There is always an undoubted passion in local food and drink producers. Many I have met across Staffordshire and further afield will quite rightly and justifiably wax lyrical about their product, the years of blood, sweat and tears they have dedicated to their art. Some, not all, fiercely guard their secret ingredient or process that makes their particular delicacy unique. Then you meet someone like Brad.
Ian Bradford (Brad) has an undeniable presence and an air of approachability that sometimes isn't apparent in an independent business man. As the brains and the brawn behind Lymestone Brewery he has raised the bar (no pun intended) in local brewing and challenged the national big boys in the business by creating a brand and a range of beers of which the area can be proud.
Having previously met Brad a couple of times including at Stone Food and Drink Festival, I floated an idea by him regarding a charity challenge I was undertaking. I wanted to make 40 bottles of beer (it was for charity honestly!) and Brad was more than willing to be involved. I was therefore fortunate enough to spend several days at Lymestone in Stone and witnessed the brewing process first hand. This particular blog isn't focused on that process but more about the personality that lies behind it.
On chatting to Mrs Lymestone - Viv - one thing became immediately apparent. There are no secrets with Brad. He will happily tell you at great length how he produces what have now become renowned as an exemplary range of beers with a distinct taste always accompanied by unique and often humourous pump clips. The Sharon Stone clip in particular attracted considerable and mostly favourable attention.
With a determined nod in the direction of the past and a welcome view to the future, Lymestone continues a long history of brewing in the Stone area which has an ale allegiance that can be traced back 1000 years. Brad's relationship with the industry dates back to the early 90s including 18 years with Titanic and the enthusiasm for every ingredient remains and is profound. Regular appearances at Stone Farmers Market (where Viv also sells exquisite soaps) are not purely a means to broaden the fan base of Lymestone beers. There is an affiliation and a support of other local producers and a genuine interest in what others are doing. And then there are the bees. Hives situated on the roof of the brewery provide an escape from the alchemy and fermentation but also form a key ingredient in some of Brad's beers.
If it isn't already evident, I am a huge fan of Lymestone Brewery on every level. Brad and Viv have created a distinct flavour, a pint that you will instantly recognise as being one born of the Stone brewhouse. All done with a belief and passion that drives their every working day. The business continues to grow. Their first pub opened in Newcastle-under-Lyme last year and is an oasis of real ale in a town centre previously bereft of such a watering hole. There is also an on going calendar of events that takes place at the brewery itself including cook-offs, bands and tours. I believe that Lymestone personifies everything that we should cherish in local food and drink culture.