let people know what a brilliant place Dorset is."
Brent is passionate about brewing, and is happy to explain how his ales are made and how their flavours and aromas are developed. If you'd like to try before you buy, the brewery's bar at North West Farm is open on Fridays from 5-7pm, and brewery tours can also be arranged.
To find out more about Sunny Republic, visit www.sunnyrepublic.com