Award-winning brewery makes a refreshing change

Reepham’s award-winning Panther Brewery continues to extend its range of products and has developed new technology that keeps beer fresher for longer.

Martin James (left) and Alex Simpson of Panther Brewery

This progressive micro-brewery recently received several Campaign for Real Ale awards: Panther Golden won the CAMRA Norfolk Real Ale in a Bottle 2012 award in the Golden Ale category; Panther Black was a runner-up in the Stout and Porter category; and Panther Red a runner-up in the Best Bitter category in 2011.
Panther Black was also awarded first prize in the porter/stout category at the Norwich City of Ale event in June 2011.
Meanwhile, the company has been chosen for a brewery tour on 19 April as part of CAMRA’s Annual General Meeting, which takes place this year in Norwich from 19-21 April.
Named after a large panther-like cat that Reepham inhabitants claim to have seen prowling in the countryside, Panther Brewery has grown significantly since it was established in 2010 by owner and head brewer Martin James, who acquired the equipment and leasehold of the former Reepham Brewery, located on Collers Way industrial estate, off Wood Dalling Road.
This real-ale producer, which continues to expand through sales diversity and recently took on a new apprentice, is a “five-barrel brewery” making a weekly batch of 820 litres (that’s around 1,500 pints to traditionalists).
Panther uses special types of malt barley grown in Norfolk as well as local water. Around 70% of output is supplied in casks and the remainder in bottles. Last year, the company increased production by 30% compared with 2011, and output continues to expand through additions to the product range and the steady acquisition of new customers in Norfolk and further afield.
The brewery is now able to cater for small pubs, restaurants, clubs and sports bars with its new Caskfresh system, which allows real ale to be kept fresh for up to three months – and helps publicans by reducing wastage.
This innovative technology is based on a multi-layer, self-venting bag-in-box system, similar to the concept used in a wine box, and the materials are up to 90% recyclable.
Caskfresh is available in 10 litres (18 pints) and 20 litres (36 pints) formats, which makes it easy to carry and store. The system incorporates an adaptor that allows simple and quick connection to existing beer pumps.
“Secondary fermentation also takes place inside the bag, which enhances the depth and complexity of flavour for added enjoyment of all breeds of Panther ale,” said Mr James. “This is also beneficial to the consumer as they can now always enjoy a fresh-tasting pint by eliminating the time restraints that generally occur with traditional casks.”
Last year, the company used the “wort” of the award-winning Black Panther and distilled it five times at the English Spirit Distillery in Cambridgeshire to produce a bourbon-style “whiskey” called Spirit of Panther. All but a few of the 60 bottles, each containing an American oak stave, were sold just before Christmas, Mr James revealed.
Panther also makes use of the Reepham Rover community minibus for brewery trips, visiting pubs and beer festivals that support Panther Brewery.

Panther Brewery’s stand at the Norfolk Catering & Hospitality Expo 2013 showing the evolution of ale containers – wooden, stainless steel, plastic and the new Caskfresh, shown in the six-high shelving unit

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