My ticket for the Bucks Star Beer Brewery Tour & Tasting experience was complimentary.
Over the past few years, there has been an insurgence of microbreweries and artisan beer producers. Paired with a growing awareness that better tasting beer is made in small batches from artisan brewers who see it as an art, has really helped to drive the industry forward. Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire are not short of their own homegrown microbreweries. In fact, there are 20 active breweries in Buckinghamshire!
One of the breweries is Bucks Star Beer, is a real ale microbrewery based just outside Wolverton producing live, unfiltered beer. It uses a traditional method of brewing using the best ingredients to deliver beer in its purest form. Having touched on what Bucks Star do in my guide to sustainable businesses in Milton Keynes, Datis, the founder, invited me along to one of Bucks Star Beer’s Brewery Tour & Tasting experience to find out a bit more about the brand and what they do.
The Bucks Star Beer Story
Bucks Star Beer was founded by Datis Gol who was curious about the differences between mainstream beers and micro-brewed beers. He decided the best way to learn about it was to try his hand at artisan brewing. He learned all he could about the basics of brewing, then opened Bucks Star Brewery in his hometown of Milton Keynes.
The name ‘Bucks Star’ obviously comes from the abbreviation for Buckinghamshire, the county in which MK sits. Datis’ brother, Daria, is also involved in the brewery so it remains an independent family business.
In 2016, a fire struck the Stonebridge warehouses where Bucks Star was based, meaning they had to move out until 2018. During this time, they scaled back production but still maintained their commitment to brewing quality beer.
The Bucks Star Philosophy
What makes Bucks Star so unique is their commitment to focussing on the ecology and health benefits of its beer. Bucks Star is possibly the first solar-powered micro-brewery and Datis also has another arm of his business, Growler Swap, which eliminates any single-use bottles or packaging. It means the brewery has a very low carbon footprint. More on this later!
Bucks Star are also committed to producing beer that’s good for you. Yep! Unfiltered beer is thought to be better for you to drink as it contains lots of gut-friendly probiotics that are usually filtered out. Bucks Star Beer is vegan-friendly too as they don’t use isinglass (fish bladders!) to filter out the yeast.
Dan and I have done a few brewery tours now, so we’re pretty clued up when it comes to how beer is made! However, we will leave the brewing to the professionals…
Every Beer is made using four key ingredients: Water, yeast, grains (usually malted barley) and hops. Regardless of whether you’re making homebrew or a large batch, you’ll need all four of these ingredients. Water is of course very important! Yeast is also a very important part of the process, turning the malted liquid into beer. It breaks down the sugars during the fermentation process which then turns into alcohol and Co2, giving some beers their fizz.
Bucks Star uses a high-quality malt for their beers. This grain gives the beer some of the flavours and also provides the sugar for the yeast to break down. Finally, there are hops which give the beer it’s flavour and aroma. They counteract any sweetness from the fermentation and give the beer it’s classic bitterness. Bucks Star uses flower hops which literally look like dried flowers. Some breweries use pellets, but there’s no right or wrong as long as they are of high quality.
Now is probably a good time to admit that I am not a beer drinker. I’ve probably drunk a grand total of two whole pints in my entire life. However, I think I came away from the tasting experience with a whole new appreciation for beer and I really liked some of the beers I tasted! Dan is a real beer geek and loves learning about beers – and of course, tasting them!
We tried Bucks Star’s range of seven beers during the tasting. We noted down the aromas and tasting notes of each beer as well as the appearance and the feel of the beer. It made you think about what you were tasting a lot more and it was part of a little competition to win a growler to see who could describe the beer most accurately. I learned that there was no right or wrong when it came to tasting – some people taste sweetness when other people taste sour.
Here are the beers that Bucks Star make and what you can expect from each one.
No.1 Pale Ale – An easy drink with a hoppy aroma and taste. 4% ABV.
Attenborough Amber – An amber ale that was almost fruity in flavour with slight tropical notes. Also named after the great man himself, David Attenborough! 4.1% ABV.
Copernicus – A copper ale named after the scientist, Copernicus. It has earthy, caramel notes with a hint of citrus. 3.8% ABV.
Steenbrugge – A Belgian ale which Dan absolutely loved. Deep gold in colour, this beer was sweet and fruity and is 4.8% ABV, less than your usual Belgian ales. ‘Steen’ is german for stone and ‘brugge’ means bridge, so this is a lovely nod to Bucks Star’s locations.
Evolve Lager – A light crisp, fresh-tasting lager with 5% ABV.
Magiovinium – The darkest of all – a porter which looks like a black coffee and tastes a bit like one too! 4.5% ABV
My favourite was Steenbrugge or the Attenborough Amber. I think I could quite happily have a pint of either of those. None of the beers have added Co2 – they are all naturally fizzy from the fermentation process of the yeast.
About Growler Swap
I mentioned Growler Swap, which is an initiative founded by Datis to combat single-use packaging in the brewery. Once the beer has finished brewing, it is bottled up in glass growlers and left to finish the process in the growler.
Bucks Star Beer growlers are £16 each for 2 litres – just £1 more expensive than their six-pack of bottled beer which they used to sell. You purchase the beer in the growler and once you have finished it, you return to Bucks Star with your used growler, they wash and reuse the growler for more beer. When you swap the growler, each subsequent purchase is £11. It’s the perfect example of a circular economy! (You can read more about circular economies on Beth’s blog!) This Growler Swap is unique to any other swap initiatives as they are simply refilled from a keg rather than being a key part of the brewing process.
The Brewery Tour & Tasting Experience was so interesting – Dan and I really enjoyed it. The experience costs £16 per place and included a full pint of beer on arrival, a tour of the brewery and then the tasting, where you can basically drink as much as you like. I think it’s great value and would make a brilliant present for a beer-lover. It’s also brilliant to support an independent business. Find out when the next Brewery Tour & Tasting Experience is.
As with any independent business in Milton Keynes, we found Datis’ passion and enthusiasm for his product so infectious, it was easy to get wrapped up in his dream too! He has big plans for the business, including trying to make the Growler Swap more accessible and rolling the beers out into local independent pubs in Milton Keynes. I’m really excited to see what the next year has in store for Bucks Star Beer!
Bucks Star Beer is available to purchase directly from their brewery in Stonebridge or from various retailers and Farmer’s Markets in Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire.
Have you tried Bucks Star Beer before?
DISCLAIMER: Datis invited me along to this tour as a guest so I could find out a bit more about the brewery. My place was complimentary but I paid in full for Dan’s place on the tour.