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Meet the lifelong friends who set up award-winning North Devon micro brewery

Nestled away in a small business park in rural North Devon, there’s exciting things happening.

GT Ales, a micro brewery based in Chivenor, keeps winning awards for its ales.

The business was set up by two lifelong friends, Gary Jarvis and Toby Marsh (hence the GT in the name), who swapped their careers in building and marketing to pursue their passion for tasty beers.

Despite only being a micro brewery, the pair single handedly brew a range of beers from a pale straw blonde to a 10 malt black oatmeal stout – something to suit every palate.

Limited edition brews are also whipped up throughout the year to keep consumers excited.

GT Ales

And you may well have sampled a pint or two of their beers, as they supply around 50 pubs, local shops, restaurants and holiday parks mainly in North Devon and the surrounding areas.

The friends, who live in Barnstaple and will both turn 50 soon, let us in to some of their secrets behind what makes an award winning ale.

Gary, who worked as a graphic designer for 15 years before moving into beer, said: “Our micro brewery was awarded Beer of the Year for the second time in three years out of 18 regional breweries.

“We won our first award in 2015 for our flagship ale, the Thirst of Many. Other proud accolades followed, winning ‘best overall beer’ at the North Devon Beer Festival in 2016 with our Blonde Ambition pale ale, and then CAMRA ‘Brewery of the Year’ for North Devon out of 18 breweries from across the region in 2017/18.

Inside GT Ales

“Just three weeks ago, we were again awarded CAMRA ‘Brewery of the Year’ for North Devon for this year, 2020, so overwhelmed is an understatement.”

Gary explained how the pair started brewing in his garage and produced around 100 bottles a week. From the instant positive feedback, demand for the ales grew, so they moved into their current premises on the Old Aerodrome at Chivenor.

Gary and Toby brew their beers using traditional methods, so nothing artificial is added, and use just four ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast.

The GT Ales selection

They use a variety of hops which give the beers a distinctive flavour and aroma and these are sourced from various parts of the world.

Many of the GT ales hops come from the Yakima Valley in Washington State, USA, which Gary says is regarded as the mecca for growing hops.

A typical day at the brewery for the friends is a 7am start on a brew day. Sacks of grain are manually lifted into the mash tun where the grain is then mashed to extract the sugars.

This is known as wort, which is then transferred into a huge kettle, where the hops are added at various stages of the rolling ‘boil’.

Inside GT Ales

They then transfer the wort to a 1000 litre fermenter where the yeast is added. This is where the magic happens and the wort is converted into alcohol by the yeast.

It will then sit in the fermenter for a week, and be racked into nine gallon casks. These will then be cellared to condition the beer. This process takes around two weeks, from when the beer will be ready to be savoured by thirsty punters.

“We really enjoy creating new beers and working on new recipes,” Gary added.

“To be honest, and without sounding cheesy, we feel blessed to be working in such a lovely part of the world and doing a job we both love.”

Finally, we asked the pair: What makes an award winning beer?

“We believe the key elements to a great product are consistency, aroma and flavour, balance, mouthfeel and conditioning of the beer are all equally important.”

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