Published on December 6, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour0
There’s gold in them thar hills
One of the first beers Hawkshead Brewery produced in its original former milking parlour premises was Lakeland Gold (4.4% abv) – a superb, grainy, refreshing hop-sturdy golden ale with complex fruit flavours from blending the English hop First Gold with the outrageously fruity American hop Cascade. Fifteen years later, it’s still a prime seller – but something has changed.
“It was pushing the boundaries for its time,” says Hawkshead founder Alex Brodie. “But compared with what we’re doing these days it’s a pussy-cat. It’s still a great beer but the revolution has moved on.”
Hawkshead Brewery, based at Staveley in Cumbria, has been operating – and developing – since 2002, beginning life in a barn at Town End Farm just outside the village of Hawkshead. Beers were brewed on a second-hand seven-barrel brew plant which came from the Border Brewery at Berwick-upon-Tweed (now Hadrian Border Brewery, Newcastle).
Hawkshead Brewery now sits beside the River Kent in Mill Yard, Staveley where in 2010 it further expanded into the glass-fronted building next door, increasing brewing capacity and creating The Beer Hall brewery tap. Full production capacity is 220 barrels per week (63,360 pints).
“We brew distinctive, flavourful, modern beers,” says Alex Brodie, a former BBC foreign correspondent. “We’ve brewed juniper beers with Norwegians, 10% abv Imperial Stouts with Floridians, and sour IPAs with Californians. We’ve watched hundreds of breweries open – all of us producing beers which would have been inconceivable when we started out. Our beer is full of flavour, handmade, crafted, bold and personal.”
Hawkshead has been variously described as a micro-brewery, local brewery, beer factory, small independent, small regional, new-wave brewery, craft brewery and artisan brewery.
“We are always learning and improving,” says Alex. “We brew what we would like to drink. We never design a beer by cost.”
Moving into 2018, Hawkshead has signed a far-reaching investment deal with the UK’s largest independent drinks company, Halewood Wines & Spirits.
Under the deal, Hawkshead will build a new brewery, expand production, and gain new routes to market for its popular craft beers, while Halewood will enter the brewing industry to complement its other drinks businesses Willow Water, Liverpool Gin distillery and North Wales whisky distillery Aber Falls.
Alex says: “We have gone about as far as we can on our own; demand for our beers exceeds our supply. This partnership will allow us to grow and fulfil our potential.”
He will continue as managing director and his existing team will carry on running Hawkshead as a stand-alone business, producing the more experimental beers at Staveley.
“Halewood sees small, craft and premium as the future,” says Alex. “And they are northern. I like that.”