In 1978, John Payne
started brewing beer
to supply Bell's Diner
, the highly-regarded Bristol
restaurant that he co-managed. He made the beer on the premises and produced small quantities, but the dearth
of good beer
available at that time meant that his brews soon started to attract attention of a wider public.
Smiles then moved to the central Bristol premises that it now occupies, and set up a traditonal gravity-fed brewery
producing a large selection of ales
In 1992, John sold the brewery to Ian Williams, an accountant, and left to start a new restaurant, (where yours truly worked). The brewery is now at its most successful, with several award-winning pubs, such as the Brewery Tap, and a growing bottled beer business.
Smiles produces a wide variety of beers, including seasonal brews that change on a regular basis. The names of these include some truly bad puns.
Heritage is available in bottles in supermarkets in the UK, as well as several places in the US. This export market has taken off for Smiles in a big way in the past few years.
Any visitor to Bristol should do the brewery tour, which is fascinating and very funny. They are conducted by the brewers themselves, who are hugely knowledgeable, opinionated ("Cans?, Don't swear at me!"), and generally entertaining. Don't let the fact mice have been known to be spotted on these tours put you off: it all adds to the flavour.
The brewery itself is spread over 4 narrow floors, with the malt and hops hoisted to the loft with pulleys, from where they descend to each floor for the different stages of the brewing process.
The Brewery Tap, attached to the brewery, is a good pub in which to sample some of the beers.
On that note, may I humbly suggest A piss-up in a brewery: an E2 Bristol noders meet
, with a tour of Smiles, at some point in the future.
Over New Year 2004/2005, Smiles Brewery went into liquidation. The pubs were transferred to a new company (Smiles Pubs Ltd.) and the brewery was closed. The rights to brew Smiles beers were sold to the Highgate Brewery. The results have not been good, with the beers showing little resemblance to the Smiles beers of old. The head brewer, Chris Thurgeson, left to join the new Beer Factory brewery, which shows promising signs. There are rumours that a microbrewery will be installed in the site of the old brewery, supplying the Brewery Tap. See http://www.camrabristol.org.uk/pw65.pdf for details.