Are we drinks capital of the East Midlands?

Megan and Duncan Murray
Megan and Duncan Murray

The Harborough district is the Drinks Capital of the East Midlands.

That’s what one county website called our district earlier this year.

But is it right? Well actually, there’s a lot of truth in it.

There is one new micro pub and nine different drinks companies operating within 15 miles of Market Harborough centre; two spirits makers, two vineyards, two cider makers and three breweries.

You won’t find most of these fine local products in supermarkets, but in independent delis, wine merchants and farm shops.

“We stock local products because they’re great. Some of them are absolutely world-beating,” says Duncan Murray of Duncan Murray Wines in Adam and Eve Street, Harborough.

“And local people get a real kick about giving them as presents to friends.”

And at Farndon Fields Farms Shop in Harborough, marketing manager Nicola Stokes agreed: “Small businesses like these are the heart of our business and what we believe in.

But they’re also amazing products.”

So how many have you tried or heard of?

With Christmas fast approaching, and our own recent Mail campaign to “shop local”, here’s our list of local drinks companies.

The rest is up to you...

The Langton Brewery,

Thorpe Langton

langtonbrewery.co.uk

01858 540116

Brews a wide and seasonal range of draft and bottled beers, including the award-winning Inclined Plane bitter and a specially-made Christmas beer, called Welland Star.

You can also order draft beer – in a box or a barrel – direct from the brewery on the number above (24 hours’ notice needed).

The company was originally formed at The Bell Inn pub in East Langton in 1999, and the firm is run by Alistair Chapman and David Dyson.

Alistair said: “We’re about locally-produced beer, made how traditional ales always have been.”

CHRISTMAS TIP

The company can produce personalised bottles of beer (500ml) with your own choice of beer label and slogan.

Dow Bridge Brewery,

Catthorpe

dowbridgebrewery.co.uk

01788 869121

The company was founded in 2001 by head brewer Russell Webb. It makes ten regular beers, ranging from mild (3.5 per cent abv) to a ruby ale (5.2 per cent), all of which come in bottles too.

Available at 30 pubs in the area, and at a few local shops, including at Manor Farm Shop in Catthorpe, where the brewery is. They’re actually looking for new premises.

Anyone know somewhere in the Harborough area?

Salesman Steve Sharpe said: “It’s quality, hand-made beer with English hops and English malt and no chemical additives.”

CHRISTMAS TIP

Try Festivas, a ruby ale that the company makes in limited amounts for Christmas every year.

Nobby’s Brewery,

Guilsborough

nobbysbrewery.co.uk

01604 740785

Starting as a microbrewery in Nobby Mulliner’s garage, Nobby’s has now been trading for ten years.

It makes five “high-end” ales all the time, and a selection of different beers most months of the year, which you can buy from their Guilsborough shop or order over the phone.

They’re also getting into the latest beer trend; craft ale.

It’s real ale pressurised, out into kegs and served chilled.

Head brewer Ben Bulcock said: “We try to be leaders in
everything we do, and the
quality really shines through.”

CHRISTMAS TIP

Nobby’s three or four-bottle gift packs, and comes with a Nobby’s glass.

beerhouse
76 St Mary’s Road
Market Harborough

(back of St Mary’s Chippy)

facebook.com/beerhouseuk

07738 086 194

The county’s first ever micro pub obtained its premises licence last month and has held several successful events so far including a gig featuring former Inspiral Carpets frontman Tom Hingley last month.

Co-founder Jon Pollard says: “A pub like they used to be. No food, no gaming machines, no telly; just top-quality beer.”

CHRISTMAS TIP

Pop along 7pm-11pm on Wednesdays, midday-11pm Thursday to Saturdays or midday-10pm on Sundays for a festive pint – a real antidote to all the hum-drum, identikit pubs out there.

Chevelswarde Vineyard,

South Kilworth

chevelswardeorganics.co.uk/organic-wine

01858 575309

An organic vineyard in south Leicestershire created – way ahead of its time – more than 40 years ago. The entire vineyard was upgraded in 2003, and replanted with much better grape varieties.

The Daltry family now produces five different wines – two whites, two reds and a rose – from their 1.5-acre vineyard. Three of the five have won awards.

Ruth Daltry said: “Organic products are better for you – for instance there’s much less sulphites in our wine – and I think organic things have much more flavour.”

CHRISTMAS TIP

You can also order regular organic veg boxes from Chevelswarde – seven different vegetables and a fruit, with the wine as an optional add-on.

Welland Valley Vineyard, 
Marston Trussell

welland-valley-vineyard.com

01858 434591

The 2.5-acre vineyard and cider orchard does everything on-site, from picking the grapes to bottling the final product.

It was founded by David and Jane Bates in 1991, “in preparation for taking early retirement”.

The vineyard now produces six different wines and a cider, and David admits he works as hard as ever, though he says that as his own boss he can design his working day to please himself.

David said: “We’re English and local, and English wine has a style all of its own, and if you haven’t tried it, you should.”

CHRISTMAS TIP

Celebrate Christmas with the company’s two sparkling wines: traditional Steeplechase Sparkling, or Tickled Pink, a slightly sweeter, sparkling rose.

The Bottle Kicking Cider

Company, Hallaton

thebottlekickingcider

company.co.uk

07850 150 396

When the Morton family moved to Hallaton 12 years ago, they inherited a big, old apple tree. But what could they do with all the apples?

It took Rob Morton a few years, but he eventually moved from that thought to his own cider company, now manufacturing four draft ciders, two of which come in bottles as well, and two flavoured ciders.

Rob said: “You’re buying from a local company, just 50 yards from the Hallaton Bottle Kicking try line!”

CHRISTMAS TIP

Mulled cider. Add orange juice and spices to the company’s Scrambler Cider, and heat it up. The company can supply a recipe card.

Rockingham Forest Cider, Middleton

rockinghamforestcider.
moonfruit.com

Still a hobby company for cider-maker Mark Shirley, whose “proper” job is working for BT.

But every spare bit of time between mid-September and the end of November is dedicated to making his cider and perry, most commonly his Red Kite cider.

If you want to sample his products, contact him via the website

Mark said: “Most commercial cider is 30 to 50 per cent apple juice.

“We’re pure juice – 100 per cent.

“It’s still pretty difficult to find this kind of cider outside the West Country.”

CHRISTMAS TIP

Get in quick. There’s stuff left now, but in the past he’s been sold out by the end of the year.