As 2019 comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on a year that was perhaps the most significant and exciting for us as a brewery since we opened in 2015. It seems like a long time ago now, but it is barely 12 months since we completed the expansion to double our fermentation capacity. Looking back at what we have achieved since then - the beers we have released, everything we have learnt, how the brewery has developed - it’s been a pretty fantastic year for Wild Horse.
In many ways our year has been shaped by the launch, and success of, our special release beers. 2019 saw us brew 112 batches beer, including fourteen new Wild Horse beers, with most of those going into can as well as keg. We introduced a second ‘house’ yeast strain (London Ale III) and put it to work fermenting our core session IPA, Nokota. We then used this new yeast to underpin a series of modern, hop forward recipes, brewed with balance, drinkability and flavour in mind. In March, with cans illustrated by Lee Owen @drcubis, we released the first of these beers - Tramcar #1, Fatlamp and No Vacancies. The response we got was beyond anything we could have hoped for and has helped set the tone for the next stage in the brewery’s development.
Our team has also grown this year. Ryan Sharples joined us in a wide-ranging role with responsibilities including sales, deliveries and supervising our taproom. Sarah and Zac have been invaluable as part-time taproom and events team members. It’s always an exciting time bringing new people in, and really rewarding when new team members quickly get on board with what we’re all about. We are extremely fortunate to have a team of brilliant people who all bring something different to Wild Horse, and the range of skills and personalities shapes who we are as a brewery.
2019 also saw our two biggest collaborations to date. We brewed Summit Fever with London’s Brick Brewery and then an East Coast / West Coast IPA collaboration with Crafty Devil Brewing from Cardiff. It was amazing collaborating with two breweries we have so much respect for, we had a blast working together and made some delicious beer along the way.
The Brick collaboration was part of their Three Peaks Challenge project and involved team members from each brewery climbing the highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales. We’re incredibly proud that Emma completed the challenge with an official personal time of less than 24 hours. The project also saw a charity contribution from each can, keg and pint sold, with over £1,500 from sales of Summit Fever being donated to our chosen charity, Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation.
More recently, we launched our brand-new website complete with online shop in November – another milestone event for us – and can now get brewery fresh craft beer from our cold room direct to our customers anywhere in the UK. The talented Jonty at Cardigan Creative has helped us create a more minimalist website to showcase our brewery, the beers and the locally inspired artwork.
In addition to the highs, there have also been challenges behind the scenes. At the brewery, the combination of new beers, new yeast, new tanks, new artwork and pre-booked canning dates has meant some long and busy days and, at times, some hard-yet-important lessons for the production team. There have been some cock ups along the way, with four batches going down the drain this year after they failed our stringent Quality Control checks. When this happens it hurts, but we have learned a lot each time and go into 2020 as better, more experienced and more knowledgeable brewers.
Outside of the brewery, a lot of babies have arrived over the last 12 months or so, with half the team becoming parents for the first time. Emma gave birth to baby Freddie in January which was bookended by new arrivals for both Aled and Chris H too. This has been an amazing time for all, and it’s perhaps even more remarkable that we’ve been able to achieve what we have given all the new challenges at home!
Coming into 2019 our aim was to brew beer with balance, drinkability and flavour. This seems like a fairly simple aspiration, but achieving the three aims together is a challenge whatever the style. And, for us, these three elements must all come together to make a truly great beer. Our aim is to make delicious beer that encourages you to take the next sip, beer that convinces you to order another round or open a second can. Moving into 2020, we continue to learn, develop and refine with our core aims in mind.
So what’s next? 2020 will see more Special Release beers and the most ambitious brewing and release schedule we have put together so far. Fatlamp, Tramcar and Scorched Earth will become rotating regulars. Divebomb, No Vacancies, The Serpent & The Worm, Run for Cover, Off Season and Mr Mills’ Circus will be brewed more seasonally. We also have plans for one-offs and collaborations in the pipeline as well as some pretty exciting news about our core range to share with you in the New Year.
As we look back on an amazing year, we’d like to close off 2019 by thanking everyone who continues to drink or sell our beer for your support. We love what we do, and couldn’t do it without you guys showing us some love. Bring on 2020!