Category Archives: English Beer

Obstacles to be overcome: Introducing Cloudwater Brew Co

Cloudwater2

We want to shake things up, if we can. The whole thing is like a peleton – you know, with guys like the Kernel and Magic Rock – and we want to do our turn at the front…

Paul Jones is fairly softly-spoken, but he’s also a keen and compelling speaker when it comes to the subject of his new operation, Manchester’s Cloudwater Brew Co. The above quote – one of many from a hugely interesting meet the brewer event last week at Edinburgh’s Hanging Bat – was said not with any degree of arrogance or entitlement, but simply with unremitting enthusiasm. It’s a frame of mind that many new brewery people have; the boundless optimism of ideas, accounts to be won, and whatever long future runs out ahead. But it never gets tiresome hearing it – particularly with a producer like Cloudwater who started things off in the very best way possible.

What exactly do I mean? Consider the evidence…

Exhibit A – The people involved in Cloudwater Brew Co make the whole thing like a Northern Supergroup; a comparison not at all dispelled by the 70’s style roadshow that followed the official launch at Manchester’s Port Street Beer House. In a clockwise flurry, the Cloudwater team then subsequently pitched up in Edinburgh, Newcastle, London, Brighton and Bristol. A showcase normally attached to manufactured bands or political battlebuses, transferred to modern British brewing (I can only imagine they have a flashing totaliser somewhere).

But in gathering brewing talent from Marble, Summer Wine and BrewDog, James has surrounded himself with a serious amount of talent. I guess that’s as fitting a testament to the scale and scope of brewing these days; the inexorable rise in breweries means an awful lot of highly skilled people – and it’s great for a new start-up brewery to have these impressive people making up their spine. All new breweries face challenges; to rely on men and women who have that level of experience must be enormously reassuring.

Exhibit B – The kit and brewery itself didn’t come easy – Paul spent eight months looking for a site, before finding one in November on the Piccadilly Trading Estate, a few minutes walk from Manchester’s busiest train station. Inside, a custom-built San Diegan (San Diego-oan?) 15BBL (24HL) brewhouse – which has been running only a few months. Also, from the start of April, an archway space for 150 barrels with a bar serving sours, natural wines, Bretted ciders, and all kinds of other things tart and fascinating.

As Paul says – “I’m really interested in what happens when nature takes over.” This theme of transition is central to Cloudwater, it seems – later on in the evening, he talks about the Champion Beer of Britain; not in a disparaging way, but in a more measured, practical tone – “CBoB is about maintaining consistency, but ingredients change. Things taste different. I mean, we might brew an IPA year-round, but it will change.” Which leads me to…

Cloudwater1

Exhibit C – The way that Cloudwater have been built up; the core behind how they will approach things, is laid upon something not usually seen in British brewing – Buddhism. Paul (above left, with head brewer James Campbell) is seemingly quite the spiritual chap; the name is a literal translation of the Zen Buddhist term unsui, taken from a Chinese poem “To drift like clouds and flow like water.” Obstacles to be overcome are parted like clouds; flowed around like water.

Now, if you snorted a little reading that, fair enough. But if a brewery can hold onto an attitude like that whilst keg washing or phoning the Duck and Doughnut for the ninth time about an invoice, then they are probably on the right path. As Paul says – “it’s all about managing perception.”. What many drinkers might perceive as folly, they see as strength. And who can argue with that? Particularly with…

Exhibit D – The recurring theme of transition and movement in their beer range, which will change every three months, with the seasons. It’s my understanding that each will reflect different influences; the current Spring series is noticeably session-strength in outlook, for instance. This underpins how important regional and seasonal ingredients are to them, and instantly gives Cloudwater a huge amount of room to manoeuvre.

But what about the beers? Well, the standout of the eight I had were the 5.5% Citrus Gose – a truly brilliant beer, softly fruity and finished with a tickle of salt, and the 6% Bergamot Hopfenweisse, an waxy Citra/Galaxy masterpiece. The Spring IPA was also fantastic, as were the sharply bitter Pale Ale and Pennine Light. Only the Imperial Stout disappointed, needing more body to back up its 9.5%abv.

Cloudwater5

Exhibit E – Yet what they have achieved from the front end of operations since November has been fantastically impressive; and the way the operation is being run is a blueprint for new modern brewing. Best of all? Why I think they will go far? Because of how they started. According to Paul, each member of the Cloudwater team contributed, in writing, what they wanted to achieve from the brewery; their personal aims and goals – however small or seemingly unrealistic.

And that was how Cloudwater began, with that mission statement. Not corporate, not trifling – one with actual merit. A true statement of intent – irrespective of obstacles to be overcome (or flowed around).



Cloudwater Brew Co Website and Twitter Feed.
The brewery tap launches at Units 7-8, Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester, M1 2NP on the 4th of April.
For an excellent interview with Paul Jones, check out this great post from Chris Hall.

Breweries to watch out for in 2015

As last year began, I posted the now traditional list of breweries to watch out for in 2014. Looking back, picking Williams Bros to have a big year based on their plans was a fairly safe bet – but the opening of Drygate has gone better than they could have hoped for (at least in my experience, and of others I’ve spoken to who have been there). Pretty much all of the other choices also produced fantastic beer.

The British brewing scene continues to be in good health – and for that, we have to thank the men and women making our beer; for their skill, commitment and imagination. Here, then, is a list of Scottish and English breweries who I think will move to that next level over the course of 2015, or who have interesting stories to watch (with apologies to producers in other parts of the UK, who’s scenes I know less well)…



SCOTLAND

Tempest_Logo

Tempest – When it comes to my overall pick to take the next step in 2015, there’s simply no competition. Tempest finally – finally – have all the pieces in place to move on and really become players in the UK beer scene. That most important piece; the long-awaited new brewery, is in place giving them ten-times the capacity of the old. Added to this is Tempest’s re-brand that took place in August, giving them a cleaner look. When you factor in the beers (particularly their new and growing saison line) there are few producers making a more solid range, across every style. The upcoming Borders Rail Link is even set to terminate a hundred metres from their Tweedbank facility. 2015 is going to be Tempest’s year.

 

 

ForthBridge

Forth Bridge Brewery – It’s almost two years since I first wrote about Dave Robertson’s plans for a brewery in the shadow of the Forth Bridge, and still no sign of the facility appearing in South Queensferry. Well, apart from a couple of photos on Twitter and then the a release of a sprawling proposal that wouldn’t look out of place amidst the wharves of San Francisco. Last year’s main FBB news was the addition of a distilling arm, set to produce whisky, gin and vodka; as well as beer – 110,000 litres a week. Another funding campaign is set for February, before the site is slated to open in September 2015. Dave’s faced plenty of battles so far – but if his facility doesn’t open this year, you have to wonder if it ever will.

 

 

Eden Mill

Eden Mill – The Eden Brewery, St Andrews always felt to me as if they had something of a crisis of identity. Sometimes confused with the Eden Brewery in Cumbria; and othertimes with the St Andrews Brewing Company. But a subtle move towards embracing the pull of spirits has given Eden a new individuality. The Eden Mill Brewery and Distillery are now clear of purpose and image, and I think they are set for big things over the next twelve months. With Paul Miller behind them, it was always a matter of time before they moved to producing hardier stuff than beer, and this dual-wield approach is becoming one of the trends within the industry. Eden Mill, as they are now, are positioned right at the front.

 

 

LerwickBrewery

Lerwick Brewery – Brewing on Shetland has to be one of the most challenging propositions in the industry; there isn’t really a market like it in the UK. Sonny Priest’s Valhalla Brewery on Unst gained competition in mid-2013 with the arrival of the Lerwick Brewery, and with a flurry of announcements at the close of last year, 2015 could be the time when people in a much larger catchment area get to hear their name. Within a short space of time, Lerwick signed distribution deals that, like a game of Risk, moved their beers Scotland-wide, then UK-wide, and then into Tesco. Bold stuff for a brewery with three core beers located on an island as logistically challenging as Shetland. Will it pay off?

 

 

Brewmeister

Brewmeister – Yes, Brewmeister. Everyone’s favourite ‘is it or isn’t it’ brewery have got an important twelve months ahead. Forgetting all the controversy of last year; as they have clearly knuckled down and gone straight, there’s nothing to hide behind but the beer. Employing a head brewer, going through a management shuffle, and systematically changing recipes – it looks as if Brewmeister are now hoping to win out purely based on the product of their brewing vessels. It’s going to be interesting to see how they’ll get on – can they win back people who may have been put off previously? Will the new-taste combine with the new-look to mean new markets? Time will tell…

 

 

CarbonSmith

Carbon Smith – Picobrewing is where it’s at; bedroom breweries are seemingly springing up all over Scotland. And why not? It gets your beers to market without rolling the dice on contracting, and your name is out there instantly. For those who’s primary goal isn’t to make a colossal profit at the end of year one, it’s now a viable proposition. Carbon Smith are the first bedroom brewer to scale up to their own facility (albeit one that measures 16ft x 8ft). But the beers emanating from it so far have been incredible. As the pico- model becomes more prominent, everyone thinking of taking the plunge will be keeping an eye on Carbon Smith’s progression.





ENGLAND

Burning Sky

Burning Sky – I’m not sure if there was an English brewery (aside from maybe Buxton) who generated more of a steadily-rising buzz amongst the beer community last year than Burning Sky. Mark Tranter’s project in East Sussex produced some astonishing beers in 2014, particularly their barnstorming saisons. With their weighty foudres still being left to quietly do their thing, Mark’s website states “…it is not envisaged that the full extent of Burning Sky will be apparent for another 2 or 3 years.” But the secret is already out, and beer drinkers up and down the country will know their name long, long before then. There’s not an English producer I look forward to enjoying more this coming year, than Burning Sky.

 

 

Siren

Siren Craft Brew – Well, maybe it’s a tie with Siren, at least. Finchampstead’s finest are one of those rare breweries, in that they have never, ever let me down. As with Burning Sky, all of their new releases are must-purchases, irrespective of format. This coming year should be a big one for Siren Craft Brew; they celebrate their second birthday in March with a festival of barrel-aged beers (featuring their 2015 Maiden), and anyone who possesses more than a passing interest in collaborations will have marked the new Rainbow Project, as the pairings fully go transatlantic. Siren also just announced the addition of a dry-hopped Berliner Weisse to their core range. I haven’t written a more exciting paragraph than that for some time…

 

 

Roosters

Roosters – Why aren’t Roosters better known? This, to me, is one of the British beer questions I just can’t understand. They make phenomenal beer, both traditional and modern in style. Their pale ales are every bit as good as Oakhams, or those from Fyne Ales. Their branding is brilliant, classic whilst being eye-catching. And the Fozardii are the nicest couple of guys you could ever hope to meet. Maybe it’s the Yorkshire thing – the sheer number of nearby competitors, and the colossal amount of outlets in the region; I don’t know. Anyway, Roosters are a sensational brewery, and to me seem permanently on the verge of a breakout year. Let’s hope that 2015 is that for them. Maybe launching canned beer will make the difference?

 

 

Northern_Monk

Northern Monk – Staying in Yorkshire, we have a brewery that is surely set for that breakout year. After a prolonged period of contracting, Northern Monk finally were able to open their own brewery a few months ago, and in the short time since have built on that considerable wave of support. This is undoubtedly down to several reasons – not the least of which are the fantastic beers they have released, right out of the gate. But, also, it’s because they have embraced (and been embraced by) the city of Leeds; their twenty-tap NMBCo Refectory has quickly become a go-to addition to the scene in this beer-mad city. As they bed in to their new location, expect great things from Northern Monk this year.

 

 

Almasty

Almasty – Finally, we end this lightning-tour of premonitions in the North-East, and with yet another hugely exciting prospect. Mark McGarry, ex-Mordue and ex-Tyne Bank, is one seriously talented brewer, and the chance to head out into the wide world of brewing and produce his own recipes was too big to resist. The ‘Wild One’ (to which Almasty apparently refers) dialled up a stunning brown ale – what else – for his debut beer, and in year of wave after wave of saisons, his Sorachi-hopped version really stood out as well. Now he’s had a bit of time to take stock of the new challenge, 2015 is going to be the year Almasty become impossible to ignore.



So, what do you think? Any breweries out there who you think will have breakout years in 2015, or have stories that you really want to follow? Let me know in the comments. As ever, I’ll be checking back with these eleven breweries at the mid-way point of the year, to see how they have been getting on…

“I don’t really get out much” – the Bad Seed takeover

I’m always intrigued when it comes to tap takeovers. Not because of the myriad of beers that are on offer, although this is a big draw, of course; more because of the reaction of the brewers themselves to seeing so many of their own wares on offer at once. Some are fairly blasé about it, whereas others react as if it’s their name up on the glittering exterior of the Palladium. Most, as you’d expect, fall somewhere in between.

Inevitably, that reaction changes over time, with experience; the first tap takeover being a very different proposition to the thirtieth. Without exception though, all brewers (who host events worth attending) take a keen interest in what is being poured – peering at clarity, carbonation and the like as the beers go out, whilst fielding enthusiastic comments about how they are tasting.

A reaction I’ve not often experienced occurred a couple of nights ago at the Hanging Bat, a few minutes before a Meet the Brewer event with Malton’s Bad Seed Brewery. I asked James, by far the more stoic of the pair, what it was like to look at the Bat’s board and see their brewery name repeated so often. “It’s quite weird, really, seeing the beers up there,” he replied, quietly. “Although I’ve never tried half our beers on keg to be honest, because I don’t really get out much.”

This shouldn’t really be that surprising – Bad Seed are hugely busy. They have only been going for a year and a half, and despite appearing on several radars, have done it all hand-bottling from a 4BBL kit. In brewing terms, their operation is tiny. James and partner Chris are fairly sanguine about it, though, and get as much beer out as they can by double brewing a couple of days a week, producing two 3BBL batches and combining them in their ‘roomy’ 6BBL fermenter.

After being called up at relatively short notice on the Bat Phone (due to another brewery withdrawing), they hoarded pretty much everything they had, resulting in a fairly astonishing 17 beers on in the one night. This has to be one of the more tub-thumping elements of the modern beer scene; brewers turning up to ticketed events with more casks/kegs that it’s actually possible to sample in one evening.

We gave it a shot, though. This was the first time Bad Seed had done their own tap takeover (previously they had only done a lone paired event, shared with another brewery). As anyone who’s tried one of their beers knows, their fingerprint is to do something different to the Yorkshire norm, such as taking the most Northern of styles – the Brown Ale – and brewing a wet-hopped version. Sours, too, were also prominent, including a seriously good rhubarb and ginger version.

When you speak to Chris and James, the initial enthusiasm is still evident – if anything, it’s been augmented by a ‘wow, this is really happening’ excitement. They have recently acquired a white wine barrel for ageing their saison, and have beers already in whisky casks. During their day at the Hanging Bat, they also brewed a Wee Heavy for cask-ageing. This is very much the next stage of craft; second level stuff.

Yet the beer that stood out for me was one of the most fundamental there – an October Ale. In the month where pumpkin beers have steadily crept their way into the specials bracket, it’s great to see a harvest ale being produced. You may disagree, but gourd-free barley wines are far preferable, in my book. This one was wet-hopped, as well, with Sovereign, and was sweet, with a subtlety of marzipan and pear drop on the taste.

Bad Seed are definitely on the right path, and will only attract more fans along the way – even in that most competitive of brewing counties, North Yorkshire. If they remain on this upward trajectory, James will find himself out a lot more, you would think…

“Oh, we’re really doing it then?” – the story of Buxton’s Double Axe

DoubleAxe1

Colin Stronge is having valve issues. A new, as yet un-released 8.2% double IPA isn’t co-operating with the bottling machine, meaning a decision is fast-approaching as to whether to struggle on with the protesting bottles, or just keg the lot of it, instead. On the face of it, not exactly the best time to distract Colin with a chat about another big-hitting beer that the Buxton Brewery have just released – but, as ever, he’s instantly agreeable. That beer in question is Double Axe, the 13.6% abv imperial IPA that has recently had the online beer community in rapture (three random RateBeer reviews end with the words ‘Superb.’ ‘A Real Treat.’ and ‘Outstanding’, respectively).

A dual-wield version of Buxton’s all-conquering Axe Edge, Double Axe is a certified monster of a beer. Grainy, nuggety, sweet apricots and peaches – it’s like dessert wine without the fly-trapping stickiness. I ask Colin if brewing Double Axe was something that he and the rest of the team at Buxton had wanted to do for a while. “Oohhhh yeah,” he chuckles. “We’ve discussed it so many times; it’s always been in the back of our heads. But we didn’t have the fermentation space, so again and again it went on the backburner; it’ll appear on the brewplan for a week and then get nudged back.”

“But in August every year, we have a little bit of a quiet spell for two or three weeks. We just kind of decided at that point, we’ve got essentially four or five months worth of recipes that we’ve been working on, that we want to get out of the way; and that [Double Axe] was the first that came up. I pulled out the brewplan one Monday and it was still there, and I thought ‘oh, we’re really doing it then?'” I ask Colin how the brewday went – imagining high stress levels, clanking and hissing pipework, and lots of dials and gauges rattling in the red zones marked ‘danger’. In reality, it wasn’t exactly as tense as that…

“We decided early on that we were only going to brew 10 barrels of it, rather than go for the full twenty,” Colin continues. “So it bought us a little bit of leeway, it meant the mash wasn’t too bad, it meant the transfer was pretty good, it just meant there was a loooot* of hops to be broken up in the meantime. We ended up parti-gyling it, and making a sour out of the second runnings, so it was quite an exciting brewday – it was the first time we’d done that, actually.” The additional beer was a batch of Wolfscote, Buxton’s black sour. Parti-gyling – making two beers from one mash – underlines the experimental outlook taking hold in their brewery.

* I can’t really type that, but at this point Colin made the word ‘lot’ last for two full seconds

I pitch Colin an easy full toss – asking if he thinks the UK beer scene is now more receptive to beers like Double Axe and Magic Rock’s Unhuman Cannonball. He agrees almost instantly. “Yeah. Definitely. Unhuman was the beer that made everyone think ‘Oh, you can make a beer that strong and not have it be a big cloying mess?’. I guess in many ways it eased the path a little for us. Other people are nudging at the idea too – for us, it’s connected to our flagship brand [therefore] is something worth doing. We wanted to do it as a trial for us, and a trial for the brewery, to see what kind of fermentations we could pull out of the bag.” I ask him if there are plans to ever brew it again, and he pauses, for the first time in our conversation.

“I’m not 100%, to be honest. The recipe – well, I made such careful notes, this one was ridiculous, daily changes in temperature and what might have happened, because I thought ‘If this beer goes right, it’ll be wonderful. If it goes wrong, it will be a disaster. But either way, I want to know why it happened’.” So, maybe not – but it looks like the steps and quirks have all been logged, just in case the dusty ledger Colin undoubtedly records things in is flipped open to that page in the future. Interesting, though – and to be honest, perfectly predictable, that Buxton look to be eschewing the annual scrambling that generates from Magic Rock’s yearly UHC release.

I finish up – as Colin is unquestionably staring at the irksome bottling machine – by asking him what’s next for Buxton. Where do you go, after a 13.6% Imperial IPA? “Well, like I say, we’ve had this period of a few weeks where we’ve let ourselves go with the new recipes,” he replies. “So we’ve got the new 8.2% double IPA coming out, we’ve just done an 11% imperial stout with Omnipollo, just done a new 11.8% imperial stout of our own that’s another recipe we’ve had on the backburner for some time. We’re just keeping on doing what we’ve been doing, making the best beers we can. Hopefully you’ll see a few more sours from us this year – there’s definitely one new IPA and a couple of new stouts.”

“Hopefully we’ll be touching a few bases people wouldn’t normally associate with us.”

Exclusive: pre-launch interview with Northern Monk Brewing Co

About a year ago, a bottle of beer was deposited for me to pick up in a local off-licence – meaning the somewhat liberating prospect of walking into a bottle shop and asking for what was under their counter (something I’d only ever done before in bookshops). That beer was a brand new offering from a brand new offeree – Northern Monk Brewing Co’s ‘New World IPA’. Six months later, another email, a re-up, and it was Northern Monk’s Strannik imperial stout. After enjoying both – the latter far more, I have to say – this unusual breadcrumb trail then led to a fleeting appearance at last year’s IndyMan festival in Manchester; to great acclaim.

Fast-forward almost a year, and I finally managed to sit down with NMBCo founder Russell Bisset, just days before their official launch – which takes place tonight, at the North Bar in Leeds. Ahead of that, Russell was only too happy to talk about the route his company has taken, and what their future holds. “We’re really humbled to have launches at North Bar in Leeds and Craft Beer Co in Clerkenwell,” he says (the London launch is set to take place on September the 25th). “We’re still very much a fledgling business. We’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve worked with a number of great breweries across the UK, and it’s led to a presence that’s maybe a little bit ahead of ourselves at the moment.”

This is an interesting point, and it belies the unusual position that Northern Monk find themselves in; ‘launching’ their beers over a year since the first one hit the market. That, of course, is because up until now the beers have been brewed on a contract basis, at Hambleton Ales in Ripon. I ask Russell if he feels extra pressure as a result, given that this week’s launch has been a long time coming. “Yeah, I think so,” he answers, truthfully. “Because we’ve had beers on the market, both cuckoo brewed and collaborations, a lot of people don’t see us as a new brewery; but we kind of are, really. We’ve produced quite a small amount of beer in the grand scheme of things, and we were never going to be 100% happy with beer we were producing in cuckoo fashion.”

“Beer is a combination of science, art and a bit of pot luck,” he continues. “It’s a process you need to nurture. But if you do everything right on a brew day, and then leave it in someone else’s hands, there’s no way you can sleep, as there’s someone else looking after it. It feels great having everything under our control. We’re really stoked about the future.” ‘Under their control’ is an understatement. After leaving the services of Hambleton, Russell and brewer Brian Dickson* now do everything themselves – ‘working every hour that God sends’, as he puts it. They now have a 10 barrel Malrex kit and three fermenters, in a site right in the centre of Leeds. I ask Russell more about it, and their future plans. He starts beaming.

*The affable ex-Grove lynchpin, who went on to form Bitches Brewing and has since joined NMBCo.

“I was really keen to find premises that reflected what we were trying to do in terms of the Northern industrial approach, and pay homage to the industrial nature of things. We found a Grade 2-listed former flaxmill building, ten minutes from Leeds station. We’ll have a little taproom there which is something we’re really keen to do.” When I ask him to elaborate on the ‘little’ taproom, he reels off a list of things that make it sound like one of the destination highlights of the entire city. Sixteen keg lines. Four cask. Eight or nine NMBCo beers on permanent rotation, with others pouring local guests. A working brewery tap, with the bar on the first floor, level with the grist hopper, giving visitors a chance to see and smell the malt as they drink.

It must be pretty frustrating, then, as well as nerve-wracking. Having all these grand plans in place, and the time counting down to when they’ll all go online. “Oh, sure,” he confirms. “We’re so close now. It’s really exciting though – I guess it depends when you ask, really. If you asked on each different day you’d get a different answer; it doesn’t really correlate to the day of the week. I’d either be having a nervous breakdown or be really, really excited. But ultimately we’ve got what we need in place and are committed to making incredible beer. That will happen. We’re not going to hit eleven out of ten on our first brew, as we’ll get used to the kit, but we’re confident we can get there.”



So, what about those brews? Russell lists the core lineup:-

True North – “A 3.7% Pale. Being a Yorkshire brewery, it’s something we need to do.”
Monachus Pale Ale – “We’ve done a US and NZ-hopped version recently.”
New World IPA – “We’ve honed and refined this [since it was contract-brewed], we never really hit where we wanted.”
822 IPA – “Our double IPA; the first recorded use of hops in this country was in 822AD by a monk called Adelhard the Elder.”
Vesuvius – “Our once-a-year triple IPA, so-called because Vesuvius is the volcano that killed Pliny.”*
Strannik – “The beer we were happiest with, when contract brewing; it will definitely be part of the core range.”

* It should be noted Russell said this hugely tongue-in-cheek; it won’t be launched specifically to take pot shots at Russian River’s standout IPA of that name…



Aside from these, Russell talked candidly about mocha porters, session IPA’s and the most craft-forward style of the moment, saisons. They haven’t actually published a full beer list yet for the trade, but he told me the first batch of Monachus has already sold out. “Most of the rest of these should be out in the next couple of months,” he reveals, although he goes on to qualify that statement about Vesuvius – “We’re not going to brew Vesuvius next week, we’ll work up to that.” I ask him, with this lineup heavy with on-point beer styles and abv’s, what will set Northern Monk apart from the plethora of small, up and coming ‘craft’ breweries. He pauses, for pretty much the first time during our conversation.

“That’s a really curly question. The UK’s beer scene has developed so much I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to be better than anyone else. We aspire to be up there, but we’ll have to work our arses off to get there. Ultimately we’re trying to just make the best beer we can. There’s something great to be celebrated about the monastic brewing tradition of the UK and across the rest of the world, and that kind of ties in to the community and collaborations, and things like that. It’s nice to bring those elements back to the fore.”



Northern Monk Brewing Co
The Old Flax Store, Marshalls Mill, Holbeck, Leeds LS11 9YJ
Official Website
Facebook Page / Twitter Feed

The Leeds launch takes place tonight (28th August) at the famed North Bar, and will feature four NMBCo beers. Further details are here, on the Facebook event page. The 25th of September event at Clerkenwell’s Craft Beer Co will feature at least twelve Northern Monk beers – potentially twice that many – and the FB page for that event is here.

Breweries to Watch 2014 – five months on…

At the beginning of January, just two weeks into the new year, I posted a list of British breweries to watch out for in 2014. More and more new producers are opening their doors, indicating that – for the moment – the beer-making scene is in rude health. The industry requires long hours and hard work, of course – plus the increasingly vital ability to fend off constant demands of needy bloggers. Speaking of which, five months down the line from the original post, it’s time to check back with those thirteen breweries, and see how they have been doing, as we approach the halfway point of the year. Have they lived up to their billing?

SCOTLAND

WBrosLogo

Williams Bros – Given the flurry of announcements emanating from the Alloa brotherhood to end 2013, it was a fairly safe pick to position them up at the top of the watch list for 2014. As I write this post, the first beer produced on-site in their Drygate co-venture with Tennent’s-owning C&C Group is conditioning away. However, given they have already had to ship emergency beer in from other producers (Leith’s Pilot: more about whom later), it seems that particular part of Williams Brothers’ operation is going really well. As a result, the uber-bottling/canning machine idea is still somewhat in the pipeline, but it will happen soon enough. Taken into account with the fact that 2014 is the 25th anniversary of the launch of Fraoch – there’s plenty more to come from Williams before the year is out…

 

 

TempestLogo

Tempest‘…finally it seems as if the light is at the end of the tunnel for their long-awaited expansion plan,’ I wrote of Tempest Brewing Co five months ago. As we head towards the end of June, sadly, it seems as if that light remains frustratingly at arms’ length for the Borders’ finest. Problems persist with the move away from the old Kelso dairy into a space being converted for their use. As founder Gavin Meiklejohn has said – “It would have been less complicated building our own factory” – but, last I heard, July was the month when things should come to fruition. It doesn’t need stating that for Tempest, it really can’t come soon enough.

 

 

AlechemyLogo

Alechemy – The pride of Livingston are now into their third calendar year of existence (and at least their third logo). Having fired through a list of changes to conclude 2013, Dr Davies and Co are quietly consolidating and have been simply getting things done. As with Williams, the self-bottling dream of Alechemy will apparently have to remain just that for a while yet, but their new range of bottles has been well-received, and new staff are still coming on board. Look for Alechemy to make more inroads into the English market this year, particularly with regard to beer festivals, which should help get the interest peaking even more than it is at the moment.

 

 

ArranLogo

Arran – In beery terms, there’s never a dull moment on the largest island in the Firth of Clyde; and the first five months of the year have been no exception. Arran’s proposed Rosebank distillery/brewery in Falkirk now looks set to become housing after their preferential leasehold was revoked in February. Their share offer then concluded, closing at £160,000 from a first-round target of £4m. However, another project was announced by MD Gerald Michaluk in March, with plans for a sake brewery in North Ayrshire, and most recently, Arran showed their whisky dreams are still alive by pitching in for the troubled Bladnoch Distillery. On Arran, as ever, it’s all go.

 

 

Print

Innis & Gunn – My rash prediction at the start of the year was that I&G would break free from their Tennent’s umbilicus in 2014 and open their own brewery. It certainly hasn’t come true yet; indeed you can’t help looking at Drygate and wondering what Innis & Gunn think of it, as they continue operations in their existing corner of the C&C Group’s site. Would they wish for a Glasgow-area corner bar and small brewkit, to give their flood of fans somewhere tangible to aim for and drink their beers? I wouldn’t bet against it. Despite posting astonishing progress in the their export markets (such as 900,000 litres to the US alone), if Drygate works out for C&C/Williams Bros, will I&G be left thinking they’ve missed out?

 

 

StAndrewsLogo

St Andrews – Bob Pfaff has been fairly quiet of late, particularly since the new year; but there happens to be an extremely good reason for this. Tomorrow (Friday the 20th), the tanks and equipment are finally being moved from Bob’s Glenrothes unit to be installed in the new brewery, in the centre of the town that bears the brewery name. The brewery tap, of course, has been open for some time (which has to be something of a first, getting a taproom going before the brewery), but St Andrews are very soon set to begin brewing in St Andrews. This move isn’t just important to tie everything in with the branding; currently Bob is pushed right to the limit of production, making beer six days a week on his own. With the move, a brewing team is being employed, giving him the help he needs to possibly relax, just a little.

 

 

PilotLogo

Pilot Beer – Back in January, Leith’s Pilot were tentatively starting to get their first beers out to a select few pubs. Almost immediately, these brought something a little different to the Edinburgh beer scene – a Vienna Pale, a lemongrass and tea ‘iced’ pale ale, and a 6.4% IPA brewed with fenugreek and jaggery “…we’re fully aware it’s a Marmite beer; we just didn’t want to make another West Coast IPA” says Pat from Pilot. Thus, their core range has been nailed down, and Pilot have secured a dedicated backer in Leith’s Vintage. Deciding to move more into unfined beers has paid off, with Matt and Pat facing similar problems to Bob Pfaff – the (welcome) struggle to simply keep up with demand.

 

 

ENGLAND

GreeneKingLogo

Greene King – I’m going to be honest – since their £750,000 microbrewery expansion was announced towards the back end of last year, I’ve heard almost nothing about Greene King’s expansion into ‘craft’ beer (aside from a visit by Ed, of Ed’s Beer Site). Reviews of the new releases have been decent, as opposed to truly spectacular. I said back in January that how the new St Edmund brewhouse fares will determine, in some part, whether other breweries of their scope will explore the craft market – but with Pete Brown tweeting yesterday that Koppaberg are about to launch a line of craft beer, this indicates that the floodgates are, if not open, then undoubtedly creaking.

 

 

BeavertownLogo

Beavertown‘Beavertown are set for a breakout year’, was my carefully-considered, not at all nailed-on prediction from the start of 2014. At the time, they had just relocated to Hackney Wick; since then, they have moved again (Tottenham Hale), added a new head brewer (Jen Merrick) and truly won the hearts of craft beer fans (canned beer). Well, they have if social media is to be believed, that is – the near-continual flurry of photographs of Beavertown’s strikingly-coloured tins indicates how quickly the tech-forward sector of the beer market have taken to them. With other London breweries (such as Fourpure) also investing in canning, will metal-clad ‘craft’ beers creep more into the mainstream, as a result?

 

 

WildBeerLogo

Wild Beer Co – After having been awarded the status of Somerset’s New Business of the year for 2013, Wild Beer entered the start of this year on an understandable high. The good news has kept coming ever since; last month they announced that (in keeping with the bottling theme for the breweries on this list), they had been successful in securing a grant for installing a hugely upgraded bottling line at their Westcombe Farm location. Increasing production to over 1,500 an hour has necessitated in ‘adding four people to the team in the last few months’, to quote MD Andrew Cooper in that link. It seems that the future is still very bright for Wild Beer Co indeed.

 

 

AlphaStateLogo

Alpha State – I marked the card of Alpha State early, entirely due to a trio of beers as good as any I tried in 2013; Citronvand, Neapolitan and Sorachi Red IPA. Since then, in the way these things sometimes go, I’ve not had a single Alpha State beer – but that’s clearly my problem rather than theirs. Since January, things have progressed for the brewery – without doubt peaking when they were invited to exhibit at the new beery mecca of the Copenhagen Beer Celebration. Jonathan Queally continues in his refreshingly independent manner, brewing his way, as ever. If nothing else, it’s probably time for me to have another of his beers…

 

 

BadSeedLogo

Bad Seed – It’s been quite a few months for Chris Waplington and James Broad. Since debuting in October, their Bad Seed beers have arrived in more places nationwide, and they have entered into something of a symbiotic partnership with cross-town Brass Castle Brewery. The attitudes (and most importantly, target markets) of both dovetail brilliantly, and pairing to host events such as March’s excellent Beertown Malton helps get the names of both out even more. Back in January, I said that bringing high-hopped, big-abv beers to that particular part of North Yorkshire was a brave decision; five months down the line, it certainly seems to be paying off for Bad Seed.

 

 

BuxtonLogo

Buxton – After rounding out 2013 in a fashion every beermaker could wish for – by being awarded the BeerCast brewery of the year, you might have thought that was the highest Buxton could ever hope to get. Not so, as since then their brewery tap has gone from strength to strength, and most importantly of all, their new brewhouse is finished and operational – so much so that their trusty, history-laced five-barrel kit is now up for sale (you can buy it here, if interested). Other recent happenings include kicking up a gear with an online shop, and in beer terms, a brett-fermented IPA, Wilder Boar (which also went to Copenhagen). With no let up in enthusiasm, Buxton are still in top, top form.