Shropshire Star

Challenge Dan: Crafting a tasty pint with Rowton Brewery

Plenty of us love to drink the stuff, but many of us may not know too much about what goes in to making beer.


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With this in mind, for my challenge this week I headed to the home of some of the experts to find out what brewing is all about.

Now based in Wellington, Rowton Brewery produces some of the region’s favourite beers. “We’re currently in our 16th year,” said brewer extraordinaire Steve Preston. “My dad Jim started the brewery all those years ago. We normally have a core range of five beers, and we always have a dark beer on. At the moment it’s a 6.2 per cent mild, to keep people warm in this cold weather!”

As I entered the brewery I was met with a rich aroma that got my mouth watering, and was keen to learn from Steve all about the process of bringing a tasty tipple to the lips of the public. The first stop was to take a look at some of the core ingredients that go into Rowton’s fine produce.

“Here we’ve got malting barley, chocolate malt, and maize,” he said. “With these three we can create a different variety of beers. Using the malting barley will produce a beer of a very light colour, very easy drinking – an ideal summer ale. With the darker chocolate malt we can create stouts and milds. And when we put maize in a beer it gives it a nice bit of sweetness and gives it a bit more body.”

Another key ingredient was also shown to me before we got stuck in.

“This is one of the most important ones – the hops,” said Steve. “The hops give the beer its bitterness, but also flavour. This one here is what we use in our Ironbridge Gold beer. It’s a hop called Centennial, it comes from America. We use hops from all over the world – America, Germany – but we also use a lot of British hops as well to support British farmers.”

With the familiar smell of the hops leaving a tingle in my nostrils, I was itching to see how these raw materials would be transformed into a delicious brew. With this, Steve led me to the first brewing vessel, and explained how the process begins.

The Mash

“The first stage of the process is what we call the mash,” said Steve. “Using the different types of barley and other bits and bobs, we mix them together in hot water. Then, over the course of an hour, the chemical process that happens in there basically changes the starches in the malting barley into sugar. That sugar we then use further down the process.”

Seeing the brew start was fascinating, and I was already beginning to appreciate the pleasure of a beer in a new way. Of course, our brew was still a way away from being poured into a glass. It was time to take a look at the next brewing vessel.

The Copper

Dan Morris and Steve Preston

“We then start to pump it across to this second vessel,” said Steve. “This is called a copper, because years and years ago a lot of the brewing vessels were made of copper. We call it a copper, but what it basically is is a kettle. In this vessel, we put the water that’s created from the mash across, we boil it, and we add hops. So essentially what we’re doing here is, by boiling it we’re sterilising it. We want a sterile product for the process further down the line. And we’re adding the hops. What the hops do is they give beer bitterness when added earlier in the boil, and flavour and aroma when added later in the boil. You can use different hops for different purposes. American hops have very citrus and grapefruit-like flavours. We also use a lot of English hops, and the beers we brew with these are more your traditional pale ales and more malty beers.”

It was while stood at the copper that I took time to appreciate the brewery’s fun and unusual logo – a burning barrel falling from the sky. There had to be a story here...

“When dad started the brewery back in 2008, it was in the village of Rowton,” said Steve. “It’s only a little hamlet about eight miles north of Wellington, where we are now, and one of the most interesting and famous things to have happened there was that an iron meteorite hit there in 1876.

“Dad, being somebody who is into astronomy and that sort of thing, thought that would be a great theme for the brewery. So we have the burning barrel logo to represent the meteorite, and we’ve got some of our beers that are space themed – Meteorite, Area 51, and Shropshire Star.”

Fun links to the region’s history like this are what give a lot of local breweries their character, and now more than ever I was excited to learn about the final stages of the brewing process, and hopefully enjoy a taste of the finished product! With Steve leading the way, it was time to move on to fermentation...

The Fermenting Vessels

“We’ve got four of these, which enables us to brew four times a week,” said Steve. “Continuing from the copper, we’ve got the water which we’ve sterilised and added hops to. That then is sitting there at 100 degrees. What we then have to do is pump it from there through a heat exchanger and put it into the fermenting vessels at 20 degrees. What happens then is that we put yeast in there – which is the magical ingredient that brewers love – and essentially over the course of five days to a week, that yeast will convert all of the sugars that were created at the beginning of the process into CO2 and alcohol.”

With the rest of the magic now due to happen over said week, it was time (in true Blue Peter style) to have a look at some of the liquid gold that Steve and co had made earlier, and now had resting in storage.


Steve led the way on a short journey around the corner from the brewery’s production room to a chamber where Rowton’s delicious produce was kept and stored in optimum conditions so that when it was finally imbibed, it was perfect.

“This is the cold store which we have here at The Pheasant Inn, which is adjoining to the brewery,” he said. “For this particular barrel, and all the beer consumed here at The Pheasant, our carbon footprint is pretty low! It doesn’t travel too far! We like to bring the beer in here and store it for a week, and then it’s ready for drinking in the pub.” And this, ladies and gentlemen, was where we would get to enjoy the fruits of Steve and the team’s labours...


Dan Morris and Steve Preston

Furnished with a glass of Rowton Brewery’s signature Ironbridge Gold, I took a moment to enjoy the wonderful aroma of the beverage before diving in. It was a real treat for my tongue and one that, I have to say, I appreciated a lot more by having an understanding of the hard work and careful craft that had gone into it.

Our region is home to many a brewery, and if you are a fan of a tipple, I’m sure that all of them would be delighted to have your support. Cheers, folks!

For more information on Rowton Brewery, visit

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