Master Brewer Insights

Photo of Phil Downes, Master Brewer

Philip is key to Box Steam’s success. We have his passion and expertise and the dedication of his team to thank for the award-winning range of beers we produce.

Philip is one of only a handful of real Master Brewers working in the UK today. That means he’s not just any old brewer. ‘Master Brewer’ is the highest level qualification in brewing and represents not only years of professional dedication and experience, but rigorous high level training in the art, science and technology behind the creation of beer.

We’re proud of the carefully crafted flavours and aromas Philip and his team tease from subtle combinations of malts and hops to make sure the brew behind every Box Steam label is worthy of the brand. We thought you might be interested too, so we’ve asked him to share a few thoughts each month. Read on…



Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2018!

First things first, we need to talk about #Tryanuary. This is an initiative that has been running for 5 years now to support the beer industry during what can be a challenging month. As I’m sure you know the licenced trade is subject to numerous pressures including rising prices, falling visitor numbers and increased rents. So when January rolls around and we are filled with ambitions of health, frugality and abstinence – the pub is probably the furthest thing from our mind. It’s worth remembering however, that last year we lost an average of 29 pubs every week and that doesn’t include the independent off licences, restaurants and hotels that also face tremendous pressure.

This beery community of ours has always been incredibly inclusive and supportive. From brewery collaborations and tap takeovers to charity beers we always endeavour to address and deal with the issues we face. So, for our end of the bargain we’ve conjured up a new recipe for an old favourite – Gym Dodger. The 2018 version of Gym Dodger is a copper coloured New World session bitter, brewed with Rakau hops to give lush, tropical flavours and aromas of apricot and passionfruit. At 3.2% we’ve kept the ABV deliberately low, but crammed in as much flavour as possible. This is a strictly limited edition, so keep your eyes open, once it’s gone – it’s gone!

And so to your part of the deal; Alongside Box, there are literally thousands of fantastic breweries out there brewing beers you’ve never even seen before. So, rather than just abstaining completely in January, make Tryanuary part of a lifestyle change. Make plans to take a long walk every weekend; go somewhere you’ve never been before that happens to have a good looking pub nearby. Then when you’ve finished your walk, call in for a half or a pint of something you wouldn’t normally try. For a couple of quid a week you’re getting exercise and fresh air, broadening your horizons, challenging your pallet and supporting the independent beer trade. Who knows, maybe if everyone did, then that extra couple of quid could make the difference between a pub closing or staying open. Use the #tryanuary hashtag and share your discoveries!

December blog and Christmas Open Days

December blog and Christmas Open Days

Hops, Hops and more hops! That’s been life in the brewery recently. I’ve been working hard with our New Product Development team to draw up the recipes for our 2018 cask ale range (along with some new and top secret brews that will be hitting the shelves soon). Personally, I can’t wait to see the results of all our labours, all of these recipes genuinely have something to offer the discerning drinker – I think I might dedicate next month’s blog to giving you a more detailed tour of all our upcoming brews…. Speaking of tours, It’s that time of the year again when we throw open the doors to the brewery, rack up some fresh casks and scoff mince pies under the mistletoe. In other words, it’s time for our annual Christmas Open days. On Friday 8thand Saturday 9th December we invite you to join us for a beer or two and most importantly to take advantage of our 20% discount. It’s the ideal time to place your orders for Christmas. You save 20% and we’ll make sure your beer is as fresh, and well-conditioned as possible ready for whenever you’d like to collect. I’ll be handing over the reins of the brewery tours to Emma, our lovely events coordinator who will be leading 3 tours on the Saturday. Places are limited, so please book in advance by emailing So, another year passes by in a blur. 2017 has seen some amazing times for Box Steam; we’ve had our beers distributed across Europe by Lidl, won more awards than you can shake a stick at, worked with some fantastic pubs and run bars at events all across the South West. It’s been hard work at times, but all the team have pulled together to go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that all of you out there have the best beer we can brew. Merry Christmas to you all and here’s to a fantastic 2018! Cheers!

November Blog

November Blog

As I write this blog it is international sausage week, yes that’s right there is a week for the humble sausage. A little birdie (aka Twitter) has tipped us off that the Bath Ladies Ruby team and Larkhall butchers have created a Piston Broke sausage. Trust me it is delicious and the perfect banger for bonfire night this weekend.

Talking of this weekend, Sunday is set to be a big one for Bath Ladies as the first team take on Cheltenham and the 2nd XV take on Chew Valley. The fun kicks off at 2pm with a raft of fundraisers to raise money for their floodlights. We’ll see you there!

Our seasonal beer this month is Big Bang. If you like a full-bodied copper bitter with a tropical flavour then this is the one for you.

If you are out and about this month come and see us at Hawkesbury Upton Village Hall on 10th November and on the same weekend we’ll also be setting up stall at Wadswick Green Winter Craft Fair.

I know Christmas is a while off, and yes I did just mention Christmas, but I have a couple of dates for your diary if you love good local food and great beer then check out the Field Kitchen Feast: On the 8th & 9th December we are flinging open the doors to the brewery so you can stock up for Christmas.

Right I’m off to find the sparklers, till next time Phillip

October blog

October blog

What a great night we had at the inaugural Crumbs Awards on Sunday, 1st October. Held at the Old Vic in Bristol we were surrounded by the great and good of the food and drink industry in the South West, many of whom were enjoying our beer!

We supplied Golden Bolt for the awards’ evening ceremony and it was fantastic to see lots of people tasting it. There’s nothing quite like watching someone drink a pint of what you’ve worked so hard to create.

Talking of creating beer, we’ve just taken delivery of some new hops! We like to think we’re on the ball, and trying to be ahead of the game. Wai-Iti, Simcoe, Cascade (US &UK, Rakau, Mosaic, Mandarina Bavaria and of course Amarillo are all sitting in the brewhouse waiting to be transformed into next year’s beer…. I can’t wait!

It’s gonna be a good year and the team and I are excitedly thinking about new flavours that we would like to bring you. By the way, we love to hear your ideas too, so do let us know what you think over on Facebook, Twitter (@boxbrew) and Instagram (@boxsteambrewery).



September Blog

September Blog

Is summer ebbing away or will the sunshine last for an Indian Summer? Hope so, not least because we have the perfect beer, coincidentally called - Indian Summer - to accompany a sizzling and sunny September. With an ABV of 4.3%, it is a golden tropical fruit flavoured ale that’s great-tasting and easy to enjoy.

It’s a busy time for us at the brewery, I know, when isn’t it? As we head into the Autumn and the evenings draw in why not crack open a bottle of Derail Ale? If you’re a fan of Derail then you’ll be delighted to know that it is back on cask too.

Talking of our popular ale, it has just won silver at The Global Beer Masters 2017, along with another silver for Golden Bolt and a bronze medal for Wet Your Whistle. We know our customers love our beer and appreciate the engineering that goes into them, but it is great to be recognised among some stellar breweries such as St Peters and Pirate Life.

As well as supporting our wholesale and supermarket customers prepare for the busiest time of the year - Christmas - we are currently concluding our own strategy for next year. We will have some tasty beer ideas and growth plans to share with you soon!

Until next time - cheers

Great British Beer Festival

Great British Beer Festival

As I write this there’s lots going on at the Brewery; we’ve just delivered Tunnel Vision, Funnel Blower and Derail Ale to Lidl across the UK and have a big Tesco order going out the door. Oh and we’ve just stocked up our little local co-op in Bradford on Avon.

After we had fulfilled all those orders, it was time for a well-earned trip to the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival. We put on our best tasting hats, hopped on the train and headed for the big smoke.

As always, the atmosphere and buzz were palpable. From overhead conversations on the tube to the queue round the block – all the talk was of beer; what’s good, what’s new and what’s next. It was great to see such a wonderful mix of people; from the young beards to the old, and fantastic to see more and more women each year.

A big reason we go to these events, is to see, quite literally; what’s brewing. Along with about 500 others we fought through the scrum around the US Cask ale bar to sample the finest examples from across the pond. What can I say? Big flavours and huge ABV’s are still the hallmarks, but it was good to try some rarities!

For every Saison, Sour and Gose it was great to see an equal number of hoppy golden ales, smooth, malty bitters and rich porters holding up the more traditional end. One thing that can safely be said is that the global and British brewing industries are bigger and better than ever. Although, after spotting plenty of friends and favorites we got to thinking about a competition.

If you spot us out and about this month send us a picture on Facebook, Twitter or tag us on Instagram and you could win yourself a case of Box Beers. It could be anything from a delivery, our bottles at a BBQ or a pump clip in your local. Head to our social media for all the details.

Until next time - Philip.

July 17

July 17

Firstly, apologies for the gap in blogs. You’ll hopefully all be pleased to know I’ve been keeping busy with another delivery of 250 pallets (that’s 200,000 bottles) to Lidl in Europe, on top of the original order of 110 pallets. Yes we are exporting Derail Ale and Funnel Blower to Germany, Belgium and Slovenia.

I’ve also been helping the team get ready for BoxFest, a real highlight of the Box Steam Brewery calendar. A fantastic time was had by all, the sun shone and we beat the Bath Ladies RFC at the tug-o-war!

With the sun shining and the fields full of crops the next couple of months are all about taking it easy when you get the chance and for me watching Wimbledon is one of those opportunities and what better way to do it than with a cold Perfect Serve to keep you cool and refreshed?

It’s an easy drinker, copper in colour and has a hint of malt with a hoppy flavour, coming out at 4%. We have used roasted Crystal Malt; to produce perfect hue, glorious if you get the sun shining through your pint, and a blend of First Gold and Sovereign hops to invoke the aroma of warm grass. Whether at Wimbledon for the tennis or at the local park for a pic-nic, pour, relish and enjoy.

Until next month.



We were already up against it this month! We’re already getting a huge export ready for Germany, and they’ve only gone and re-ordered more than double the amount for the end of the month!

Our core beers - Tunnel, Piston and Golden Bolt - and our Spring seasonal beer Soul Train are also on the ‘To Brew’ list and we’ve been topping up supplies of our bottled ales.

And not forgetting May’s monthly special, Pole Dancer - a sweet, dark, chocolatey mild. We use roasted malts to produce its dark colour and sweet taste, and Sorachi Ace and Phoenix hops for its distinctive Chocolate and Coconut aromas and flavours. This month’s beer was suggested by the brewing team, who decided on the idea of a coconut and chocolate mild. I then tracked down the varieties of hop that could create this and found a hop merchant that had available stock.

This month I was also asked to judge a beer competition for a region outside the South West. I know I might be biased, but personally the brews just don’t measure up!

April 17

April 17

The sun is shining on the Brewery and the warmer air increases the aroma of hops and malts across the yard as we brew the usual favourites, plenty of our Spring beer, Soul Train.

We’ve also created a lovely brew for April, Out In Front. It’s a malty, ruby coloured best bitter, using roasted crystal and chocolate malts for colour and flavour. The addition of Fuggle hops lends it a grassy and pine note prevalent on race courses. As the beer is pitched at the start of the horse racing season we went for hops that could recreate the smells of fresh grass and fences being hit. You can always tell a story with beer!

If that wasn’t enough to keep us busy, we are preparing 92,000 bottles of Derail Ale and Funnel Blower for export to Germany, Belgium and Slovenia. Nice to know what we craft hear will be enjoyed all over Europe.

March 17

March 17

Not sure where Spring has got to, but it’s March and it’s busy as always at the Brewery! Due to engineering work, our main bottlers were not able to bottle our beers in January OR February, so we’ve been working up a sweat catching up this month.

As well as restocking our bottles and brewing our core beers, we’ve been beautifully engineering our monthly special brew in celebration of St Patrick’s day, For The Craic.

The 4.8% IPA features a new hop from the States called Azacca. It lends the beer a refreshing mango like flavour, as well as a light citrus nose. For The Craic was specifically created to coincide with our Irish friends’ favourite holiday - after all, what day is thirstier than St Patrick’s? Sláinte!