Since we started out in 2015, the UK craft beer industry has changed massively – and it’s been exciting to be a small part of it all. One of our original, somewhat lofty, goals was to help improve the quality of the beer available in North Wales, and it is a buzz to see how much things have changed in our local area in the last four years. We now have a dozen micropubs, a nanobrewery/taproom and whole lot more craft beer available. When we first started out, we wouldn’t have been sure where you would find an unfiltered, hop-forward pale ale or IPA on keg in North Wales. Fast-forward to today and Nokota, our hazy, fruity and thoroughly modern Session IPA is close to becoming our best-seller, on the verge of surpassing Buckskin – an unapologetically easy-drinking, entry-level craft beer – based almost entirely on support from the trade across the region.
The special release beers we have put out this year, beginning in March, have reflected both this growth in craft beer and our growth and development as a brewery. Our December expansion meant we had additional tank-space to experiment, and were able to put into practice new ideas in terms of beer styles, branding and the 440ml can packaging format that we had been working towards in-house for a long-time prior to that first release. These ideas are a marked change to what we had done in the past. The response we had to both the beers and can artwork was beyond what we could ever have expected, and ever since the launch, we’ve not been able to meet the demand for these beers.
Over the last few months, we’ve been reflecting on these changes as well as the direction we are going in as brewery. This has lead us to the difficult decision to drop three beers from our range – Dark Bay, Skewbald and Pressure Box. Once existing stocks are depleted our new core range will consist of Buckskin, Nokota and Palomino. We intend to ramp-up production of our special release and one-off beers to fill the gap left open by the three retired beers.
So far we have purposely limited the production of the special release beers rather than produce more and risk the quality of the beer we are putting out. The freshness of our beer is something we take very seriously – last year, we invested £20k in building a large 3°C cold store at the brewery. And we aim for each batch of beer to leave the brewery doors within a month of packaging so the beer you are drinking is a fresh as possible.
Behind the scenes there have been lots of challenges with this change in direction. Production schedules can be very complex when you factor in managing two yeast strains, pre-booked canning runs on specific dates and keeping all five core/seasonal beers in stock. We now feel ready to commit fully to this new path!
This was a big decision for us, and one that we suspect will be met with disappointment by some of you. However, we believe it is the right decision and we are excited about what is to come. More on that in an upcoming post.