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Get to know Little Valley’s Master Brewer, Wim van der Spek

I’ve loved beer since being young but it was probably a mix of passion for beer and a set of circumstances, or fate, that lead me to starting Little Valley Brewery. When I was at high school I set up a beer club called De Gustibus Est Disputandum – a twist on the original Latin saying to reinforce our belief that you can dispute good taste. The members of the club still meet today! I later went to Wageningen University in Holland to study food science, and I then worked in that industry for a handful of years before eventually moving to Germany to study at Doemens World Brew Academy to become a qualified master brewer.

It was after this that I thought I’d see a bit of the world so I got my bicycle and cycled from Holland to Tibet. When I reached Nepal I met my partner, Sue. A short time later in the year 2000 I moved to England to join Sue and the rest is history! I set up Little Valley in 2005 after having notched up a bit of British brewing experience on top of what I’d done on the Continent. The variety of experiences meant that I was able to bring a whole different range of ideas to what I do at Little Valley.

The motto behind Little Valley Brewery is quality always comes first, which isn’t always easy and of course we all make mistakes sometimes. A focus on quality might be costly and it might slow things down, but it repays itself in the long run when you know that you have consistently good beer that people come to know and love.

When starting Little Valley Brewery, doing our homework was extremely important, we had to be critical of our business plan and be realistic. We had to understand the level of investment that had to be made and gain a complete understanding of the market. Owning and managing my own business is harder than I ever imagined, however it’s also one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. Seeing my beer on tap in a pub or on a shop shelf knowing that I have put so much effort into it is incredibly gratifying.

A highlight of Little Valley Brewery would be the collaboration we have with Brian Robinson on our Stage Winner Pale Ale, 3.5%. Brian was the first Briton to win a Stage of Le Tour de France in the 1950s, but at the time cyclists in Britain were not given credit in the same way they are now. I’m pleased that Brian has finally received the acknowledgement he deserves from the wider media for his trailblazing achievements for British cycling, and proud that we have been able to be a part of that.

Competition is always increasing and the marketplace is becoming very saturated now, but I am confident that Little Valley will hold its own. We’ll be continuing to push forward in all of our markets and we might have a surprise or two up our sleeves for the future!

1 comment:

  • Hi Wim,
    I would love to ask you some questions for an article I’m writing on UK breweries.
    Would you be free for a chat sometime this week? Or I could send some questions over email?

    Best Wishes,

    Ian Curran.