Bedford’s Wells & Co have spoken exclusively to the Bedford Independent about what they’ve got in store for their new brewery and what it will mean for the town’s oldest brewing family.
Peter Wells, commercial director and great-great-grandson of Charles Wells, has revealed a new company name, the name of their new brewery and what Bedford’s beer (and coffee) lovers can expect when it opens next year.
In 2017 Marston’s purchased the Queen’s Park ‘Eagle Brewery’ from what was then Charles Wells Ltd as well as most of their beer brands for £55million.
Since then the business has been investing heavily in its pub estate and also finalising plans for what it says will be the next chapter in their brewing history.
“We’re a Bedford based business and family,” says Peter. “We had a lot of options about where we could take the business geographically but Bedford is our home.”
The family announced that they had purchased land at Fairhill, by the A6 just outside of Clapham, in 2018 and set to work in getting planning permission for the site.
Thanks to a number of delays, work only started on the site this week, with the new brewery now expected to be complete, and ready to pour, by early summer 2020.
Founder of the business, Charles Wells, purchased a brewery at Horne Lane, Bedford along with 35 pubs in 1876. In 1976 the brewery moved to Queen’s Park.
Just over 40 years later, it was this brewery that was purchased by Marston’s, giving the formerly known Charles Wells Ltd the freedom to redefine their business.
Putting their pubs first, they’ve been investing in their pubs and managed houses both in England and France. But the Wells family haven’t turned their back on brewing.
Their head brewery Ian Jones has been collaborating with brewers from all over the UK as part of the Wandering Brewer Project.
“We are so lucky to have Ian,” says Peter. “He’s an excellent brewer and highly respected.
“Working with some of the country’s best loved craft and independent breweries he’s created a new beer every month, and they’ve all helped influence what we’ll brew in the future.”
The Wandering Brewer Project will have 22 brews under its name when it finishes next month, but Ian won’t be sitting around waiting for the new brewery to be built.
“After the last Wandering Brewer beer, we’re starting a new project called Countdown,” explains Peter.
“Starting with ’10’ we’ll count down with a new brew each month, only available in our pubs, with some of our Wandering Brewer collaborators until the new brewery opens.”
Called Brewpoint, the new 30,000 hectolitre brewery will be tiny in comparison to the Eagle Brewery’s 1million hectolitre capacity.
But Peter agrees it represents a “refresh and reset” for the business.
“A larger brewery needs economies of scale. With a smaller brewery we can experiment more and respond quickly to changing trends.
“Our Charlie Wells beers and traditional cask ales will still be available, but we’ll also have new lagers, like a helles and other Bavarian style pilsners, pales ales, IPAs, a whole selection of different beers.
“We’re also going to have a 100 litre nano-brewery so people from Bedford can come and brew with us too.”
But Brewpoint won’t just be about beer. “We coffee roasting too,” says Pete excitedly.
“We’re going to import green coffee beans from across the world and roast it at the brewery right here in Bedford.
“The brewery will also have a visitors centre, brewery tours, restaurant and shop.”
Wells & Co
With the company focussing on their pubs primarily, and wanting to show its diverse portfolio, a name change was also on the cards.
“It’s quite poetic to go back to Wells & Co as that was the name of the company back in 1876 but now it represents a lot more,” Peter told us.
“We’ve got over 200 pubs, some run by our pub partners, others in our Pizza, Pots and Pints and Little Gems managed houses and the rest in our pubs in France.
“When you add the new Brewpoint brewery we wanted a name that keeps the family name intact but points to a collection of underlying businesses and a team.”
While it has been delayed, work started on the new brewery this week and all being well the first brews will be ready to pour in June 2020.
While it means the Wells brewing tradition will continue in Bedford, the town wasn’t the only option on the cards.
Peter explains: “Cambridge, Northampton and Milton Keynes were all considered but Bedford is the place where our story started.
“Our family and Bedfordshire heritage remains a key part of our DNA and a credit to what the business has achieved so far.
“This is such an exciting time for myself and the team, watching this fabulous new site grow over the coming months as we eagerly anticipate opening in summer next year.
He continued: “As part of our local approach we have worked on the branding with students from Bedford College and the Bedford agency, Eat With Your Eyes.
“Together we have developed a standout name and visual image for the new site.”
Brewpoint has also been designed with the environment in mind.
Solar cells on the roof, solar shading, air source heating and cooling, and car charging points, alongside a modern and efficient brewing plant.
When open, the site will employ over 85 people in Bedford.
With thanks to ADC Films