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Readers will be aware of the derogatory expression (cleaned up here for publication) implying someone, or some people,
can’t organise a drinking session in a brewery.
It’s an accusation that could never be levelled at a beer-based company on the outskirts of Sudbury. Staging tastings, selling fresh ale and being at the heart of the local community is their raison d’etre.
There’s something almost spiritual as well as commerical driving the success of the Nethergate Brewery. As one of the directors John Holberry puts it: “We are proud of our localness . . . in our eyes beer and sociability go hand in hand.
The brewery was ‘born’ in Clare, 34 years ago. Like many great ideas it was conceived in a pub between two friends, one a businessman, Dick Burge and the other a microbiologist, Dr Ian Hornsey, the perfect team to set up a brewery. Soon they were developing an award winning dark bitter, or porter, called Old Growler.
Production later moved to nearby
Pentlow but in 2010 Burge (who is now 85) sold the company to two former Adnams employees. After it fell into administration in 2014 Burge bought it back and - with three other partners - “started putting things back on the right path,” says John.
“We had four original shareholders in 2014 and opened up to others a few years later - in fact, a hundred people invested in the company. We are not a crowdfunder; dividends are paid on a pro rata basis with discounted prices for beer and other advantages. “The smallest investment is £500 going up to £50,000.”
John came to Nethergate by a circuitous route. Initially he wanted to be a footballer but perhaps sensing he wasn’t going to make it at the highest level joined the police and then became a lawyer. He ran the sales arm of the brewer Bass for 15 years, moved on to Magners, and was later a director with the online company Beer Hawk.
Based in Leicester, his intention was to be with Nethergate for a couple of years but he has gone beyond that and says that it is still fun. He probably takes the big management decisions in his stride but there is a liking for little details such as
 What’s it to be? Inside the Tap Room, where regular tastings are held
  Ale and hearty
Times have probably never been harder for the hospitality industry but if you are a small brewery, like Long Melford based Nethergate, there is a way to survive and succeed, as John Seery discovers

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