Top rating by ale experts for beer brewed in garage
A HOME-MADE brew concocted in a Gillingham man's garage has won first prize at one of the biggest real ale festivals in the South West.
Hobby brewer Paul Smith impressed real ale connoisseurs at Saturday's Octoberfest Beer Festival in Weymouth, with drinkers voting his Elder Sarum tipple the tastiest of more than 60 brews entered from across England.
Producing under his own Small Paul's Brewery label, the retired highway engineer entered two of the five beers he creates in his micro-brewery.
He built it from scratch in his garage and it has a capacity of just 18 gallons for each brewing session.
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Mr Smith, 60, said: "I am really pleased, especially as the competition was based on votes from drinkers. It is great to know that other people have got pleasure from something I have made."
Elder Sarum beat competition from brewers from far and wide in the contest, organised by the West Dorset branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.
Second place was clinched by a beer named Black Gold, entered by a brewer from Nottingham, and third place was awarded to a Yorkshire producer with a tipple called Triple Chocoholic Stout.
Mr Smith revealed that he named his label after a nickname given to him by his daughter, who was poking fun at his modest stature.
He said: "It's called Small Paul's because I am quite small at 5ft 4ins and I produce only a small amount of beer."
Since the firm was set up in 2006, Mr Smith's micro-brewery products have proved popular with local pubs, and he has found there is plenty of demand to satisfy.
Hostelries such as the Red Lion at Kilmington and the Ship Inn at West Stour sell beers brewed by Mr Smith, such as Gylla's Gold, named after the Anglo-Saxon founder of Gillingham, and Gillingham Pale.
Elder Sarum is so called because it was originally brewed for the Salisbury Beer Festival and is flavoured with elder flower.
Explaining how he got started, Mr Smith said: "I began to dabble about ten years ago with simple home-brew kits that come out of a tin.
"Then I started to do what is called 'full mash' brewing, which is what proper breweries do, but on a much smaller scale.
"It was just a hobby and I didn't have any proper equipment, but a few friends said the stuff I was making wasn't too bad.
"I hope they were not just being kind because I then invested in some proper brewing equipment and now I make five ales which go out to a few pubs in the area."
Despite the acclaim and being appointed chairman of the Heart of Wessex sub-branch of CAMRA, Mr Smith is not tempted to increase his output and go into brewing on a full-time basis.
He said: "I could probably double the amount I make without too much extra effort, but I prefer to keep it as a hobby rather than risk it feeling like I am working full-time again."
Michael Hooper-Immins, of the West Dorset branch of CAMRA, said: "I am delighted for Paul because he always makes a very nice pint. I am delighted that our drinkers at the festival voted his beer as the best, because his quality is always very high.
"This accolade is extremely good news for north Dorset."