Bob Knops is certainly going up in the world, if last weekend was anything to go by. The ‘Mikkeller of Morningside’ has, finally, seen the long hours pay off as his own production facility opened, pride of place inside the new Archerfield Walled Garden in East Lothian. For three long years, Bob plugged away getting his beers channelled out of the TSA contract plant on the outskirts of Stirling – battling all of the associated issues along the way. Building the brand one bottle at a time, in piecemeal fashion, was often immensely frustrating – but the hardest decision of all was presumably the one made at the very beginning; to turn away from a hugely expensive bespoke facility and go down the contracting route.
Fast-forward three years, and all that is behind him. Knops Beer Co – who now employ three people – have swapped the vagaries of Throsk for the rolling opulence of the Archerfield Estate, perched on a prime position amidst the ‘Golf Coast’. Located midway between North Berwick and Gullane, the Estate adjoins its own, exclusive, golf course – but the brewery has been established within the brand new Walled Garden. Inside the large, airy, building – a restaurant, farm shop, bar, small art gallery, craft shop, and Bob’s cavernous new brewery. Everything smells of freshly applied paint and varnish, and on our visit people were peeking through the large windows to the brewkit, eagerly nosing the glass.
On that day, Bob happened to be there, running more than fashionably late for a beer event in Edinburgh. It’s fair to say the brewery and bottling line were utterly spotless – even the mash shovel and cleaning gear were sparkling – and with a huge amount of room to expand, no wonder he was beaming from ear to ear. To be fully in control, to finally get everything in order, must have been a relief of Biblical proportions for him. As part of the deal, Knops will not only produce their own range (and add to it, with the new Knops Premier Bru recently appearing), but will also produce the house beers under the Archerfield Fine Ales label.
Bob seems fairly sanguine about this relationship – as he does about pretty much everything, to be honest. With the innumerable freedoms associated with having an entire facility to play with, presumably there can be increasing differentiation between the two, as and when the Estate wish to add to their offerings – all of which (Knops included) are sold in the farm shop a few paces away. Bob gave us a lightning tour as he nervously jangled the car keys, before dashing off to the city, leaving some tasting glasses behind with a departing warning, blustered over the shoulder, not to leave the taps of the conditioning tanks open.
So, after pushing a few random buttons and filling some jerry cans, we took our leave. It’s fantastic news for Bob, and his team, that this moment has come to pass – there must have been many an evening over the past few years when the plight of the contract-brewer closed in like so many fizzing, problem-laden clouds. Now though, Knops (brewery and man alike) can commit effort, time and finance in the right places. And, ironically, being constrained within a walled garden could lead them to be as free as they’ve ever been.
Archerfield Walled Garden, Dirleton, East Lothian EH39 5HQ
01620 388 588 firstname.lastname@example.org
Archerfield Website / Knops Beer twitter