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Our year in Review 2017

I’ve seen some great blogs, mainly through Twitter from various people involved in Brewing or drinking beer, and quite honestly they blow my mind! The intellect of these people is out of this World, I sometimes have to read and re-read them just to make sense of them, unfortunately this is not one of them blogs, so read on and prepare to be disappointed!

It seems fitting to review our first full calendar year in brewing, and what an absolutely awesome year this has been. At the start of 2017 we’d slowly gained a loyal local following and put out our initial range of 3 cask ales. We’ve made no secret of the size of our little operation when we first started out and envy all these breweries that manage to hit the ground running with huge investment and the best of the best shiny stainless kit. It has always been our aim to get beers out there that people like, and luckily for us we’ve done ok.

The learning never stops and this year we’ve met a tremendous amount of people in the industry and took on board all the advice we’ve received. We became members of SIBA and took note of the various issues within the beer World, that are pretty alien, until you start relying on actually making the ‘not so fun’ side of owning a brewery, actually work. Beerflex seems to divide opinion, of course it’s a route to market but luckily in a sense we still don’t produce enough to justify selling via that particular route, and to sit on the fence even more, whether we would or not if we ever did produce on that scale is debateable.

Back to 2017, so February saw us look round a potential new brewery site that promises to also have the most fantastic brewery tap. After various discussions and securing funding through the Business Growth Hub, we signed on the dotted line in May. Much of the discussion lay with the financial viability of getting a 2.5 BBL kit, which ultimately would be limited if we aimed to get our beers out nationwide. We’ve always said we would walk before we could run and there’s always potential to grow and expand in future but to stretch ourselves from the outset, paying off large sums on a kit that is initially too big for us just didn’t make sense.

PBC installations were chosen to fit the brewery, they were local, and upon meeting the Managing Director in Salford, they were friendly and more than capable of doing what we required. I would like to say it was plain sailing but we’ve learnt very quickly that there’s no such thing in Brewing.

We also got our first little van, and although we’ve had a wheel fall off on Mancunian Way, a light blow up and seen the brakes worn to their metal, its helped us to get more of our ales further afield, as far as The New Union, Kendal, into Merseyside and our first little venture towards Yorkshire at the fantastic Callans Micropub in Hebden Bridge.

Our beer range has increased to 6 of our own and our first ever collaboration with The Beer School, who helped brew ‘Monkey Ate My Homework’, this was great fun and something we hope to do more of in the future. Our fourth beer Dirty Harry, was our first go at a Rye beer, 5th was The Last Drop, an English pale that we aptly launched at The Last Drop Village itself, our latest beer Reenys Beans, a coffee mild produced with locally sourced coffee beans from Café Dolcce, Bolton.

We were over the moon to Win Gold in the SIBA North West independent beer awards for our ‘Underdog’ Chocolate Treacle Porter. We knew when we first brewed it that it was a real stand out beer for us and to get recognition when up against so many other beers was fantastic, to then win Bronze for overall cask as well and only beaten by two of the best breweries in the country at this moment in time, Hawkshead being the overall winner, was again overwhelming.

There’s much more to come and #tryanuary should provide a great platform for us to get more out there! We’ve done very little other than cask so far, with a few forays into keykegging and recently bottling a few of our beers. Not a day seems to go by on Twitter without breweries fighting the corner of cask vs keg or alternately reducing cask to focus more on keg. Our stance is quite simple, we don’t have the capacity, output or equipment to solely focus on Keg, but we hope that by key kegging we can get a feel for what works and what doesn’t so that we’re prepared in future. Cask is what got us into brewing and ultimately was our drink of choice before we even did that. It is quintessentially British and to think that it doesn’t have a future in the UK doesn’t sit well with me, what can be more exciting than putting a beer in a cask and letting it develop itself (when looked after), and drinking the result! It was good to see another brewery this week discuss the costings of cask ale, and yes we really do need to stick to our guns on pricing of this great product (and I didn’t even bring beerflex into the argument!........ Oh but now I just did, damn….)

As for our aspirations for 2018, the brewery tap is firmly the focus of our minds. The potential for a great place in the centre of Bolton that provides real ale at source alongside artisan food producers, live performances and an overall good meeting place is literally a light at the end of the tunnel for us and wary of giving any completion dates for this because I’ve been bitten more than once on this, all I can say is that we want it open in 2018 more than anyone.