Food Stories with Andy Herrington: ‘I knew there was a gap in the market for a brewery based in York with a back story like ours’

With a small team of three, chilled out music, and a pop-up Friday night bar inside the brewery, Andy at Ainsty Ales has really hit the nail on the head when it comes to being a quality artisan microbrewery. Providing a space where locals can mingle on a Friday night over freshly brewed pints of award-winning Ainsty Ales not only keeps the local community well-watered, but shows the passion and pride that Andy puts into the brewing of his beer as well as his local community.

Ainsty Ales is an independent microbrewery that is situated only a few miles outside of the historic city of York and is inspired by the old self-governing area of the ‘York and Ainsty Wapentake’. Using local malt barley and a range of quality Hops, Ainsty Ales crafts four permanent ales that take several days and a three-step process to get from kettle to keg. 

Could you tell me a little bit about Ainsty Ales?

Ainsty Ales is what we call a ten-barrel microbrewery. A microbrewery is a very small artisan brewery that produces beer in small batches that are all handmade and not automated. The brewery consists of the brew house, 3 fermenting chambers and three conditioning tanks. At Ainsty we produce artisan craft beer which we cask onsite. We don’t do Kegged beer at the moment, so if it needs to be bottled or canned it is done off site.

If you had to choose three words to describe yourself, what would they be? 

I would say that I’m driven, community- minded and optimistic.

How did you get into brewing beer? 

I started off brewing as a hobby like millions of others do. I got a little bit disillusioned with my old job which was being a police officer in the center of York so I decided to have a change. I studied Marketing many years ago in York that I really enjoyed, and it helped greatly when I was setting up the business. Put the three of those together and about five years ago I decided to start brewing beer. Being born and bred in York, I would say I know my backyard pretty well which helped a lot to recognise what worked where and what didn’t.

Did you take any courses or anything similar before starting Ainsty Ales? 

I did a brewing fundamentals course and before we started brewing here, I started up at Brass Castle Brewery that is a larger brewery in Malton. I helped them brew maybe once a month and went up weekly to learn the transition between a home brewing kit and larger brewing kit.

Can you tell me a little bit more about your beers?

Okay so we’ve got four permanent beers; a pale ale, a blonde, a best bitter and a stout. These are permanently available and then we have regular specials on every other month. Our specials are a little bit more left-field, more edgy, and the branding is a bit different as well. We’ve just started canning beer as well so that makes us appeal to a younger demographic. Traditional cask beer is drank by people mid thirties to forties, and with the cans I’m trying to appeal to the mid twenties age range. It helps a lot with festivals as you can’t take glass into festivals, and when you buy it online it’s a lot more efficient for us than sending out glass bottles.

Where did you notice a gap in the market for your beers? 

I did a hell of a lot of research before finishing my previous job. I knew there was a bit of a gap in the market for a brewery based in York with a back story like ours. There is a lot of great breweries that produce great beer locally, but they don’t necessarily have the back story that we do. The Ainsty is a very old area connected historically to York so there are a lot of Ainsty links in the York area and I knew people would like the backstory. I knew it would be accepted locally by the people and the pubs, which it has been!

Where do you supply to?

We supply under our own esteem in Yorkshire so everywhere from Northallerton down, and from Skipton across to the east coast we do ourselves. We mainly use wholesalers in other regions such as down in London and on the south coast. If you look on my twitter feed, you will see some tweets from Stockholm which is really recent. I applied for a tender at the beginning of this year and some blind tasting of our beer in Sweden. It was put up alongside lots of other famous beers and they really liked ours and especially our best bitter. They wanted a traditional English Yorkshire best bitter, so 100,000 bottles have gone over to Stockholm. It’s so nice to get tweets about your beer from people drinking it in Stockholm!

Have you got any exciting up and coming projects? 

Yes, so we are starting to keg our beer for the first time. Traditional beers are cask beers that you have to let settle, whereas you don’t have to let it settle in a keg which will make us more appealing to city center establishments. It is also a lot lighter and cooler as well, so if we have a summer like we did this year, the really cool keg beer should sell really well.

Who has been your biggest role model or inspiration?

Brewery wise I would say Bad Co. which are based at Dishforth just north of York. Inspiration wise I would definitely say the Spark York guys.

How long have you been running your bar here? 

The brewery has been here for just over two years now and the bar has been open for eighteen months. We only open on a Friday from 3-8. Originally it was just a few hours from 3-6 but a lot of people who finished work at half 5/6 got in touch and said that they would love to come down. It’s quite a nice relaxed speakeasy style, and a bit of a Friday night social. Ancaster Malbis is only a small village so it’s quite community based and there are a lot of old people here. They see it as a real asset to the village which is lovely, and we do food every other week too.

Do you get much wastage left over from brewing the beer? 

We are very thoughtful about our wastage. As I explained earlier we’ve got two main ingredients which are the malt barley and the hops. When we are finished with the barley, a local farmer comes and collects that as feed for his cattle, and with the hops, I take them all down to local allotments and they are used as mulch. We try and capture all of the waste products before they go down the drain and so we are pretty self-efficient.

And am I right in thinking I’ve seen an exciting project between Ainsty Ales and the York Chocolate Works? 

Yes! It’s a bit of a collaboration between York Cocoa House and ourselves as we are using their chocolate to create a chocolate porter. I really like collaborating locally with like-minded businesses who like promoting York as much as I do. We’ve also made a charity beer before with St Leonard’s Hospice and I’m hoping to do something similar with them again next year.

Where do you see yourself this time next year?

Selling a lot more beer to Yorkshire, and working with wholesalers more. Hopefully we will be selling our cans in the local Co-op and have a couple of permanent keg products as well.

Andy Herrington, 7/12/18.

York Talks would like to thank Andy for taking the time to share his Food Story and to show us around the brewery. We wish him the best of luck with his kegged beer next year! 

If you would like to find out more about Andy, tweet him @AinstyAles or visit his website http://www.ainstyales.co.uk

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