Passion, fortitude and true craftsmanship took this brewery from a stable block to the entire south west.
Words by Rebecca Hawkey
Keltek Brewery was founded by Stuart Heath, after a bet with his local landlord. The deal was, if Stuart could brew a superior pint, the landlord would happily put it on tap at his pub. Stuart accepted this challenge with vigour and started brewing on a 2.5-barrel microbrewery, in a disused stable block on the Roseland Peninsula. This section of Cornwall is where the expanse of the English Channel meets the verdant, wild coast. It’s an inspiring place to begin a new venture. Stuart’s small passion project, that started out in the countryside, has since developed into a successful, ever-growing business, called Keltek Brewery, the name of which came about in true Cornish style, for Keltek in Cornish means ‘Celtic’ – the name ascribed to the ancient tribes that once inhabited Cornwall. Whilst Stuart is determined to keep building bigger and better, Cornwall will always be at the heart of this endeavour.
Stuart continued to craft his own beers, and after winning Gold for his first ever brew, the demand for his beers grew tremendously. It was decided that if this venture would continue to grow, then expansion was needed. The first move from the stable block was to a larger unit in Lostwithiel – a small parish town that straddles the River Fowey. Here, the brewery’s capacity increased five-fold, allowing the team to scale-up their operations even more. In 2007, Keltek relocated once again to Redruth, a bustling town not far from the north-Cornish coast; this is where they reside to this day. They now have the capacity to brew over 250 brewer’s barrels a week. In addition, they also have their own fully automated bottling line, which filters, carbonates, fills, labels and caps the beer, with everything done in-house. It’s an impressive operation to say the least.
With the team’s determination and hard work, Keltek acquired four pubs in the vicinity of the brewery in 2013, becoming just the second brewery in Cornwall to own its own estate of public houses. They went on to add two more to that estate in 2016. But regardless of their ever-growing popularity, Keltek remains loyal to their Cornish roots. They are proud to call Keltek a family-owned brewery that adheres to the age-old traditions of brewing by hand, with care and craftmanship, using the finest whole hop flowers, British malts and hand-pitched yeast. It’s what makes their beers so special, as they remain loyal to the process.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Keltek though. As with any business, there will always be ups and downs to manoeuvre. In the beginning, Keltek’s biggest hurdle was the introduction of their product to the market. Making a name for your brand can be a long and arduous journey, however, the passionate and proactive marketing approach that Keltek adopted from the start not only fostered long-standing relationships with their suppliers, in a short space of time, but also with their customers across the Duchy.
Supporting local events and charitable causes, which they do regularly, allows Keltek to give back to the local community; a community that has supported them from their humble beginnings, to where they are today. It is not just the business as a whole that gives back, it’s also the staff at Keltek, who choose to donate their Christmas bonus each year to a local charity in need. Last Christmas the staff chose Penhaligon’s Friends in Redruth, a testament to their dedication to the community they have been a part of from the start. Keltek has grown exponentially since those stable brewing days, and the time has come for Stuart to step back and look on proudly at the company he has created. Now that Stuart is passing on the reigns to son, William Heath, and Managing Director, Stewart Cawte, the Keltek fire is set to continue to burn brightly, and will remain a family of its own.
It is evident that Keltek are masters in growing and developing as a business, and they aren’t slowing down any time soon. The team are working hard to become eco-friendly, and plan to install solar panels in their brewery this year to aid in this journey. Living in Cornwall, we are surrounded by the natural world, and it’s easy to see the effects of climate change all around us, from the plastic in our oceans, to the degradation of natural green spaces. Keltek are keen advocates for supporting our wildlife and their habitats as best they can, and do their bit for our environment when possible. Recently they have swapped out plastic shrink wrap to bespoke cardboard boxes, and everything from the cap on the bottle, to the packaging it is in, is 100% recyclable. It is not an easy job to build a successful business and be eco-conscious, but Keltek are mindful of their carbon footprint, and are always trying to find new ways to find a balance.
It is clear that Keltek Brewery are always looking to grow and expand their business, to engage with customers and bring new flavours to the market whenever possible. Whilst Keltek have a delicious range of nine products on offer, they aren’t stopping there. The team revel in the challenge of creating bespoke, one-off editions for the many holiday seasons that grace our calendar year, and the brewers work hard to think up new combinations. They have also recently signed up with a handful of more wholesalers across Cornwall. The team enjoy building strong relationships with these wholesalers to make their product more widely available, not just across Cornwall but across the UK.
Keltek Brewery’s hand-brewed ales are a tribute to our county’s Celtic heritage, and through their ales they are forever telling us the tale of King Arthur, who, according to legend, was born at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall at the height of the Celtic age.
I for one cannot wait to see where this tale takes us.