FOR Dean Bond, it was a case of anything you can brew, I can brew better.
Four years ago, the former IT man opened the doors to Bond Brews and started making his own beer.
Now, he’s preparing to hold a party to mark his latest milestone and he’s hoping you’ll come along and enjoy a drink or two with him.
It’s a far cry from the days when he was a home brewer. Well, kind of. For every batch he brewed, his friends would come round and help him dispose of the evidence. So the party, held at the Heathlands Road brewery on Saturday, June 22, will see him go full circle.
“The brewery is a big step up from a home brew,” he admitted.
Dean’s journey from DIY beer in a bucket to full-on (and growing) brewery is about 15 years in the making.
“When I started I wanted to brew a full mash [a type of brewing],” he recalled. “I went to buy the best kit possible from a home brew shop in Farnborough. But before they’d let me use a full mash, they sold me a beer in a tin to try and make sure I was sure before I went ahead and invested.
“It allowed me to experiment with different styles of beer and my mates came to help me drink it.
“I’d sneak into the garage on a Sunday to brew it.”
Everything changed for Dean when he went to Twyford Beer Festival seven years ago and got talking to another brewery. He was then invited to take a day off work to have a go and see if a brewer’s life was for him.
“I came back with a massive grin on my face,” Dean said. “That kickstarted Bond Brews It took two years to get the investment and find the right place.”
This right place is a converted barn in a farmyard off Heathlands Road. Dean has converted it to allow him to brew, bottle and sell his beers on site, and there is a courtyard area ready to be pressed into use for the anniversary party.
“I wanted to be Wokingham-based,” he said, adding that some of the sites he had looked at had now been taken over by the ongoing regeneration of the borough.
“I really fell on my feet with this site. As soon as I walked in I could envisage how it would be. I gutted it, put the wiring in place, set up the production area and the office area and a cold store. I could design it how I wanted it and I don’t have to move if I expand.
“It’s ready to take progressional steps and it’s going in the right direction.”
That right direction includes being on sale at the Leafy Elephant where his Goldihops is on the menu, and the Global Cafe in Reading’s RISC centre sell his bottles.
“People are recognising the brand and brand loyalty is increasing,” he said. “I was thrilled to have won an award at the Silchester Beer Festival, and I also had my beer served in Parliament.”
Dean now brews on a weekly basis and sells his range of beers to a mixture of clients: polypins go to pubs and clubs, while bottles go to retailers and customers to his shop. He can also offer nine-pint mini-casks and site visits.
“A brewery tour is a bit like going to IKEA,” he joked. “You go round it all and then end up in the shop.”
With his experience under his belt, now customers looking to start brewing themselves are coming to him for advice. And Dean is also aware and grateful to the brewing community.
“In our industry, we’ll come together, chat and help each other out as much as we can,” he said. “It’s a big reassurance, it’s very refreshing.”
Now, Dean has his eyes set on the forthcoming beer festival which follows on from last year’s inaugural event.
“My first beer festival was nice, to have my own one was quite fun,” he admitted, promising that he will be brewing a special anniversary ale for the event, which includes live music from the capable hands of Wokingham Music Club, and a barbecue organised by WADE.
“This year’s festival will be bigger and better. Last year, we had two weeks to organise it, but it was a success with 70 people turning up. If we’re very lucky, we’ll get 75 this year,” he quipped.
“With the bands, I want them to be local acts.
“The event will raise funds for prostate cancer, in memory of my Dad. I’m excited and looking forward to it.
“I want people to come and enjoy the day and have a bit of fun.”
We’ll raise our pint glasses to that.
The Bond Brews fourth anniversary party will take place from noon to 8pm on Saturday, June 22. For more details, visit www.facebook.com/bondbrews