Friday, June 4, 2010

Brewer of the Week

For this week's Brewer of the Week we head up to the North of England, to Cumbria in fact and to one of the youngest breweries in the UK, Hardknott, which is making the transition from a brewery in a pub to a stand alone microbrewery.

Name: Dave Bailey
Brewery: Hardknott

How did you get into brewing as a career?

We bought a pub and wondered how we could improve it. We had a spare bit of the building that we wanted to find an alternative use for. Several other pubs in the county had already started their own breweries and seemed to be doing better for it.

I researched what was required, sourced a second hand brewery, tried a brew on another brew pub's kit and then went for it.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I think running a microbrewery requires a whole host of characteristics from the brewer; if you like, he needs to be a Jack-of-all-Trades. An analytical mind is important for assessing how to improve the beer, but the ability to be able to think on his feet when a pump fails half way through a brew. A practical outlook, problem solving abilities, a high level of self critique and a good palate all help.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

I think I made a couple of Boots kits many years ago, but I would never consider myself a home brewer.

With my current brew length of 2 barrels, brewing one-off experimental brews is not really a problem. Although at Hardknott we have some established products which we have confidence in, we will never be afraid of taking a risk and trying something new, possibly even ground breaking.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I'm not sure I have a favourite; the best beer depends on the moment. I prefer beers that are full flavoured and stronger, however, there is a time for a good thirst quenching session beer too.

If I could only brew one beer then I think I would choose Infra Red, my ruby red "IPA". It is 6.5% and with a good balance between hops and malt makes a very tasty beer that can still be drunk in pints, providing a level of caution is applied.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

I have never worked in any other brewery. I've visited some and helped out, which is great fun. The most fascinating brewery I have helped at was the White Shield brewery, owned by Molson Coors. The brewer, Steve Wellington, is a great guy and he brews some classic beers which I would like to see made more available. I'd really like to help him brew P2 stout, that's what a stout should be.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

In a pub that would have to be Infra Red. At home probably Granite.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

I'm more interested in exploring new techniques and flavours rather than replicating any authenticity. Quality ingredients and understanding the process are key to a finished beer. In developing and improving Hardknott beers we like to analyse the beer, take note of any changes we have made to the processes or ingredients and how that has impacted on flavours, aromas and mouthfeel and hone to what we hope will be perfection.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

Since I have started brewing I have got to know so many different brewers that it is hard to answer such a question. The thing I love about all the craft brewers I have as good friends is the wealth of knowledge they freely share. The enthusiasm and friendliness of a good brewer is a treasure.

John Keeling should get a mention, partly because he said nice things about me on a previous Fuggled Brewer of the Week, also because I know Fuggled has high regard for Fullers Brewery, but most importantly because John knows that good beer comes from good people.

I have already agreed to go back and help out at the White Shield Brewery sometime in the future, hopefully I'll get a chance to see the old brewery working one last time before she is retired but also I hope to see the replacement working once it is commissioned.

Stuart Ross at Crown Brewery in the Hillsborough Hotel, Sheffield, is a progressive brewer and never afraid to try something new. He is a brewer who has no secrets and is very happy to share his knowledge with other people and so further the cause of good beer.

Phil Lowry from Saints and Sinners and Kelly Ryan from Thornbridge I'm sure could teach me something new and I don't ever think I'll finish learning about brewing beer. Indeed, any brewer who believes they know it all or thinks they can work in isolation will probably stagnate and the beer will be poor quality.

This final point is a criticism I would lay at the door of many regional "family" brewers but scarily, it also applies to one of the most progressive brewers around. As I say, good beer is brewed by good people and I would collaborate with any friendly brewer who likes to share knowledge.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

There are so many. I love the estery flavours in Belgian beers and the recent trend of fusing Belgian style with American Hop Bombs is great, but I had a Raging Bitch last night, so it's fresh in my mind.

I love stronger beers; imperial stouts, barley wines and ridiculously hoppy strong IPAs. I wonder how far that can be pushed, without making the end result a silly one-up-manship race, as has unfortunately happened in some areas of brewing. It's great to see cutting edge brewing, but brewers need to be careful not to let style impinge on substance, just to grab headlines.

So really, the beer I wish I had invented, has not been invented yet, I hope that one day I'll have a hand in helping to invent it, perhaps with of some of the people named above.


  1. Infra red must be a newer one as that was not around when I was over at the old pub.

  2. TaleOfAle, It's a development of Zippy Red.


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