IT’S a long way from a 45th-floor apartment in New York to a cellar in East Yorkshire. But it’s a move that looks to have paid off for Phil Saltonstall.

When his Cliffhanger beer debuts in York this weekend, at The Swan and The Slip’s joint festival, it won’t just spell good news for York’s ale afficionados. It will mark the culmination of a remarkable transatlantic journey for Phil and his wife, Harriet.

Just a few years ago, 36-year-old Phil was an enthusiastic but decidedly amateur home-brewer, producing his own beer in their New York apartment, while Harriet worked in the city as a UN diplomat. Today though, this professional coastguard is charting a course for new horizons, as the proud helmsman of Yorkshire’s newest brewery, Pocklington’s first since the 1930s, and one of relatively few in the country to be entirely vegan.

His Brass Castle Brewery may not look like much from the outside, but behind the innocuous front door at the top of Market Street, there’s a marvellous story unfolding.

Phil had been home-brewing since he was a teenager so was no novice when he got to the States, but he says that while in New York his enthusiasm “got turbo-charged”.

“The scene is way more active and youthful there,” he says. “It’s fashionable and trendy. I was doing home-brewing in a two-bedroom apartment on the 45th floor in Manhattan, then I worked at Triumph Brewing Company in Princeton as well. They did ten to 12 different beers, so I experienced a real mix.”

On return to the UK last Christmas, Phil decided he wanted to take his hobby to the next level. He and Harriet, originally from near Beverley, found themselves moving to Pocklington and Phil took a dedicated Brewlab course at the University of Sunderland, before setting up stall in his garage at the beginning of last month.

He took the name Brass Castle from Brass Castle Hill, the historic stretch of Market Street in which he, Harriet and the brewery live, but the whole operation stretches no further than the garage and the cellar. It is, says Phil, not so much a micro-brewery as a nano-brewery.

Three beers are in production though, and while Phil had intended for them to be launched next month at their home-town festival of Pocktoberfest, word of mouth had other plans. Curious landlords who spotted the brewery on twitter got in touch, and the grand entrance has been brought forward.

Cliffhanger, a golden ale with an ABV of 3.8 per cent, is leading the charge, flying the flag for Phil’s full-time profession. Ten pence from each pint will go to the Coastguard Association, and the name is a nod to the sterling work done by its members.

It will be at The Swan or The Slip today and will then return to York in a fortnight for the York Beer and Cider Festival on Knavesmire. There, it will likely be accompanied by a vanilla porter at 5.5 per cent ABV, and then when Pocktoberfest does come around at the end of October, those two will be joined by a 4.4 per cent Best Bitter.

All being well, that flurry of festivals will serve as a springboard to sustained success. The output of one barrel a week, or 288 pints, could easily be doubled within the present set-up, and Phil is also eyeing-up a handful of York pubs and contemplating the future.

“This is like a feasibility study,” he says. “Because we came across the culture in the States of home-brewers setting up to become nano-brewers, it gave us a model to follow.

“We are hopeful, and have taken heart from people we have spoken to, who say this could work for us. It would be nice to have pubs local to this area Pocklington and the surrounding villages selling our beer.”

Vegan beer...

ALTHOUGH the core ingredients of beer are vegetarian, many breweries use isinglass finings, a fish-based additive, to help beer settle clearly.

Phil and Harriet say their beers will be vegan, meaning they will avoid such finings. They say they hope to emulate the successful approach of Marble Brewery in Manchester and Little Valley near Hebden Bridge, both of which produce vegan beers that have won universal acclaim.