The Guardian: Cheers! It’s a real ale renaissance

Despite pub closures and a dwindling lager market, record number of microbreweries are opening.

With the eager step of a man who’s just turned 40 and found his purpose in life, Paul Walker strides in his wellies across the flagstones of the 14th-century Union Inn in Denbury, south Devon, and orders two pints of Denbury Dreamer.

We sip carefully, appreciatively. It’s a fine beer: smooth malt flavours, a lovely light floral hop finish, not a hint of bitterness. A treat. Paul closes his eyes, nods, allows himself a brief smile of intense satisfaction. “I made that,” he says.

He probably deserves his moment of contentment. He’s been up since before six, won’t finish till seven, and will almost certainly have to nip back at least once during the evening. It’s hard work, being a microbrewer, and there was a time two summers ago, a few months after he’d started, when he really thought the whole thing was about to go under.

But this summer Hunter’s Brewery, just up the road from Denbury in Ipplepen, is selling between 60 and 100 nine-gallon barrels of real ale every week to 200-plus pubs across the south-west. Capacity is set to increase sixfold within months. Paul and his wife Eline haven’t yet drawn a salary from it. But the day’s not far off.

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