Chapel Post Office nanobrewery wins industry SIBA award for unique ale made with fresh Chinley hops

A Chapel nano-brewery which doubles as a Post Office has scooped a top regional industry award for a sought-after ale made using homegrown hops – a timely seal of approval as the couple who own it branch out into their first pub venture.

Cracken Edge from the Chapel-en-le-Frith Craft Brewing Co won gold in the Midlands premium bitters section of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) bottle and can awards, on Tuesday, December 7, and will now go on to the national final in March.

It was the first time head brewer Tim Boothman, 52, had entered what is considered by some to be the UK’s leading beer competition, judged by brewers, beer sommeliers and expert tasters.

He said: “I’m delighted. I’ve always known Cracken Edge had something special and a unique flavour. We are so excited – especially as we grew the hops ourselves.”

Award-winning brewers Jane and Tim Boothman can now be found behind the bar at the Old Cell in Chapel.

The story began five years ago when a Chinley farmer showed up with some fresh hops at the Post Office Tim owns, on Chapel Market Place, and asked if he would like to try brewing with them.

A longtime beer connoisseur, Tim jumped at the opportunity and the Cracken helped to launch a business which now features a core range of ten ales, including the Hoppy As Funk IPA which took a silver SIBA award last week.

Cracken is the only beer in the range produced from the company’s own hops, grown on a smallholding in Chinley and at the rear of the Post Office, and that has made it stand out with judges and drinkers alike.

Tim said: “We make it using a process called wet-hopping. We pick the hops one day and start brewing the next. Most beers are grown from dry hops which could be farmed anywhere in the world. In theory, with fresh hops you don’t lose any of the flavour compounds.

As more people have discovered Cracken Edge, it now gets snapped up via pre-orders every summer.

“We were lucky to have a good harvest this year, and managed to get two batches of ale out of it. There won’t be any more now until next September. The bottles are normally all reserved by customers before we’ve even started brewing.”

While Cracken-hunters might have to wait, it is now easier than ever to find the company’s other beers as Tim and his wife, local pharmacist Jane Boothman, 48, have recently taken over the Old Cell micropub just a few doors down from the Post Office.

As well as their own ales, the bar is brimming with other High Peak breweries alongside casks from national names like Wainwright and Timothy Taylor.

Tim said: “The opportunity came up and it seemed like a natural progression for the business. The first month has been very good, and all the customers seem happy. It’s been a challenge getting used to the late nights, but we’re enjoying meeting lots of other people who love good beer.”

Tim checking on his hop crop earlier this year.

If you are stocking up for Christmas, the company’s bottled range is also available from the Post Office and Raise the Bar in Chapel, Castleton Post Office, the Olive Tree Farm Shop in Sparrowpit, Drink Zone in New Mills and other local stockists.

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Cracken Edge is brewed from the freshest possible hops which give it a unique flavour.