Thirty years after leaving university and going their separate ways two friends have joined forces to set up a new brewery in Rudgwick.
Richard Peters and Bill King, who have founded Firebird Brewery, hope to create some ‘great’ beers and admitted there was nothing like making your own beer.
Based in the old Rudgwick Brickworks in Lynwick Street, the new microbrewery aims to place itself within the community by making the facility accessible for people to visit and tour, and by offering work experience to local young people.
Richard said: “Our core reason for being here is to be part of the community and that’s a perfect way to do it.”
Bill added: “What we do not want to do is just do what all the other breweries are doing, to sell just cask beer to local pubs. Our business plan is to produce interesting beers.
“There’s a lot more diversity to our business than just sell to pubs, but that’s still a core part of our business.”
Beers include a Czech pilsner lager and American pale ale, alongside classic real ale.
After leaving Birmingham University’s School of Malting and Brewing in 1983 Bill joined the Horsham-based family brewery King and Barnes, becoming its chief executive, while Richard worked for Courage Brewery.
King and Barnes was taken over by Hall and Woodhouse in 2000, with Bill and his wife Kathy going on to found and then later sell WJ King and Co in 2010.
The pair crossed paths several times over the years but reconnected over social networking site LinkedIn six months ago and decided to launch the new venture.
Richard explained: “We were both at the stage of our careers where this made perfect sense. We’re both passionate about beer and running your own brewery and making your own beer there’s nothing like it.”
Bill added: “It’s also creating something. When you are lovingly producing beer and someone wants to buy it from you that’s fantastic. There’s nothing better.”
The old brickworks site is being renovated by the family behind Sussex Charmer Cheese, and is roughly equidistant between the two, with Bill living in Southwater and Richard in Shamley Green, Surrey.
They moved in six weeks ago, and have just finished their first batch, which has already been snapped up.
As well as selling cask beer to pubs they aim to open a shop on site, premises license permitting, where punters can enjoy a beer on site, or buy bottled beer for later.
Tours of the brewery will be available, membership open evenings, and days where groups can come along and make their own beer.
With their vast experience in the trade, both Bill and Richard said they still found the prospect of setting up Firebird daunting.
Bill explained: “To an extent brewing the beer with our experience is not the challenging bit, the challenging bit is getting into the market and trying to be different from the millions of beers that are out there.
“We thought long and hard about how we would be different. One of the most important things is we will be producing quality but different beers.”
They may even be able to pass the business to the next generation with Bill’s son showing interest in following his dad into the trade and becoming a brewer.
Richard added: “Above all we want to be part of the local community.”