Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Nottingham Post
Nottingham Post
Laycie Beck

The hidden Nottinghamshire micro-brewery that can only open 24 times a year

Tucked away in a small Nottinghamshire village stands a brewery that opens just a handful of times every year - but its open days are always welcomed by huge queues. Inside Brook House in Collingham, near Newark, Cat Asylum has built up a reputation for itself by brewing 'historically accurate' beer.

The micro brewery has operated from the site, which was a successful plough workshop from the 1790s until it ceased trading in the 1930s, since 2017. The building is full of history, with parts of ploughs still at the site and the former workshop now a bar for the brewery.

When asked why he created the business, owner, Henry Bealby, explained: "I retired as a teacher and I wanted something to do as a kind of post retirement job really, and I owned the premises so it was asking for someone to take over.

"We had a few ideas, we thought about a bakery but the brewery seemed to be the most sensible one and I did home brew. It's a lovely solution to what to do with an old building."

What three words would you use to describe Nottinghamshire? Let us know

Owner of Cat Asylum, Henry Bealby (Laycie Beck)

As the site is so full of history, Henry was also inspired to make a range of historically-accurate beers. He said: "I have a friend who is a beer historian and he provides me with the recipes, we made one for the Queen's jubilee, a Queen 1952 stout, Newark IPA, a couple of Newark recipes, the Wee Mogy was a Scottish recipe."

The Newark IPA beer is from a 1910 recipe from the Warwick and Richardson’s archive, which ran a brewery in Newark during the 1800s. In addition to historical beer, Cat Asylum also makes modern beers and a range of saisons, which is a type of pale ale.

Unlike many breweries, Cat Asylum also uses spring barley to make beer to ensure they are doing their bit to preserve the endangered farmland bird population. Henry explained: "It's more environmentally friendly as you get more animals in the fields if it's planted in the spring rather than the Autumn."

When asked about how he named the business, Henry replied: "It's because I liked asylum as a name for a brewery because of the lost beers and the recipes for beer that time had forgotten. I did have cats, so I just put cat on it and it worked."

A number of pubs in Collingham and other local villages sell their products, but Henry added they "are intermittent in quite a lot of places" including pubs in Nottingham and Lincoln. Due to the micro-brewery's size, it can only be opened to the public a maximum of 24 days a year.

On these days Henry opens the bar up and covers the garden areas with tables so that the community can come and try the beer whilst also catching up with friends across the village and meeting new people. He said: "It makes it kind of like a garden party but with drinks.

General view of the Cat Asylum in Collingham (Laycie Beck)

"It's nice and it's for the village and the little villages around. We are a venue as well, so when we are open 24 times a year some of those are ticketed events."

Henry explained that his friend, Chris Cunningham, 62, has always helped him make beer and together they create the Cat Asylum products. He said: "It's something that's a bit like cooking, just with lots and lots of water, about 1000 litres that gets boiled and boiled again."

Speaking of the brewery room, Chris said: "It's very small and it's a very simple process." He explained that they had a machine to boil water, which they would eventually add ingredients to and mix, before lots more boiling and the yeast being added.

Chris explained that they have created a range of fruity beers as well, and at one time they had people in the village "bringing in pieces of rhubarb for us" to make into beer. Describing the process, he added: "It's a lot of blokes standing around and talking which is great and people from the village pop in and have a look."

He felt the open days create "a nice atmosphere for the village" as it's somewhere the whole family can go and bring their dogs. Chris added: "The beer is very cheap, he charges £3.50 but down in London for something like that they would charge £8.50 for a pint.

"He could charge a lot more but he doesn't want to." He explained Henry wants the beer to be affordable and it's the sort of place someone could pop down with £10 and not have to worry.

Chris Cunningham with some of the machinery (Laycie Beck)

One customer, Steve Coll, 52, has been coming to the Cat Asylum since it opened. He said: "I love the Simcoe Pale, it's our favourite beer and I come here because it's great and we have our takeaways (gesturing to bottles bought to take home)."

When asked if it had a good community feel, Steve replied: "Absolutely yeah, we come here to see everyone and to support Henry every time." He went on to say that he often recognises people and it's great meeting new people, especially seeing their reaction to the pub and beer for the first time.

Friend Ann Ortiz, 35, added: "It's for all different ages, families and kids and dogs." Similarly, Dave Cole, 45, described the location as being "so different" to everywhere else.


Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.