JRR Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings is probably the most famous work of fantasy in recent history, inspired by the author’s childhood in and around Birmingham.
And now two Birmingham men are using it as an inspiration to fulfil a fantasy of their own – opening a brewery to make beers celebrating the history of the city.
Old friends and home brewing fans Trevor Harris and Mark Arnott-Job both live in the shadow of Perrott’s Folly and the Edgbaston Waterworks, thought to be an inspiration for the titular two towers in Tolkien’s novel.
They are currently preparing to start brewing at a site they have acquired in Hockley – becoming just the third brewery in a city that was once a major centre for making beer.
Mr Arnott-Job – a teacher at Bournville College – said the soon-to-open Two Towers Brewery would be a chance to celebrate the city’s history, as well as tap into the growing market for real ale.
He and his business partner are toying with a number of names for new beers, including Birmingham Special Ale – after the historic BSA brand – Chamberlain Pale Ale and Livery Street Mild.
They are hoping to start production in the summer and have their first batch ready in time for the Birmingham Beer Festival in October.
He said they eventually hoped to see it on sale across the wider West Midlands region,
“It’s me and an old friend,” he said. “We have both got a number of years experience brewing at home as a hobby. We were chatting one day and just thought that with the departure of the large brewers from Birmingham, there’s not so much to shout about in terms of Birmingham beers any more.
“We both live in the shadow of the towers in Edgbaston, and we’ve always felt there is a certain sort of mythical connection there.
“What we hope to do is launch three or four kinds of ales at first. Hopefully within three or four months a lager as well.
“It’s daunting in a way. I have been teaching business studies for about 20 years so have got a fairly decent understanding of business. And Trevor’s been in telecoms and sales and has some knowledge of commercial operations.
“It’s required funding from the private sector, but we have scrimped and saved to get our personal capital.
“There is still a real element of caution with lenders, but I think we have got a decent business plan together.”
Birmingham used to be a major player in the beer world, with large-scale brewers like Ansells, Mitchells & Butlers and Davenports all brewing within the city limits. But over the years breweries either closed or moved away, and by the start of the century the city was left without a single brewery.
Since then, two smaller-scale brewers have started up operations – Birmingham Brewery in Nechells and Aston-based ABC – as real ale sales continue to rise, despite a chaotic time for the pub and alcohol sectors in general.
Although sales at pubs have plummeted through the recession, real ale has continued to improve as a market, because it cannot be properly replicated by supermarkets – which Mr Arnott-Job said would be an opportunity for the new brewery.
Mr Arnott-Job will be working part-time at the brewery, while Mr Harris, the expert on sales and communications, will be leaving his job to work full time at the Mott Street site.
They have been in talks with local ale-selling pubs to stock their beer, and will also have some facilities for bottling at the Mott Street site of their brewery.