Brewery News [January 2020]

[extract from minutes of Wigan CAMRA Branch AGM on 14th January 2020]

A successful year with Clay Brow appearing at Wigan Beer Festival with Juicy Lucy and Billy P’s Breakfast Stout. Alongside regular beers such as Zulu and Mr P’s Milky Mocha Stout, more experimental brews were done with the likes of Papa P’s Kopi Luwak Coffee Stout (8%) and the collaboration with Conch Brewing and Cathop Beers, The Dark Side of the Goon.

Distribution has stretched as far as Blackpool, Bamber Bridge, Ormskirk and Whiston by the back end of the year, with bottled beer being restocked by Windy Arbour Farm Shop. Hopefully this will continue to increase in 2020. Also in 2020 there is a potential upscaling of the brewery, so keep your eyes peeled!

Hophurst brewery started the year with a couple of awards from MBCF, Best Cask Ale and overall Silver for Porteresque in the Manchester Brewers Challenge.

Some of the new beers having been brewed included APA, Pale, Session IPA, Sonnet, Mango & Passionfruit Milkshake IPA and a new New England Session Pale.

Mandarin is a 4.5% Pale Ale made with lots of fresh clementines from Windy Arbour Farm Shop which gives a really nice, fruity, citrus finish. Then there is PUD, a 4.9% Sticky Toffee Milk Stout and a 4.0% New Zealand Pale ale called Hogmadog which has flavours of tropical fruit, pine and citrus.

In September at the SIBA North West Independent Beer Awards Stuart won eight awards across various categories for his beers Porteresque, APA, Milkshake IPA, Salted Caramel Porteresque and Mango & Passionfruit Milkshake IPA.

Stuart was very active during Wigan Beer Week by launching two collaboration beers with KORE at Hindley (KORE Blimey, a 4.2 per cent Blonde with Hoppy flavours of Tropical fruit and Citrus) and John Bull Chophouse (Bitter Sweet Symphony, a 6.5 per cent Milk Stout with sour Cherries and Vanilla). He also hosted a very successful Open Day at the brewery.

Well there’s certainly been some changes over the last twelve months at Martland Mill Brewery with a new owner, new beers and a new BLO!

Paul and Delia Wood, who started the brewery approximately seven years ago, decided it was time for a change and had started making enquiries regarding the sale of the business. Regular brewing continued as usual with the 75th Anniversary of D-Day creating a huge demand for D-Day Dodger. Paul’s final beer, made for the people of Wigan, was appropriately named “Ancient and Loyal” which as most people know is the motto of Wigan, this was the tenth beer in the core range. Although the brewery was sold in September, Paul and Delia still continue to operate the Tap ’n’ Barrel which has thrived with opening of the new bus station.

October saw the new owner Rob Jolly take over. He’s a young, enthusiastic, entrepreneur with a background in sales and is supported by the skills of head brewer Luke Blundell who’d previously worked at the brewery for six years. I was fortunate to see the first barrels going out for sale on 28/10 – a milestone for the new team.

The brewery’s now been going for three months with sales rising steadily since old customers have returned and new ones are being added every week. The core beer range has now been streamlined and based on drinkers’ feedback they’ve made some slight changes. Spinners Gold and Lancashire Loom have slightly different hops, there’s also been a grain tweak to Bombers Blond and D-Day Dodger as well as Artic Convoy which now has a small amount of vanilla.

Future plans include introducing new beers in order to increase the variety available. There is also the mention of rebranding the business with the aim of making it more modern and personal to Rob and Luke.

They now aim for a sustainable level of sales so they can grow the business and emulate some of the other successful Wigan breweries and with a bit of luck they can pick up an award or two on the way. With their ambition, ideas and enthusiasm there’s no holding back these two lads and I certainly wish them all the very best and look forward to keeping you up to date with what’s happening in 2020.

Originally established in 2001, Mayflower Brewery was founded in Standish and has moved on several occasions. The brewery moved into the new premises in Hindley in 2018.

There are 5 core ales available through the year, with one off specials created for seasonal and special events. The core range and specials are available as bottles.

Mayflower announced plans to open a bar at Bolton railway station (platforms 4 & 5) and work is continuing to get this venture up and running.

In the meantime, Mayflower took ownership of the Cask Bar in Darwen, which serves a rotating line up of 4 traditional cask ales (3 from Mayflower range and a guest). It also sells a cider, a lager, wines, spirits and soft drinks.

Over the Christmas period they brewed a seasonal range of beers and had a temporary pop-up bar at Wigan Market and are hoping, soon, to get a premises in the Wigan area. They also sold their bottled range from stalls in Hindley, Bolton, Manchester & Salford.

It was a busy summer for the brewery with a second beer festival hosted in the brewery yard added to the established one in early September; this one themed on the Rugby League Magic Weekend in May. Both showcased a good selection of the brewery’s beers as well as many others.

The mobile brewery bar has also been very successful at a number of village festivals locally.

In terms of the beers, Jonny has been doing more of them unfined, making them smoother and tastier, with positive feedback at the bar. He has also canned beers for the first time, a revised recipe Dirty Bier and a new 3.8% hoppy American IPA style beer called Little Belter. Sales of cans and bottles have been really strong in the run up to Christmas. Jonny now intends to refocus on brewing and sales now the new year is here.

2019 began with the brewery on the market as Patsy & John planned a phased retirement whilst retaining their interest in Prospect Inns which owns Wigan Central.

During the marketing period Prospect Ales continued to produce their core range of beers and winning awards at the SIBA competition.

The sale took place in July on the basis of the new owner paying a proportion of the purchase on a trial basis of 6 months with the new owners leaving much of the day to day running of the operation to the brewery staff. Mainly core beers have been produced led mainly by demand.

The major difference for local CAMRA members has been that some of the beers on offer at Wigan Central have varied as they are now sourced mainly by Patsy and John, rather than Roy. I have yet to meet the new owner and rely now on information being provided by Roy.

Many thanks to Patsy & John for their contribution to the beer scene in Wigan over the past few years.

Twisted Wheel only began brewing in October 2019 and so is new to the Wigan Branch. It was formed by Mark Dearman who, in association with business partner Zina French, bought the premises of the former Windmill Brewery in Standish, located at Standish Hall Farm at the bottom of a farm track tucked away behind St Marie’s church on School Lane.

The 10-barrel brewing kit, installed by Windmill, was manufactured in Fort William by Oban Ales and had to be transported the 302 miles South by low-loader. Water for brewing is cold-filtered through the shale and sandstone at Rivington. The brewery also houses a brewery tap which can be opened to the public.

Mark runs the brewery in collaboration with his wife, Helena. They chose the name Twisted Wheel for two reasons: –
i) Wigan is famous for its association with Northern Soul and in the 60’s there was a club in Manchester called The Twisted Wheel which was celebrated for its all-nighters and the eclectic mix of fashion, music, and dance that later became known as Northern Soul
ii) the farm track to the brewery is heavily rutted thereby challenging the hardiest of vehicles and their wheels!

Using state of the art 10-barrel equipment, their first beers were brewed in October 2019 and the head brewer is hoping to capture the excitement, colour and vibrancy of the Northern Soul era with their range of ales – the names of which tip a nod to the Northern Soul movement.

Mark and his business partner also own the Parkway Brewery in the picturesque town of Somerton, Somerset. They set that Brewery up in October 2018 which also brews cask beers. Mark is also in the drinks retail and distribution business which is one reason why Parkway and Twisted Wheel beers have been found in bars as far afield as the Midlands and the South East as well as Somerset and the North West.

Twisted Wheel currently brews three core beers and one seasonal beer: – Ten Pin Bitter (4.0%), Big Black Smoke (4.9%), Sunday Sessions (4.5%), Three Star Jumper (4.0%).

To promote the ale, Mark made a firkin available on gravity in Fifteen’s at Standish as part of the Standish Winter Fair at the end of November. He and Helena were on hand to serve the beer, which proved very popular, and to answer questions about it and their other beers.

2019 has been a successful year for Wigan Brewhouse. Their customer base continues to grow at a good rate and existing customers have been retained and relationships strengthened. This has led to outcomes such as tap takeovers, bar staff at the Crooke Hall Inn wearing Wigan Brewhouse polo shirts as part of their uniform and beers being adopted as house specials. Wigan Brewhouse beers have been dominant at events such as Standish Christmas market.

During 2019 previous sales and turnover records were smashed.
Wigan Brewhouse was a major sponsor at the 2019 Wigan CAMRA beer festival.

A special real ale was brewed for Wigan Beer Week, the beer was called Back to Back. This beer was brewed in collaboration with the Wigan home brewers group who meet at Wigan Central on a monthly basis. It is reported that members of the group who visited the brewery really enjoyed the time spent there and made a valuable contribution to the product. The beer completely sold out on the day it was released and was available in most of the outlets which participated in Wigan Beer Week. It is hoped that the input from the brewery will support the home brewers group’s aims to brew different beers and offer expert support. Feedback on Back to Back was extremely positive.

The brewery has produced new and special monthly beers, such as Tempo, RPM, Galaxy, and Ekuanot. They have also revived some of Allgates brews, a good example is Mad Monk – a classic imperial Russian stout with an ABV of 7.1% which had won a SIBA national gold award back in 2011.

In November Wigan Brewhouse purchased a stock of 5lt mini casks, these are now being sold on brewery tours to allow people to take home Wigan Brewhouse beers.

So overall 2019 has been a great year for Wigan Brewhouse.

The year got off to a really good start at the Wigan Beer Festival for us, Karma Citra won 2 awards for best pale by a Wigan brewery and best pale in the festival. Dark Flagon Rum Porter won best dark by a Wigan brewery, we were over the moon!!

We entered the SIBA Beer X Competition over in Liverpool and The Fox Hat and Dark flagon won Gold awards and also won Bronze in the national heat.

A great accomplishment for Wily Fox Brewery was gaining SALSA accreditation, it was a lot of work (mostly paperwork!) but was well worth the effort to gain SALSA.

Dark Flagon gained popularity this year. We have had customers demanding we continually brew it! We love the positive comments, it spares us on!

We decided to build an experimental brew kit to give us some room to create and try different recipes. We can experiment with different recipes and ingredients before using our main brew kit. We used the experimental kit to brew: – Roast Hog Stout (5%), Argonaut (4.2%), Big Day (7.5%), Hot House Zinger Rhubarb & Ginger Ale. The latter won a Bronze award at the SIBA North West regional competition.

Generally, sales going well, keg sales have risen and our keg range expanded.