Country Life Brewery at The Big Sheep is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month after brewing around five million pints of beer.

Simon Lacey in the brewing room at Country Life Brewery, where all the magic happens. Picture: Tony GussinSimon Lacey in the brewing room at Country Life Brewery, where all the magic happens. Picture: Tony Gussin

Simon and Anna Lacey were new to brewing when they bought the former Lundy Island brewery equipment two decades ago.

These days their iconic and award-winning brews can be found at more than 100 outlets around the UK.

Their best-selling and most popular beer Golden Pig has collected awards throughout its history – including an impressive silver at the Champion Beer of Britain Awards.

Country Life was the only regional brewery to win two golds at the 2017 SIBA South West Beer Awards, for its Old Appledore and Reef Break brews.

Working in the Country Life Brewery at The Big Sheep. An even larger brewing plant has been installed since then.Working in the Country Life Brewery at The Big Sheep. An even larger brewing plant has been installed since then.

Buying the 2.5 barrel brewing plant from Lundy enabled Simon to brew 550 pints a week and in 1998 he set up in an extension to the Pig-on-the-Hill pub near Bideford, run by Anna’s dad.

Then in 2002 The Big Sheep attraction at Abbotsham lost the use of its milking parlour due to foot and mouth, so owner Rick Turner invited the brewery to move in – and it has not looked back.

As well as proving an attraction for visitors, it now brews some 15,000 pints a week, as well as bottling its own beer, which is proving increasingly popular on the flourishing craft ale market.

Simon said: “It’s a massive bonus being here at The Big Sheep, because we are on show to people and can educate them about real ale, plus it’s fantastic for visitors to go away with Devon beer as a present.

Unloading the newly purchased Lundy Island brewing plant for the new Country Life Brewery at the Pg-on-the-Hill pub in 1998. Pictured are Simon Lacey, John Violet and Martin LangmeadUnloading the newly purchased Lundy Island brewing plant for the new Country Life Brewery at the Pg-on-the-Hill pub in 1998. Pictured are Simon Lacey, John Violet and Martin Langmead

“I have a passion for what I do and have a fantastic team – Anna has been absolutely fantastic and without her I don’t think we would be here.”

Simon is proud of the part Country Life plays in the craft ale industry and in line with that tradition, refuses to sell its product to supermarkets.

There are currently six beers in the range but they plan to develop a few more to reflect the growing market.

Plus Country Life is opening its own gin distillery on site in the near future.

Bottling beer at Country Life Brewery at The Big Sheep. Bottles now form a quarter of its turnover.Bottling beer at Country Life Brewery at The Big Sheep. Bottles now form a quarter of its turnover.

The new Atlantic Spirit distillery is expected to open in the next few weeks and it is anticipated it will be officially launched at North Devon Beer Festival in Barnstaple on May 27-28.

Before taking up brewing, Simon went to Bideford College, worked on building the Torridge Bride and served in the Royal Engineers. The couple have two children, Bradley and Aliy.

Some of the Country Life Brewery range. Picture: Tony GussinSome of the Country Life Brewery range. Picture: Tony Gussin

Country Life Brewery has won numerous awards in its 20 year history.Country Life Brewery has won numerous awards in its 20 year history.