Yorkshire – Fact Check
Brewing beer for the bloodyminded
“If there is a common thread between people from all over Yorkshire, it is their bloodymindedness,” says Gill Mellor of the Wold Top Brewery over a frothing pint of their Wold Gold ale.
“They are incredibly cussed and never give up," says Gill. "If something doesn’t work, they look at it and find what does work. They have a real ‘I will survive’ attitude.”
Gill moved to Yorkshire from Kent when she met her husband Tom at university, and the couple’s small brewery is based on their farm near the market town of Driffield. It sits on the Yorkshire Wolds, a series of low-lying limestone hills that spread from York itself over to the east coast. “This was originally a sheep farm owned by Tom’s grandfather who bought it at the end of World War II,” she says. “Over the years it became more of an arable farm, but in the 1980s there was a massive fall in grain prices that went from £200 a tonne to £70, and we had to look at other ways of making money to keep us afloat.” That is why they turned to brewing.
The Wolds are famed for the purity of their water. Driffield is on the most northerly chalk stream in Britain and the water is filtered through many meters of chalk rock before breaking the surface in a series of springs, while the region grows some of the finest malt and barley in Europe. “Tom looked at what we did best,” Gill says. “He put water and barley together and beer was the obvious outcome. He had never been a home brewer – it was purely a commercial decision as we had to find a way to survive.”
Now, with dozens of award-winning beers on its books, the brewery has not only helped keep the family farm in the hands of the Mellors, but there are other spin-offs that have benefited local employment such as a bottling plant and an events company. “One of the other things about Yorkshire folk is that they stick together when times are tough,” Gill says.
“People in the area see us as their local brewery and want to support us, plus people are very conscious of things like food miles: most of the pubs and hotels in the area will buy local when they can.”