Every Friday afternoon at around 3pm the thirsty villagers of Acaster Malbis make their way to Manor Farm, where beer is served by local brewer Andy Herrington in this small rural corner of the York and Ainsty wapentake, thanks to the on-going benevolence of landlord farmer Roger Raimes.
This isn’t some kind of harping back to days of yore when men with sweat-ridden shirts and dirt on their boots would seek sustenance from their time working the area’s plentiful arable crops, it is instead a whole new tradition brought about by the former policeman’s move – lock, stock and many barrels – eighteen months ago that sees Ainsty Ales with a home somewhere Andy always wished for when he started brewing.
“Roger has been very supportive and Friday afternoons have turned into a real village event, so much so that we’ve just extended the tap room’s opening hours from finishing at 6pm to 8pm.
“We’re not aiming to turn into a pub as the village already has its own, but our Fridays have become very popular with sometimes in excess of 60 making their way to us.
“The villagers certainly seem to like having a brewery of their own. It’s something that used to be a lot more common in past centuries but with the rise of micro breweries there is definitely a return to that sense of belonging and affection for locally brewed ales.
“Our Friday sessions allow everyone to come down, see what Ainsty Ales is all about, talk with me and with each other and simply have a good time trying the ales we brew.
“I’m quite touched in the way we have been taken to people’s hearts.”
Andy, a born and bred York-lad spent several years on the beat as a police constable and studied marketing at York St John University. He believes both his studies and previous employment have been as much key to his success with Ainsty Ales as the beers themselves.
“Producing quality beers whether traditional or a bit edgier, or funkier is vital.
“I realise beers from one brewery can’t always be everything to everybody but you can achieve a great deal through getting your marketing right and making the right contacts.
“Like thousands before me I’d homebrewed in my garage for years before deciding to take the plunge and move away from policing.
“I spent the best part of a year as a taxi driver for regular income while I set up, initially with the help of Phil, Ian and head brewer Matt at Brass Castle Brewery in Malton, brewing there before then moving to Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales.
“It’s something that’s really prevalent in this industry that we all support each other in any way we can. I’m currently helping out two other local Yorkshire brewers.
“I was delighted when the opportunity came to move here as a rural location suits me for a number of reasons. I live just a handful of miles away with my family in Copmanthorpe and I’ve run the charity beer festival Coptoberfest with vicar Geoff Mumford for what will be five years on October 19-20.
“Geoff (who isn’t related to the band Mumford & Sons) is a big CAMRA member and my brewery liaison officer.
“He knew my end goal was to have my brewery located in the Ainsty area and put me in touch with Roger here at Manor Farm. It ticks my boxes in relation to marketing as well as being close to home.
“Marketing is just as important as the flavour of your beers and that’s why I went for the name Ainsty. It’s familiar to all around here and was what was called a wapentake, which is a Norse word that means a sub-division of a county.
“In Ainsty’s case its borders were the rivers Nidd, Wharfe and Ouse. Its area includes the villages to the north, west and south of York. The racecourse clearly likes the name Ainsty as do many of the pubs in York and the wider area.
“The name has helped us a great deal and I’ve followed the alliteration of Ainsty Ales further with Ainsty Angel our light session pale ale; and Ainsty Assassin our smooth stout at 4.9. Flummoxed Farmer our blonde ale appeals to everyone and is our best seller.
“Perhaps not surprisingly the rural drinkers have taken to it.”
Targeting the centre of York was Andy’s initial aim with his commercial head firmly fixed on volume.
His police days of dealing with those running and owning pubs and hotels have proved instrumental in his outlets for Ainsty Ales.
“I certainly made a lot of good contacts in the pub world that I’m using now and I’m aiming to appeal to all in order to achieve the volume of sales needed to make the brewery work effectively.
“Landlords will often ask for beers specifically between 3.7 to 4.5 ABV because they know their customers will consume the quantity that makes having it worthwhile. Our customers like the range we offer that include hops from all around the world including Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the US alongside more traditional UK hops from Kent.
“We’re presently brewing twice a week but have the facilities for three times and the capacity to double our production as trade grows.”
Casks, bottles and kegs are all in the current line-up with cans hopefully due to be added later this year. Andy’s all-local team includes head brewer Andy Capel, his assistant brewer Aidan Burton and sales manager Sarah Gowers.
“We’re popular on all social media platforms and we’ve also had great support from Make It York. The Ainsty name and our Nordic connection with being a wapentake has also attracted the attention of Scandinavia where we are hoping to start exporting.
“They like our back story and that, as well as our beer quality, is proving quite a draw.”
Andy is also working closely with St Leonard’s Hospice in York and Martin House in Wetherby raising funds through beer sales.