Devizine asks you, what kind of person would use the front end of their hometown name as part of their corporate identity, especially when their hometown is Devizes?! Glen Upward is man after my own heart; we stand around the old bakery in Rowde, now his microbrewery, as he devotedly enlightens the science behind beer-making.
I scratch my dome, fascinating as it is, I only ever drink the stuff, never gave thought to the complicated merger of chemistry and physics which goes into its production; least it’s way over my head. If I knew at school that chemistry and physics would help me brew my own beer, I might have listened. I asked Glen if science was an interest in school, he told it wasn’t for him either.
Now though, he’s given up fifteen “nine-to-five” years of IT and digital marketing to get hands-on with his home-brewing hobby; the result, after a slog of trial and error is Devitera. It’s something to be proud of, and by his positive demeanour I can tell he is.
I was walked through the process in great detail, from its origins as Maris Otter Barley in Wiltshire fields, to the floors of malt, bagged and sent to the microbrewery. Through delicately balanced water temperatures, and precise quantities of loose-leaf hops we marched, pausing to cover “friendly” yeast as I pondered what “unfriendly” yeast was capable of (in a kind of 1950s B-Movie thriller style naturally.)
The beer is bottled, with a pinch of yeast to create natural CO2. We covered it all from sterilisation, and assessing their alcohol volume and best before dates, to the exceptionally manual production line and logistics. It’s a gradual process; Glen stands the beer for a month, to develop the flavour before it’s ready to sell.
We check out some labelled bottles displayed on a windowsill, seems the working title “Gunslinger,” was hastily met with an American brewer of a similar name, and abandoned for liable reasons. Contradicting names for the darker and pale ales also fallen into obscurity, such as Dusk and Dawn, Jekyll and Hyde, “everyone bought the Jekyll rather than the Hyde,” he told me. Nonetheless that’s how Glen operates, slowly but surely he tweaks the entire process from malt to marketing until he’s perfected it, and moves onto the next issue. He describes in detail the daily conundrums he faces as I observe a cask on the floor he’s practising to tap, but he’s extraordinarily at peace with it. “You love it though, don’t you?!” I laugh; he nods.
It must be frustrating, the big boys of the industry price the small businessman out of the market, making it impossible to meet the requirements of supermarket chains and be cost effective. So Glen fumbles more on a computer, searching for potential customers and promoting his efforts than he devotes to brewing. “Bristol has opened up,” he tells me, aiming his pitch at high-end theatres and bars.
Gradually then, Glen is building a renowned reputation, a cult following; Crumbs Magazine wrote back in January, “This Wiltshire microbrewery is knocking out some cracking beers.” Locally, outlets such as The Rowdey Cow and CW Butchers stock it and it’s served at the British Lion, Wharf Theatre and Upstairs at Jacks; an image of Glen, lugging his beer on a hand-cart a hundred yards to the George & Dragon springs to mind, as if he was another brand’s Shire horse!
Food and drink festivals are the conventions he must adhere to, for product recognition; you’ll find him at Taste of Corsham on Saturday and, keeping even more local, Rowdefield’s “Summer Fun on the Farm,” event on 7th July.
Glen suggested holding social events, German bierkeller style, at his premises and we discussed possibilities of organising a mini festival there in August. For this is just the sort of enterprise we need to support, as Devitera does its namesake; Devi – as in Devizes, tera as in terra, or “land,” (although “terra” usually refers to mountainous zones of other planets, which, believe it or not, Rowde really isn’t.) This is strictly Devizes-based beer, and he’s comfortable with the native arrangement, despite online sales allowing worldwide distribution.
What’s super-special about this place is the individuality, the-one-man army, the DIY setup, logistically and productively, from his wife’s homemade lino-cut stamps for the labels and boxes to the very ethos of Devitera. How he finds enough hours in the day is beyond me. A keen blogger, he updates fans with his activities too.
“I want to make a totally unique product,” he elucidates as I exclusively sample cloudy pale ale he’s currently perfecting. It tastes quite bitter to my cider preferential palate, still flavoursome and wholesome. “No,” he tells me, akin to Willy Wonka, “it’s not quite right,” and he dismisses the cask and informs me it needs more work.
Am I to turn into a giant hop here, or fall into a river of beer? It’s a pitfall I’m willing to take for the sake of the article. But there’s no Oompa Loompas here, just Glen endeavouring to perfect draught and bottled beer, to bring something unique and really, doing what he loves, and getting the word out about his project.
One such promotion currently running is a wide Father’s Day selection, from a baseball shirt bearing the logo, and beer boxes to History of Beer experience day, where your dad will sample fifteen beers from around the world, in the comfort of the microbrewery, with lunch included, or an all-day, hands-on brewing course, with beer and food! Dads could be brewing from the raw ingredients with a small group of fellow enthusiasts, and naturally, drinking it too. Lucky Dads, me too, I had a great time and wish Glen all the best with Devitera!