Little Valley Brewery




Little Valley Brewery sits high on the Pennine moorland of Cragg Vale near to Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire.  We brew an inspired range of beers, naturally refreshing and full of good taste.


All of our beers are brewed with 100% organic agricultural ingredients.  We carefully select only the best, tastiest organic hops and malts, all brewed with soft Yorkshire water sourced from high in the Pennines.  All you get to taste are fine hand crafted beers that are naturally brewed to the highest standards.

Our beers are available in Bottle, Cask and Polypin.  All of our bottled ales are ‘bottle conditioned’.


Little Valley is approved by the Soil Association and the Vegan Society.  We do not use isinglass in any of our beers.


Little Valley is also a licensee of the Fairtrade Foundation for our Ginger Pale Ale.


CAMRA says this is Real Ale!


Little Valley Brewery was set up in 2005 by Wim van der Spek and Sue Cooper.


Wim and Sue first met in 1999 whilst both on their solo bicycle journeys.  Wim’s trip involved cycling from Holland to Tibet and then into Kathmandu, where he first met Sue.  Sue had spent the previous two years working with a Nepali NGO.  Sue’s solo cycle journey started in Nepal and finished in England. 


Dutch-born Wim qualified as a Master Brewer at ‘Doemens World Brew Academy’, in Munich, Germany.  Prior to that Wim had spent several years working in the food science industry in Holland.   


Wim’s love of brewing started at a young age. Whilst at high school Wim established his first Beer Club ‘De Gustibus Est  Disputandum’.  The Beer Club, as it’s known to its members, still meets today.


The setting up of Little Valley Brewery has fulfilled a lifetime ambition for Wim.   The brewery has now established a local and regional reputation for an excellent range of real ales of quality and distinction so much so that the news has travelled to countries further afield.  Little Valley ales are now available for export.


We hope that you like them too!





Little Valley Brewery has a ‘brew length’ (i.e. how much can be brewed in one go) of 10 brewers barrels, which is equal to around 3000 pints.


To produce a brew takes about 9 hours.  Fermentation will take place over the following 4-5 days.  We then cool down the beer in the fermenting vessels which takes a further 2 days.  Finally we allow our beers to mature at least ten days after fermentation prior to filling our casks.


For bottle conditioning we need an extra ten days for the beers to have their second fermentation in the bottle.


If you would like to know a little bit more of the detail .... then read on!




Little Valley Brewery sources organic agricultural ingredients for all of its beers; the brewery received organic certification from the Soil Association in September 2005. To find out more about the work of the Soil Association and the standards that organic producers follow go to:


Beer is produced using four main ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. For some of our beers we use additional organic ingredients, for example:  for the Hebden’s Wheat we add coriander seeds and lemon peel; and we use heather in the Moor Ale. 



By volume water is the largest ingredient in beer (90%). Our water is sourced from the nearby Withens Clough reservoir, hence the name of our Withens Pale Ale. The water is soft which makes it very suitable for the production of top quality beers.



Little Valley sources its organic malt from Warminster Maltings, Crisp Maltings, and Muntons Maltings. There are various types of malt such as Pale Ale malt, Wheat malt, Crystal malt and Chocolate malt. The different malts give different flavours, tastes and colours to the beer.


The main purpose of malt is to extract sugars which will then be fermented into alcohol.



Little Valley sources its organic hops from England, Belgium, Germany and New Zealand. The hops are mainly used in the form of pellets, which can then be easily separated from the wort in the whirlpool.


Hops are the most distinguished ingredient in beer.  Hops are used to improve flavour and taste and to improve the shelf life of beer. In the 19th Century India Pale Ales were traditionally brewed in the UK to be shipped to the colonies.  The high hop content meant that the beer would preserve well and it therefore stood a better chance of staying in tip top condition.  The Little Valley Python IPA would easily survive that long journey to India!



Little Valley has a specific yeast strain that we obtain from Brew Lab in Sunderland. We pitch the yeast from a brew which has finished fermentation and store it in a fridge until the next brew.


Yeast is used to transform the sugars into alcohol; it also gives a lot of flavour to the beer. The yeast we use for our Hebden’s Wheat gives it the fruity and ‘banana-like’ flavour.




The malt needs to be crushed first to enable water to enter the malt. The milling for Little Valley malt is done at the Maltings.


Mashing In

The crushed malt is mixed with water at a temperature of around 70°C and put into the mash tun. The ‘mash’ is kept for 90 minutes at 64-65°C. At this temperature the starch in the malt is transformed into sugars, at the end of the 90 minutes the liquid is very sweet and sticky.


The mash tun contains a perforated bottom, which holds the spent grains (remains of the malt) in the mash tun.  Local farmers come to Little Valley at the end of the brew day to collect the spent grains which is used as cattle feed.



The sweet liquid, called wort, is drained off in a bucket (this is called an underbag).  The wort is then pumped over in a copper, this process is called lautering.


After the main part of the wort is drained out into the copper, the mash is sprayed at the top with hot water (70-78°C) to rinse out as much of the sugars as possible; this is also drained and pumped into the copper. We keep rinsing until we have enough wort in the copper (9-10 barrels).



As soon as we have reached the correct volume of wort in the copper the heating elements are switched on and we begin to heat the wort. It takes 2 hours before the wort begins to boil; at that point the first lot of hops are added to the wort (the bitter hops). After one hour of rigorous boiling the second hops are added (the aroma hops). After 10 more minutes of boiling the heating elements are turned off and the boil has finished.



As soon as the boil has finished the whirlpool pump is switched on.  This creates a ‘swirling’ effect within the copper and results in a separation of the hops and ‘heat’ break in the middle of the copper (it is the same principle as stirring a cup of tea containing tea leaves so that the leaves end up in the middle of the cup). By extracting the wort from the side of the copper we will get very clear and clean hot wort.



At this point in the process the wort in the copper is around 90°C but it needs to be at a temperature of 20°C for fermentation. To cool the wort down to 20°C we use a heat exchanger in which the wort enters at 98°C and leaves at 20°C. To cool the wort down, cold water enters the heat exchanger at 10°C and leaves at 70°C (this water is pumped back to the hot liquor tank and used for the next brew); the wort is then pumped to the fermentation vessel.




At 20°C, the wort is transferred into the fermentation vessel and spread into a film to allow oxygen to enter the wort. This oxygen is needed for the yeast to start up the fermentation process. As soon as all of the wort in the vessel has been collected, 5kg of yeast which has been stored in the fridge is added to the wort. The fermentation will now begin and the temperature will slowly rise over 4-5 days to 25°C.


When the fermentation is finished the yeast is ‘cropped’ from the top and stored in the fridge for the next brew. After cropping the yeast we chill the fermenting vessel using a cooler.  It takes 2 days to reduce the temperature to 8°C.  During this time any yeast that was in suspension will have dropped to the bottom.



Once the beer is cooled down to 8°C in the fermentation vessels it is then transferred into maturation vessels.  The maturation room temperature is kept at 9°C.


The beer in the closed vessel is now given time to allow the sediment to drop to the bottom. This process takes at least 7 days and in this time the beer also ferments a little more and forms carbon dioxide, which gives the beer a little fizz. This process is known as maturation.


During maturation the beer clears and all of the sediment drops to the bottom of the tank.  This is a form of pre-settling.   





After 10 days from cooling the beer is ready to be filled into casks.  Little Valley fills its casks directly from the maturation vessels (leaving the sediment behind).


We do not use isinglass in any of our beers (traditionally used in the British brewing industry to clear beer).  Isinglass is a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish. Little Valley beers are clear because of the way we brew (explained above).  This means that all Little Valley ales are recognized by the Vegan Society as being suitable for vegans.


When we receive our orders from publicans the casks are then filled to order and delivery is made.


Little Valley cask beer can be tapped for immediate use – no venting is required.


Cask ale must be used within three days of opening.  If the beer is kept on the pump much longer than this then it becomes stale and flat, eventually it will oxidize and become sour.



Little Valley bottled beers are known as ‘bottle conditioned beers’.  This means that our beers have had a second fermentation in the bottle.  This second fermentation carbonates the beer naturally.  Little Valley ales are approved by CAMRA as ‘Real Ale in a Bottle’.


The first step in the bottle conditioning process is to transfer the beer from a maturation vessel into the mixing tank. In the mixing tank we add sugar and fresh yeast and mix it thoroughly.  This process is called priming.


The primed beer is then transferred to the bottle filler. Before filling the new bottles with beer they are labelled.  On the label we print the best before date and the lot code.  The bottles are then rinsed with fresh water and drained for a minute on a bottle tree.


After filling the bottle is capped with a crown cap and placed in boxes. The bottles are then transferred into the warm room.  This room is kept at a constant temperature of 20°C. By keeping the bottles in the warm room for a further ten days  a second fermentation will begin in the bottle.  This process produces carbon dioxide naturally which gives the beer its fizz.


As a result of the second fermentation there is a layer of yeast at the bottom of the bottle.




Cask Beer

Little Valley cask ale can be tapped for immediate use – no venting is required.


Cask ale must be used within three days of opening.  If the beer is kept on the pump much longer than this then it becomes stale and flat, eventually it will oxidize and become sour.


Bottle Conditioned Beer

Bottle Conditioned beers are always stored upright, ideally at temperatures of between 8 - 12°C.  Storage time can be for around 24 hours before opening – this allows the sediment to re-settle after transportation.


To pour a bottle conditioned beer – tilt the bottle to a 45 degree angle and pour the contents of the bottle in one go into your glass, leaving the sediment in the neck of the bottle. 


One exception to this rule is for Wheat Beers.  Hebden’s Wheat is best enjoyed with the yeast sediment as part of the body and flavour of the beer.  To serve: Pour 90% of the beer into a glass.  Swirl the bottle to release the yeast and pour the remainder into the glass.


We do hope that you enjoy our beers.  If you would like to let us know what you think then please get in touch using our Guestbook page.  We look forwards to hearing from you soon!