Guilty of not having done basic research on my recent trips, I went to the Bentley Brook Inn, just outside Ashbourne, in search of the Bentley Brook Brewing Company. An easy mistake to make, perhaps, as the pub was the original home of the Leatherbritches brewery and I assumed that all the buildings that had been used for brewing before could be used again for the same purpose.
Well, readers, there are at least two Bentley Brooks in Derbyshire and the one I needed descends from the hills above Matlock, skirts the town and empties into Derwent. On its way it passes through the charming valley of Lumsdale, the site of historic mills which were abandoned in the 1920s, and it is here that the Bentley Brook Brewing Company is located, a brewery with a thriving tap room which is going to be well. well known enough that people are not mistaken in finding it.
Behind the brewery is Kurt Baker, one of the many who started brewing a bit at home as a hobby, got hooked and found he was brewing beer good enough to have commercial possibilities. The fact that he also works for Lumsdale Glass, an adjacent traditional glassblowing studio with an on-site shop, and that both companies are a stone’s throw from the Lumsdale Falls waterfall adds to the romance of this story.
As Kurt describes his business, when he says “we,” he means family; his wife Laura, his parents Andy and Liz, his brother Chad, his sister-in-law Charlotte, and his in-laws, Pete and Sandra, all of whom help out in various ways.
“We’ve been at our current location for about three years now, but I had been brewing commercially for a few years before, albeit on a much smaller scale – and we’re still very small now!” said Kurt. “We recently hired our first employee, Ruby Stephenson-Meech, to help us run the bar, which is a great achievement.
“As for how brewing started, I was looking for a home brewing kit to find a new hobby, which my stepdad Pete took up half with me. Since then I don’t think Pete had a chance to use the kit as I was still brewing on it!
“Once we had a few beers under our belt that we were happy with and got good feedback from, I contacted Matlock Town FC to ask if they could sell one of our beers, which we named March of the Gladiators (the Gladiators being the nickname of the club).
When the club agreed, Kurt took the next step by obtaining the necessary registrations as a brewery from people like the tax authorities and other authorities. Since then the brew kit has been upgraded a few times and the tap room has now followed suit. It is open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Kurt has a degree in aeronautical engineering, but seems like he likes mixing brewing with working as an assistant glassblower rather than his previous career. And why not, given the location.
“It’s an amazing place with a lot of history,” he says. “The waterfalls, which are just a short walk away, are amazing and it’s great to bring some life back to what used to be an industrial valley. There are a few small businesses operating out of Lumsdale Valley now, and it’s very nice.
“The tap room has been around for about two and a half years now and has been essential to the success of the brewery. We have a really good mix of great locals and tourists who visit us and it’s always a really friendly and relaxed atmosphere. I guess one thing that sets us apart is that you can sit with the brewing equipment while you have a beer. Nothing about the place is for show, everything has a function, and the beer you drink, if it’s not a guest beer, has probably only traveled about 20 yards!
His next step will be to try to get his beers flowing to other local pubs – a van could be a long-term investment. Also watch out for the themed musical evenings at the brasserie. They are the last Friday of the month. Disco and indie have already made an appearance and if you’re in the mood for a little reggae, it’s coming on January 28th.
It all seems like a nice easygoing setup and well worth a visit…which is much easier once you figure out where it actually is!
Did you enjoy reading this article? You can find more chronicles of beer hunter Colston Crawford here.