Bill Russell is the founder of Equal Brewkery, which supports people with learning disabilities to brew and bake. With East of England Co-op adding the Golden Ale to its Sourced Locally range, Bill explains how he was inspired to get back into microbrewing after having a stroke
I suppose the best thing to say about my life is that been shaped by unexpected events. For example, I had worked in education for many years as a teacher, headteacher and local education authority adviser advising and helping schools integrate children with special educational needs. Then, unexpectedly, I was told the organisation needed to re-structure and people would have to reapply for their posts. I took the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy and decided to open a microbrewery!
A few years later, after I had sold the brewery, I suffered a stroke and lost the use of my right arm, my hearing on my right side and some mobility in my right leg. Following an operation to remove a blockage in my carotid artery I began to regain the movement in my arm and leg, but I began to wonder what happened to people who suffered strokes, had brain impairments, or learning difficulties. This was my main motivation in setting up Equal Brewkery.
In addition, I wanted to demonstrate that adults with a learning disability can be successful and achieve. Plus, I could use my experience of brewing and adults with learning disabilities.
We have leased a kitchen in a day-care centre, and we show people with learning disabilities how to bake delicious bread and brew fine real ale. So as the name Brewkery suggests we are part brewery and part bakery. Before the pandemic we sold the baked goods at the Snack Bar, but this closed in lockdown and it has not re-opened. We are currently pursuing new markets for the baked goods but a recent exciting development is that the East of England Co-op, following a rigorous audit of our procedures and practices, have started to stock our beer in their stores. Currently it can be found in Norwich, Long Stratton, Harleston and Great Yarmouth.
We are always looking for additional volunteers to work with us on a Tuesday Wednesday or Thursday morning. Everyone at Equal Brewkery is an unpaid volunteer, including myself, but we really appreciate any time people can spare. However, if people want to support us but they can’t volunteer they could purchase a “Brewkery Slice”. This is a non-refundable donation to the Brewkery (in £50 units). We then we provide an annual 8% dividend in either bottled beer or bread. For example, donate £50 and receive an annual dividend of £4 worth of bottled beer or bread loaves.
Future plans a) identify an outlet for the bread we make b) we are making tentative plans to open another Brewkery in another day care centre in Norwich.
Equal Brewkery‘s Golden Ale is stocked in eight East of England Co-op stores: Costessey; Dereham Road, Norwich; Gorleston; Long Stratton; Spixworth; Earlham Green; Acle and Harleston. Find Equal Brewkery on Instagram.
Featured image of Bill Russell (pictured left), taken by Steve Wright