Sophie Boxall, of county food group Hampshire Fare, brings you the latest local food and drink news

SETTING up an American-style brewery restaurant was the original aspiration of Itchen Valley Brewery's proprietor, Malcolm Gray, and says Malcolm "whilst this idea has not yet matured, the idea of being part of a small brewery was, for me, a way of learning about brewing and beer!"

Itchen Valley Brewery was originally started by Simon Brown in 1997, and almost immediately achieved success when in 1998 it won the Bronze Medal at the prestigious Great British Beer Festival at Olympia for its Godfathers bitter.

From then onwards, the brewery began to establish itself as a small scale producer of quality real ale, outgrowing its original premises.

Malcolm's interest in the brewery began in 1999 when Simon's other business interests demanded more of his time.

Malcolm's north London sign and display company, which over the years has designed and produced the beer bottle labels, pump clips, banners and vehicle livery, took over the brewery, with Simon still a shareholder and taking an active role in its development.

Itchen Valley's new brewery in Alresford has since expanded considerably to supply, on a regular basis, more than 300 pubs, clubs and other establishments across Hampshire, Hertfordshire, central London, Berkshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent with traditionally-brewed cask and bottled real ales and one stout.

The brewery has nine regular brews all bottled and over 30 brews which are of a seasonal kind, appearing each month over the course of the year.

The brewery bottles over 50,000 500ml bottles of their nine core beers per year, which include Hambledon Bitter and Wykeham Glory. Most of these sell at farmers markets (including Winchester's Hampshire farmers' market this Sunday), some bottled brands are on sale in Tesco, Waitrose, Budgens and Londis stores in Hampshire, and they also export to Denmark, Finland and the USA.

Their new brewery incorporates disabled facilities, a brewery tour summer programme (details available on request) and a large gift shop.

Malcolm employs nine staff and is likely to take on more in the next year to cope with demand.

He said: "In all, Itchen Valley Brewery brews over one million pints per year for cask and bottled beer and this is steadily growing. "It has always enjoyed a high profile despite its relatively small size, our beers are highly rated and the brews all feature in CAMRA books and publications.

"We hope to be firmly established as Hampshire's premier Real Ale Brewery and somewhat, tongue in cheek, have added the strapline to some of our marketing material, The beer that made Hampshire famous!'"

For more information call 01962 735111 or visit