Tag Archives: Cloudwater

Breweries to watch out for in 2017

Here we are, staring bleary-eyed at another year having rolled around. 2016 saw lean times on the BeerCast in terms of writing, but there was more than ever going on in the world of brewing in the UK. As this is now the tenth year I have been writing about beer, that is more than reason to fire up the presses once again.

Time to kick things off in the traditional manner by taking a look ahead at some producers in England and Scotland to keep an eye on throughout the course of 2017. I’ve done this every year since 2012 and you can have a look at previous predictions here; 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012).

As ever, these are a few breweries who have interesting stories to keep an eye on and see how they progress – I’ll post a follow-up midway through the year to chart their progress…



SCOTLAND

Williams Bros – My overall pick to watch for Scotland would be the Brotherhood from Alloa. Williams Bros announced yesterday morning a planned expansion that’s short on concrete detail but includes a scaling up described as ‘radical’ and an overall aim of providing a bespoke packaging service for small-scale brewers looking to begin exporting. Williams Bros embraced canning last year, and waters thus tested they could carve themselves another niche pairing other can-curious breweries with exporters such as the Craft Beer Clan of Scotland (with whom they have an existing barrel-ageing programme). It’s barely two years since WB last expanded (to the tune of £1m); the fact that they are looking to re-up in 2017 is fascinating.

 

 

Bellfield Brewery – One of the increasing trends to follow over the course of the year could be ‘specialist’ breweries. The way the market is going, having a point of difference that works can boost producers into public consciousness way above (and irrespective of) the size of their business. Take Bellfield – Scotland’s first exclusively gluten-free brewery. The end of last year saw the Edinburgh producers secure their first UK-wide listing, charting a rapid increase in scope that their planned bespoke brewhouse will be able to supply. If this comes online and more beers are added to the portfolio (of existing Pils and US IPA) then look for both co-founders to use their media backgrounds to truly make Bellfield known up and down the country.

 

 

Fierce Beer – You may well have heard of Fierce Beer, but if you haven’t then chances are 2017 is the year in which you will. They blew onto the scene last year in a way not seen for a while – since the first brew in May, ex-oilworker homebrewers Dave Grant and David McHardy ratcheted everything up almost immediately. Within three months they had secured investment to expand into a brewhouse in Dyce, created a core line-up of ten different beers and launched into London by taking over the Rake in Borough Market. One of the great things about the industry at the moment is that brewers can create ranges with peanut/raspberry/habanero and it is in no way a gimmick. Fierce by name, Fierce by nature – look out, 2017.

 

 

Fyne Ales – One nugget that slipped out unnoticed towards the end of last year was the fact that the champions of Argyll had started a programme of spontaneous fermentation. Having obtained seven French wine casks a very special beer was encased within and is apparently going to remain there for at least two years. But instead of adding Fyne Ales to the 2019 brewers to watch list, they probably deserve keeping tabs on much sooner than that – their barrel-ageing programme is set to reveal all kinds of treasures (if you like Imperial Stouts, for instance) and when coupled with the fact that 2017 is the fifteenth anniversary of their first full year of brewing, expect one of the best breweries in the UK to get even better.

 

 

Dead End Brew Machine – Speaking of Fyne Ales, their sponsorship of the 2012 IBD Scottish Homebrew Competition resulted in Zombier, a porter created by Jake Griffin and Chris Lewis. Both now have microbreweries of their own, and to be honest either could be in this list. Jake’s Up Front had an amazing year last year – I can only hope that Chris’s concern has a similarly breakout twelve months. From debuting a passion fruit IPA (Dead One) in March, Chris brewed at a series of different places with every single result being outstanding. Glasgow has seen a surge of brewing talent arrive over the last year or so, which is fantastic to see. If Chris gets more brewdays in the bank over the next few months, be sure and track down anything he comes up with.





ENGLAND/WALES

Harbour – Moving into England, we start with Harbour Brewing Company. This time last year Eddie Lofthouse and his team were brewing on a 10BBL kit and pondering a few changes. That resulted in a new 30BBL kit, a new canning line and a new head brewer in Stuart Howe. A year of consolidation is far from on the cards however as they are soon to rip out that canning line for a larger one (a sure sign that aluminium is back and here to stay) and are planning on building an entirely new warehouse to free space for an enlarged brewery. Their second expansion in two years will see Harbour replacing almost their entire core line-up and refreshing the packaging to boot. So no signs of slowing down in Cornwall…
 

 

Camden Town – It’s just over a year since AB-InBev wrote the biggest cheque to be seen in British brewing for quite a while – the around £85m to buy Camden Town Brewery. Since then the packaging has been tweaked, fellow subsumers Elysian flew over for a collab (their shared AB-InBev parentage not making this ‘did you know?’ blog post), and new beers were released. Oh, and a colossal new brewery constructed in Enfield. Come the spring, the facility will be open and from then on it will be fascinating to see where Camden Town (and their beers) end up, both figuratively and literally. Only time will tell – but a lot of eyes will be turned to North London in the meantime…

 

 

Elusive – Andy Parker was on this list last year, and he’s going on it again. Back then it was down to the strength of his collaborations and the prospect of the upcoming brewery build in Finchampstead. Now, it’s because his brewery is complete and he has started production. Like Chris Lewis, I’m not quite sure Andy knows just how brilliant he is as a brewer (even with the homebrewing awards) – although a glance at a few Golden Pints roundups from across the beer writing world would make that immediately obvious. Andy is now advertising for a part-time brewer to join the team, and with more new beers hitting the shelves than ever, I’m genuinely excited to see where the next year is going to take him.

 

 

Lines Brew Co – Moving into Wales, the sudden demise of Celt Experience under Tom Newman was a real shame – but thankfully he bounced back pretty quickly with a new brewery specialising in Farmhouse Ales and with no beer brewed more than once. All of these things make Lines Brew Co worth watching, and their base in Caerphilly will undoubtedly be home to all manner of fascinating experiments in brewing, ageing and harnessing of the mighty yeast. With beers already out, expect word to similarly escape in 2017 about this particular Welsh brewery – certainly if the standard of beers they brought to IndyMan back in October are anything to go by…

 

 

Cloudwater – Finally, we have Cloudwater. They were the number 1 English brewery to watch on this list last year, and (although an easy pick) certainly came through to justify it. I wasn’t going to include them for 2017 – they are off on that upward curve already – but a few days ago the announcement was made that they are ceasing cask production and will be focusing on keg and bottle/can, with cans then taking a higher percentage of their beer. This is going to be one of the stories of the year to follow, as evidenced by the staggering outpouring of beer blogs that resulted. Have a read of the best of them here, here and here and then make a mental note to check back a few months from now to see if Cloudwater’s decision was a positive or negative for the industry.



And the place you can check back is right here, around June/July when I’ll be revisiting all of these stories to see how each of the ten breweries are faring. Let me know in the comments below if there are any other breweries who will have breakout years in 2017 or will have stories to follow!

Best New Beers of 2015…Cloudwater Bergamot Hopfen Weisse

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Following the initial nomination of Wild Beer Co Yadōkai yesterday, the annual look back at the most memorable new British beers continues. There are four other places to fill in the list, and for the next choice, we head off northwards from the plains of Somerset to the city of Manchester. There, a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Station, you’ll find one of the breweries of the moment. In the spring, one of their launch line-up really stood out…



Bergamot Hopfen Weisse (6.0%)
Cloudwater Brew Co, Manchester.
(keg/bottle, March)

Beers of the Year, Breweries of the Moment, Cask Ales of the Millenium. All these lists have to be put together with a touch of tongue in cheek – it’s all subjective, after all – but one of the producers that beer people have talked about the most this year have to be Cloudwater. That stems in part from the publicity they generated at launch, and also from the fact that Paul Jones and his assembled team are well funded and have the internet savvy to get noticed. But it also results from the fact that their beers have well and truly followed this up – Cloudwater are absolutely walking the walk, just over a year since they first appeared.

New breweries fly out of the gates all of the time – I have recently written about how Cloudwater got started, so I won’t go over it all again here, but from the first tasting of their beers they have only got even better. Back then, at a tasting at Edinburgh’s Hanging Bat, an excited/nervous Paul and head brewer James Campbell talked through their philosophy and what they wanted to achieve, and did so over some beers that didn’t quite hit the mark (which is only to be expected), but many more that were seriously, seriously accomplished.

And that is the key word here, I think, why so many people have grasped what Cloudwater are trying to do. It’s not just hype. Their beers totally deliver. I’m more a cask fan, but it’s their keg offerings that have really come through in their first year of operations. Their seasonally-changing IPA, their Citrus Gose, and chief amongst all – the Bergamot Hopfen Weisse. Brewed with bergamot lemons added to the kettle during the boil, and again in the fermenter, of all the Earl Grey beers I’ve tried, this has been the standout (James’ previous brewery Marble occupied the top step, with their Earl Grey IPA).

I fully believe we should give new breweries time to settle in. But every now and again you try a debut beer from a brewery and realise that they have nailed it at the first attempt. Cloudwater’s Bergamot Hopfen Weisse was very definitely that beer, this year.



Check back tomorrow for the third in this series of best new British beers of 2015, which hails from the equally great brewing city of London. Find out then what beer it is. Cloudwater went from strength to strength over the course of the year, and their double IPA also has found its way on many people’s best-of lists for beers of the year…(but not mine, one beer per brewery maximum!)

Cloudwater – ‘We don’t have a message. We have human beings’

CloudwaterTour1

It would have to be meditative, the music playing over the sound system at the Cloudwater Brewery in Manchester. Even the doorbell sounds like a jazz clarinet, but the ambience inside the brewing facility on the Piccadilly Trading Estate is made harmonious and mellow by the choice of tunes leaking softly from the PA system. It’s tough to state definitively, given how everyone approaches things from different angles, but Cloudwater have quickly become (in my mind) one of the most talked about new producers in the UK over the last few months – and as part of this the fact that the choice of music playing was Tibetan-style and melodic didn’t really come as a surprise; Cloudwater having taken their name from a literal translation of the Zen Buddhist term unsui, taken from a Chinese poem “To drift like clouds and flow like water.”

There’s a sense that Cloudwater founder Paul Jones has set out to try and do things differently to the norm, and not just in terms of the brewery sound system. One of the most-discussed of these is that they do not have a core lineup – the entire beer range changes every three months with the season. So their Spring IPA will be very different to their Autumn IPA, for instance – and entirely new styles will be subbed in depending on ingredients and what the brewteam decide could be utilised. On a recent Saturday morning visit to the brewery, Paul (above) talked about some of the other things that he believes could be done differently to the standard model of opening a brewery – and one that he kept returning to was how to record the process on social media.

Ever since picking up the keys to what used to be an advertising hoarding company (at the start of October last year), Paul set out to document exactly how the brewery would come together, deciding that he would move away from big messages and proclamations about the future of Cloudwater and instead focus on things that he would have wanted to see, had he been following a new brewery grow on social media. So, things like intricate photos of the installation and the new flooring. “It’s what interests me,” says Paul, pointing behind him to the brewkit. “Although I did wonder how many people would respond – until about a month and a half in when guy did, saying ‘for fuck’s sake you’ve got me liking pictures of pipes on Sunday morning’, and I thought ‘Yesss!'”

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“So during the fit out there were lots of things that we were getting to see that very few people would ever get to see,” he continues. “I thought if I don’t have something of a record of this, I am really going to regret it. So just because I’m super-enthusiastic about that, I mean – some of the contractors we used totally thought I was stark raving mad. They said why are you fascinated that I’m on my knees hand trowelling this resin floor? But I didn’t know that guys had to get down on their knees to do massive warehouses – Coca Cola gets the same treatment, by hand, and the craft in their work is unbelievable. I mean, this entire floor was laid by a guy with a long piece of wood. They dump all of the resin containing sand and cement composite mix and to finish he hand-tamps it down into the angle that we need it to be. He takes initial measurements and then everything else is done from his skill and his eye. It’s mind-blowing.”

Taking delight in the small things is something I can appreciate, certainly – and Paul backs up his assertion by stating that if it gets him excited then chances are there’s someone else out there who also takes more than a passing interest in what they are doing as well. And that, for him, is reason enough. He carries on, waving his arm around the brewery. “In that way, it’s an anti-strategy, because I don’t think about how it is accepted. I just think if I resonate with something; I’m a human being, there are other human beings out there and that’s enough. I don’t want people to like our message. We don’t have a message, we have human beings and we have stuff that’s interesting and people will hopefully respond to that.”

Just at the point where you start to think he’s a unremitting Scrapbooker intent on capturing and regurgitating everything the brewery is up to, he underlines exactly what it is that makes him tick. “I guess the only way that I did strategise is because I knew that I wouldn’t talk about stuff that is happening in the future. And I still really try hard to not do that. I hate to – I don’t think you’ll ever find me taking a picture of my beer every week and saying, like, ‘here it is!’ or ‘Cheers!’ or something like that, that isn’t quite me, I’d rather find those details of things that we are working on, and geek out about those and share those instead. Unfortunately, I get so little time to do that these days. I’d like to do more – there are always lots of things going on, or new processes, new beers we are brewing, new things that I see – I just don’t get time to capture it these days. I hope to work on that, though…

CloudwaterTour3

No time is easy to imagine – despite the fact that Cloudwater produce five brews a week (two double brews and one single) it seems like everyone there is working constantly, at high pace. Partly this is down to still being a new brewery of course – having just passed their first anniversary, but other parts are down to the simple fact of operating their facility. Located a few minute’s walk from Piccadilly Station, the brewery shares a water supply with the colossal 338-room Macdonald Manchester Hotel and Spa. The result is the flow they get is ‘pathetic’ – but any alternative would mean the opposite at the other end. “The hotel would have fountains for toilets, otherwise” Paul says, ruefully. “We can’t even do a tenth of what we want to do here – but at least we can have some visitors. The alternative would be out at Trafford Park or by the airport.”

Plans for something to add to this have fallen back a little, but are still going to happen. An archway on Sheffield Street with space for 250 barrels will be turned into a fermentation bar, serving sour beers and natural wines, plus Bretted ciders and fermented food plates. It sounds like a fascinating idea, and one that will again set Cloudwater apart from the others. As they continue to solve the problems all small breweries face – yet in their own unique way – Cloudwater will surely remain one of the beermakers to watch in the UK for some time to come.



Thanks to Paul Jones and the Cloudwater team for allowing us to head along and bombard them with questions. This article originally stated the barrel-store contained 250 barrels – Paul has confirmed that’s the capacity overall and the current number is around 100. Too much frantic note-taking!

Obstacles to be overcome: Introducing Cloudwater Brew Co

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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.

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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.