A new era at Bath Ales

Ferment meets Bath Ales' George Young


Bath Ales has been a staple of the South-West craft scene since it was established in 1995, with a focus on traditional cask ales. With the hiring of George Young, former head brewer at Fuller's, the brewery is raising its game for the next stage of its story, focusing on consistently high quality, developing the team and getting its delicious, deeply drinkable brews in front of new beer lovers.

Originally from Bristol, George has always had a soft spot for Bath Ales, as she used to brew with the founders very early in her career. While she’s still living in London for now and commuting in on the M4 (“until the GCSEs are over in the summer”) she’s already enjoying the change of scene.

“I’m still getting my feet under the table, but really enjoying the amount of autonomy we have; we’re definitely part of the St Austell family, but are allowed a lot of independence in everything we do. So it’s really that, a love of the core beers here and the idea of coming home that really drew me to Bath.”

For all this autonomy though, Bath Ales is still a relatively traditional English brewery, so I’m curious about the extent to which George intends to flex her new-found creative freedom.

“In order for a brewery like Bath to be creative and cutting edge, it first needs to have really good systems,” she says. “Obviously I come from a place where we have lots of systems, and hopefully I can bring that experience, fine-tune our processes and KPIs, and make sure we've got that consistency in the core beers like Gem and Sulis. Bath is on a good trajectory and nothing's broken here. The cogs just need oiling a little bit. 

“Then we can show our creative side, with beers like Monterey and Cubic, that we've just redone. And there’s exciting things in the pipeline for next year with the seasonal programme, and hopefully some seasonal kegs as well. But I won’t suddenly be introducing barrel-aged sour Brettanomyces beers. It's very early days for me here, so my first task is to develop the team and get them behind me.”

The scope is definitely there though, and it’s clear that George’s approach is more about doing things right than a reluctance to experiment. Bath Ales’ five-vessel brewhouse is as high-spec as any craft brewer could hope for, and will give George all the versatility she needs to take the brand in interesting new directions in the future. With the introduction of a new kegging line, this clearly includes branching out from the world of traditional cask, to embrace more modern brewing trends. Perhaps this is why George is such a good fit?

“There are parallels between what Fullers has been doing and where Bath Ales is right now,” she says. “The past few years at Fullers were probably the most exciting brewing-wise that the brewery’s ever had, what with putting in the pilot brewery and doing the Fuller's & Friends projects. And launching the keg programme of course – it was a great time to be at Fuller's. It was definitely time to move on there, and I’m excited about applying everything I’ve learned here.”

Of course, being part of such a cool local scene is a benefit not to be sniffed at, and George has no reservations and leaving the London beer bubble.

“It’s a fantastic local scene, and I’m really looking forward to the Bristol Craft Beer Festival this weekend. I've been running the Institute of Brewing southern section for the last two years, so I've got to know quite a lot of the brewers around here already, like Kelly [Sidgwicjk] from Good Chemistry, and Justin Hawke from Moor. So I’m just getting out slowly and trying to make connections now. It'll certainly be nice to be slightly less under the lens – every brewer who lands in the country wants to look round Fuller's, so I ended up spending a lot of my time giving tours.”

Head down, concentrating on the job of making great beer, with – one suspects – some interesting schemes up her sleeve, the best is surely yet to come from George Young and Bath Ales.

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