Ant Hayes

Late last year I was contacted by Ant Hayes, a home brewer from Kent – and originally South Africa – of some renown who had been an occasional commenter on this blog. He was writing a piece for Zymurgy, the American homebrew magazine, on Burton Ale – would I, he asked, be interested in adding the historical notes to his own “How to brew a Burton Ale” recipe? I was flattered, and happy to agree – after all, he could have simply ripped off something about the history of Burton Ale from the relevant chapter in Amber Gold & Black and not bothered giving me any credit.

It was an enjoyable collaboration, and I suggested to Ant that perhaps we could take this further: write a whole book with recipes for historic beers, written by him for the homebrewer, accompanied by historical notes about those beers by me. I was too busy over the past few months to do much about putting the idea into action, and now it’s too late. Earlier this week I was stunned and deeply saddened to learn from Jeff Renner in the US that Ant had taken his own life. He was 41, and he leaves behind a wife and two small children, aged eight.

Which leaves me wondering about some of the odder aspects of our collaboration together. Ant called his recreation of the beer that was Burton upon Trent’s other great contribution to British beer styles (alongside the classic gypsum well-water India Pale Ale) “Absent Friends Burton Ale”, and in his description of a typical Burton Ale he told Zymurgy readers:

“When brewing a Burton Ale, it is best to remember the things that comforted you most as a child; your teddy bear or blanket perhaps, and then to aim for a beer that will evoke similar emotions. Drinking a Burton Ale should take you back to a safe, comfortable place, not for you to drown your sorrows, but to help you deal with life’s little knocks. It is a personal beer, and is best brewed for the brewer. If others benefit – so much the better.”

Nothing, it appears, could comfort Ant enough in the end, and life’s knocks became too great even for Burton Ale to soften. And now, for too many, he’s an absent friend. I’m very sorry I never got to know him better: I never even got to meet him in person, we remained “e-friends” only. You can read some tributes from others who DID know him well on the American Homebrewers Association website here . Leonora, his wife, has set up a memorial JustGiving page in his name, which is accepting donations for the charity Holding On, Letting Go, a bereavement support programme for children and young people aged between 6 and 16 years old. When I looked just now it had already raised almost £1,000: if you knew Ant, if you ever exchanged emails with him, if you read and enjoyed our Burton Ale article in Zymurgy, why not send some money in his name.

0 thoughts on “Ant Hayes

  1. God,that’s terrible news. I met Ant a few times, and we’d batted quite a lot of ideas back and forth – he’d asked me for input for a BJCP defintion of British Pale Golden Ale, and he’d contributed a homebrew recipe for sweet stout to homebrew book that I was tech editor for. Really sad news, he was a lovely guy, and I urge anyone who can spare a few quid to donate to the nominated charity.

  2. Really shocked. Met Ant a couple of times and talked braai and beer and enjoyed a great meal at the Beer Writers dinner with him in 2009. Truly gutted. A great, passionate guy. So sad.


  3. Ant spoke at a recent National Homebrewers Conference about Burton Ale and made the same comment about it being a comforting beer. He told the audience about a British expression, “Gone for a Burton,” a euphemism for someone having died. He said that it was used in WWII by RAF pilots when one of their mates had been shot down or otherwise had been killed. His absence was explained by suggesting that he’d just gone out for a pint. I suspect that this is the explanation for the recipe’s name.

    As chance would have it, my next planned brew was going to be a Burton ale, and of course I will brew it with Ant greatly on my mind.

  4. Remember those not here today,
    and those unwell or far away,
    And those who never lived to see,
    the end of war and Victory,
    And every friend who’ve lost our way,
    Remembered of as yesterday,
    It’s absent friends we miss the most,
    To all, let’s drink a loving toast.

  5. I came across this site on a beer thread. I was enormously saddened when hearing the news. Ant was a great friend of mine, going back to school days when we, as two precocious brats, used to sneak to his boarding hostel to quality control his latest batch. As you have all mentioned Ant was a terrific bloke. My heart goes out to his family. Catch my bus.

  6. I still can’t believe Ant has gone. The family is getting together this Christmas and it is so hard for me to think Ant will not be there with his special beer brew. He truely was a terrific husband, father and son-in-law. Daniel and Nicola have really struggled to adjust without their father who was so supportive in all their school and other activities. Ant be at peace love you lots mother-in -law Angela and Martin

  7. Angela – Thanks for the update on the family. I think of Ant all the time, and also find it so hard to realize that he is gone. He was a wonderful friend as well. I imagine that Christmas this year will be an especially hard time for you all. Love to Leonora and the kids. -Jeff

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