It was the creative process of brewing beer that tempted Samantha Burke away from the wine industry to set up her own label – here’s her story...
WHO IS BEHIND BURKE’S BEERS?
I am! It's just me, I do everything, brew, bottle and label by hand. I wanted to name the brewery after my family too and it sounded good!
HOW DID THE BUSINESS COME ABOUT?
I was brought up in pubs, one in London and then later when I was a teenager in Herne Bay, Kent. I've always been interested in wine and beer and took my WSET advanced qualifications and did wine and beer tasting for private parties and corporate events for a company. I then decided I'd like to get more into the wine industry and did a Wine Production Diploma in Plumpton College and started working at Three Choirs Winery in Newent. I became the assistant winemaker there. It was then I decided I'd like to become a brewer. It's a more creative industry and you can brew all year round and create your own recipes. Understanding the chemistry from the wine making really helped and that's how Burke's Beers was born!
HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT GOING INTO A MALE-DOMINATED MARKET?
Absolutely fine. The industry is so friendly and everyone helps each other and gives advice. Also there are a lot more women brewers now and they've all been great, like Sarah from Hop Shed, Lucy from Corinium Ales in Cirencester and Chloe from Stroud Brewery. There are no problems at all, everyone respects each other a lot.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED AS A MICRO-BREWER AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM?
It's a challenge to keep up with demand and to make sure it is always of good quality. Nothing leaves the brewery unless it's perfect. So tastes right and is carbonated properly. But as I make my beer very naturally, unfined, unfiltered and bottle-conditioned, it is so important how it's looked after and stored once it leaves the brewery. Lots of things can cause issues, such as warm temperatures and lying the bottles down or shaking them up. So I tell people to make sure they store them upright in a cool place, refrigerate before drinking as it helps to settle them down. Also I've made the beers to be drunk cold and always pour carefully so you don't disturb the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. I am going to change the labels to make sure those instructions are on the bottles too. Bottle conditioned beers need care, like a good wine!
HOW MUCH BEER DO YOUR PRODUCE?
It's been growing over the last two years which is amazing! I brew about 110 litres a week at the moment, one beer a week, but I'm hoping to increase that this year.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST-SELLING BEER?
They all sell very well but it's between Shin Kickers the pale ale and Blockley Blonde the golden ale. Red Peg the red ale is getting more popular now too.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR BURKE’S BEERS?
Next I'd like to keep growing the business, do lots more food and drink events around the area, and hopefully bring out a new beer this year. I'm very excited!
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