Second in an ongoing series…
Name: Box Steam Brewery
Location: Holt, Wiltshire (previously at Colerne in Wiltshire).
Brewer’s details: In charge of brewing since 2011 has been Production Manager Philip Downes who previously worked for the likes of Brains and Ushers and was Head Brewer at Ridleys in Essex before its closure in 2005. Prior to this brewery owner Andrew Roberts was at the helm.
What’s their story?: Founded in 2004, Box Steam was taken over by the Roberts family in 2006. They also own two local pubs, The Cross Guns at Avoncliff and The Inn at Freshford. This year they have not only moved to new premises to enable them to meet demand for their beers, but the new site was officially opened by renowned 1980s pop music producer Pete Waterman.
Beers: The inspiration for the names of all the beers and the designs of their packaging, the latter recently rebranded, comes from the life and works of famous 19th Century railway engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel but don’t let this put you off if you’re not a railway buff!
Their range includes a tasty porter called Funnel Blower (4.5%) which has a sweet vanilla aroma that carries through into the flavour of the beer and is followed up by a bitter, chocolatey finish. My partner, The Man, was really taken with it, “If I was stuck in a tunnel I’d like to be stuck with this beer,” he said, adding that it should be available on the NHS.
Another of their beers is the aptly named Dark and Handsome, which at 5% was slightly stronger than the Funnel Blower and much darker in colour – almost black. It had a chocolate and tobacco aroma and as with the FB its fragrance carried through into the taste where it was added to by earthy and liquorice notes, a good bitter finish and a pleasing aftertaste created by the beer’s main flavours. It was a good match for the St Agur blue cheese I was having at the same time, cutting through its salty, creaminess which in turn brought out more of the beer’s chocolate flavour.
At the lighter end of the spectrum is a decent standard bitter, called Chuffin’ Ale (4%). It’s a dry, fruity number with subtle caramel notes and gentle sweetness that would make a good session beer, but for me a few more bittering hops would make it more appealing as I prefer bitter to live up to its name.
Happily Box Steam also make a refreshingly drinkable IPA, called Derail Ale (5.2%) which is a pretty hoppy beer, that gradually gives way to some melon and mango flavours. Try it with a yogurty chicken curry featuring lots of cumin.
One theme of all of their beers I sampled (all of which were the bottled versions) was that they all had a quite pronounced carbonation, which in some cases provided a pleasant tongue tingle but in others made for somewhat gassy beer. It wasn’t enough to put me off drinking these tasty ales, but if you’re not big on fizz it’s worth being aware of. A good solution is to share a bottle!
As well as the beers mentioned above Box Steam also make four others: Golden Bolt, Tunnel Vision, Piston Broke and Steam Porter. Their beers are available in cask and bottle.
Verdict: Box Steam’s range has something to suit most palates and is worth checking out.
You can buy their beers online at http://www.boxsteambrewery.co.uk/ and if you live in, or are visiting, Wiltshire don’t forget they have two pubs – as mentioned above.
Visit their website for more details.