Old Tree Brewery began between an ancient woodland and an abandoned industrial estate in Sussex after a new friendship was formed on a train journey. Shared experience in volunteer forestry and community gardening, combined with a passion for ecology, gave root to the idea of Old Tree.
We were moved by the healing powers of woodlands and botanical ingredients such as Elderflowers and were learning the art of creating drinks from them. As we discovered that you could drink the sap from Birch trees, and make wine out of Oak Leaves (!) we became captivated by the idea to set up a brewery to fund the community woodland work we'd been organizing and the explore the forgotten realm of fermentation with wild plants..
Inspired by the immense cultural history and variety of plants drinks at our fingertips, we left the woods to become brewers with the goal of bringing the (mental + physical) health benefits that the woodland time had given us, to the wider world.
Doors opened for us as we started to learn about plants and all their uses throughout history – many too bitter to eat raw. Rediscovering the art of brewing became our obsession. We taught ourselves how to make all the types of drinks. Elderflowers that were blossoming on trees growing in the cracks of pavements could become champagne and herbs brewed with honey, all kinds of mead. Wild Apples everywhere could become cider. Dandelions and Yarrow taking over grasslands to become the first flowers of spring could become beer!
The potentially for creativity was limitless.
After successfully brewing Nettle Beer and many other drinks that were popular with our community, we were invited to become the botanical brewery for Silo – the award winning zero-waste restaurant in Brighton. Brewing for Silo for a year we created hundreds of different fermented drinks and and taught ourselves the art and science of botanical brewing, from juicing to beer making and made-wine to kvass.
We witnessed fruiting hedgerow plants, that many of us could not recognise today, like Sea-buckthorn, establish a forest over an old concreted urban carpark and because we new it was a prized ingredient for restaurants - harvested over £200 worth of juice from the wild berries. This fuelled our idea of establishing as a brewery that invests in forest gardens and foraging culture as a means to create better livelihoods and more local supply chains.
We had the idea of creating Drink Forest gardens and our early tagline became:
"Botanical Drinks from Edible Landscapes"
The big idea was to create a brewery that combined brewing & gardening / foraging & fermentation with an educational model and a many hands make light work approach to drink production processes. The impact of which could transform our drinking culture; realign us with the seasons; create desirable outdoor work; preserve botanical wisdom for the future and produce health as well as enjoyment with all powers of plants and microbes.
What we love about drink making is the variety of ingredients available to us, the connection to the outdoors and to the seasons. We are determined to preserve and share the knowledge we have accumulated in fermentation and forestry for social change and earth repair.
Old Tree journey in a nutshell
From 2015 to 2017 we were the Cafe, Brewery and Drinks Forest Garden at the start up hub FieldBTN, on Lewes Road where we infused our love of brewing with all kinds of herbs that we were able to harvest from the forest garden we planted there. We also became professional at utilizing fruit surpluses from orchards and local greengrocers and processing them from scratch to produce the most incredible flavours for these brews by the season.
We are now working on making the Brighton brewery more energetically and financially sustainable whilst developing a sesaonal range of craft botanical drinks that can create desirable part time work and build community in Brighton.
Our emphasis has shifted to low alcohol live drinks to better contribute to health in these times.
We are also designing a crowd-funder and a patreon page to fund our wider work creating Drink Forest Gardens and exploring biochar composting earth repair.
Our mission is our practice, the same as when we started –
Food–forestry and fermentation for health and earth repair.