no. 26 | Abyss
Returning to Lewes, East Sussex, for a third time since our inception, we’re pleased to introduce you to Abyss, who started life in the cellar of a 16th century pub.
Dating back to the seventeenth century, the original oak beams, inglenook fireplace and old world charm of The Pelham Arms (right) in Lewes, East Sussex, is an unlikely place to start a modern craft brewery. And yet that’s exactly what its owner, Andrew Mellor, and his university friend Andy Bridge did in the space back in 2016.
“Modern American-style IPA was increasing in popularity”, says Andrew, “but because the pub is tied, I couldn’t get any myself”. So he did what any reasonable pub landlord would do; he started a brewery in the cellar. Even this took some persistence, though. Having taken on the lease for the pub from traditional cask ale brewer Hall & Woodhouse, Mellor had to approach the pub’s owners asking if he could reappropriate a narrow, corridor-like room (left) in the basement. With permission, he registered as a brewery and secured a brewing licence before fitting the space out with an insulated water cooler, a mash tun, an electric boiler for the kettle and some plastic ferments.
Inspiration for their early beers came from Thornbridge’s Jaipur, which is worth a brief aside. This IPA is an often over-looked reference in the beer world, but it quietly contributed enormously to the UK’s craft beer revolution with its American-hopped IPA. One of the brewers closely involved in its creation was Martin Dickie, who would go on to co-found BrewDog with James Watt — another story altogether. Back to Abyss, it wasn’t long before Andrew was happy enough to begin serving some of the first Abyss beers to customers and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Popularity grew inside and outside the pub until Andrew and Andy needed to find a larger, more permanent space which today sits just a mile away from batch favourites, Beak Brewery.
Here, a team of seven devote their time to brewing and serving beer in the brewery and taproom. “Beer should have a personality”, exclaims Andy excitedly, “and that’s what we devote a lot of time to with our core range”. Indeed, that’s the beauty of Abyss’ core beers — they’re consistent and recognisable throughout the year, but alongside that familiarity is an iterative approach that brings through small, incremental improvements in the glass.