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Kent Beer of the Year Finalist: Iron Pier

Iron Pier produced its first beer in January 2018. Primarily focused on cask beer, with an additional barrel-ageing programme - to provide beers aged over months and years in oak barrels - we have since expanded to provide can and keg beer, all brewed and packaged on-site.

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Iron Pier produced its first beer in January 2018. Primarily focused on cask beer, with an additional barrel-ageing programme - to provide beers aged over months and years in oak barrels - we have since expanded to provide can and keg beer, all brewed and packaged on-site.

Our beers are primarily focused on being accessible versions of popular styles, delivered with care and attention to detail. While our cask bitters and pale ales are the majority of our output, we also have a range of imperial stouts, wheat beers and saisons available throughout the year in bottle, keg and can.

Founders James Hayward and Charlie Venner head up our brewing and QC programmes, and sales and logistics respectively, supported by Nathalie McCarthy as general manager, who also leads our Perry Street Taproom team. The Taproom provides a location for the local community to come and see our brewers at work, drink beer at the source and engage in beer-related events.

The brewery is named after the Iron Pier in Gravesend, which is the oldest existing cast-iron pier in the world. The brewery has grown from just the founders and three 3000L tanks, to a team of 10, with an on-site bar and events space five 3000L tanks and one 6000L tank, a canning machine and a large collection of oak barrels.

With a fast start, and with profitability just in sight, the Coronavirus pandemic hit just as we started our third trading year, throwing the whole business into uncertainty. Like many breweries we purchased a canning line, moved to small pack sales and takeaways as our only route to market, and hoped that it would be enough to survive. The response from our local community was staggering and allowed us to survive the pandemic and with an increased local audience we have begun to resume the growth from the first couple of years.

We have a commitment to cold storage, which extends to our delivery van, which is fitted with a chiller system, and our partnership with wholesaler Jolly Good Beer, which extends our refrigerated delivery service beyond our Kent and south-east London range. This is unique in the South East and not common across the country, except for some premium producers like Timothy Taylor. Our aim is to achieve a larger brewery's commitment to quality and process, with an artisanal producer's creativity and flexibility.

The recipe for our bitter has remained the same from the very first brew. The aim was to make a beer for relaxing in a pub with, whether with company or with a good book, that would be accessible and drinkable to allow the publican to sell a cask in 48 hours but to be distinctive and flavourful.

While we get a lot of calls to provide the beer in bottles, we feel the recipe is built for cask conditioning, with the softer carbonation allowing the subtlety of the malt bill to shine and providing a softer edge to the hop bitterness. It is perfectly suited to enjoying with traditional pub food like pie and mash, and yet light enough that if your preference is for fish and chips it won't be too heavy to overwhelm your food.

We use Simpsons Imperial, Medium Crystal, DRC and Imperial malts to provide a balanced malt character that has some honey, raisin and toffee notes. We then complement that with Goldings hops, which impart a subtle fruit character with undertones of fruit. For the last 18 months the Goldings have been sourced exclusively from Hukins Hops at Haffenden Farm near Tenterden. The freshness, quality and consistency we achieve by working directly with the hop grower has brought an added dimension to this beer, which has led to it becoming our best-selling beer over the last 12 months.