Howard Town Brewery

Episode 27… Who’d a thunk? Not bad going mind you, considering this is a spare time project we started a little over 18 months ago.

So here we are at our visit to Howard Town Brewery, nestled in a characterful unit tucked away at the top end of Glossop in High Peak, Derbyshire. Riding solo this time round I’d paired this visit up with our previous one to Tweed Brewing in Hyde, so it wasn’t a huge distance to go. Couple of hills to tackle mind you, especially when you take the routes avoiding too much traffic. Afforded a great view of Greater Manchester, Cheshire and beyond on the way though.

Crap picture, but you get the idea...

Crap picture, but you get the idea...

Found with relative ease (and just before the heavens opened for some biblical-level rain) Howard Town was to be the venue for the next few hours. Not just visiting for a chat and a few questions on camera, owners Stuart and Emma had invited me to stay for their brewery night. This is a ticket only event where they open the brewery up to guests for the evening and lay on food as well as at least 4 of their beers, all included in the ticket price. They have a great membership scheme in place which entitles you to four of these events a year, as well as a free gift and 10% off beer purchases from them. Far too tempting for me - I’m a paid up member now!

In return for them kindly agreeing to see us for the blog, and inviting me to stay for the evening I offered to help setting up for the event. I’d hardly call putting up a few tables and filling some pots with Emma’s home made chutney a huge contribution to proceedings though! Set up done, and brewery cleaned in preparation we sorted the interview before people began to arrive.

I’d arranged to leave the bike with them and get the train back into Manchester as I wanted to make the most of the evening. I’d only had one of Howard Town’s brews before, and that had been before Stuart and Emma took the helm last year (more on that in the video), so I was keen to try all that was on offer. Damn, those beers are the very definition of session ales!

The core range is named after local landmarks and lore, ranging from geographical oddities such as the Longdendale Lights - supernatural apparitions frequently seen in the Longdendale Valley, to historical events with Super Fortress, named after the B29 bomber which crashed on the Bleaklow plateau near Snake Pass in 1948.

Working my way along the newly rebranded line up I started with Mill Town, a 3.5% delicately hopped dark beer before moving onto Hope (4.1%), a light refreshing pale with a lovely blackcurrant aroma. Then came Wren's Nest, at a quaffable 4.2% and finally Super Fortress, a great malty, fruity ruby ale. 

I was also very privileged to be whisked away to a top secret tasting session of an (at that point*) unnamed summer ale. Pale, hoppy, crisp and oh so very citrussy. Oh man, I could have drank it all night. Sworn to secrecy after a short bit of feedback from myself and other select few however, it was back into the brewery and the main beers on offer - no bad thing of course! 

As ever, enough of my wittering and over to Stuart to tell you all about Howard Town...

*I can now reveal however that this sexy little summer session (4.2%) is called Kerala and will be out in the wild very shortly! 

Music - Tab & Anitek 'Highwater'. Check out the new track 'On my Way' - it's a cracker! 

Tweed Brewing Co

Guess what? We actually cycled to this one! And the one after it.

So, we're definitely back to being Hop on the Bike. Not car, train or foot. Least not for a while anyway...

Before we start however...

Time however for a little shake up. We've been doing these videos and visits for just over 18 months now so we've decided to have a little freshen up. Namely:

Revised questions* - we've removed a couple, and changed a few others. Nothing drastic, but worth doing. See what you think. Suggestions are always welcome...

Glorious technicolour - yes, gone now is the arty black and white, in with the colour and revamped graphics. A change is as good as a rest as they say.

No ride footage - the only change likely to be even vaguely controversial. But we thought about it long and hard, and there's only so much interest in a fixed view of a road or the rear end of a cyclist, you know? In time we'll be adding some photos of the ride instead at the start of the video instead, but only if the route merits it. GPX files are still available, but will now only be shared privately - if requested.

Why all the changes? Well, a lot of this will enable us to get visits edited and online a lot quicker, which means we can be a lot more regular with them. So, worth it in the long run we hope.

Tweed Brewing Co is the brainchild of Sam Ward, a young ambitious and clearly driven entrepreneur. Sam, along with his father Dave and family friend Anthony Lewis (the brewer), Tweed have brought brewing back to Hyde for the first time in well over 80 years.

The three clearly complement each other. Anthony's passion and pursuit of perfection in his brewing (along with a secret element which was very definitely not going to be divulged), Dave's customer focus and Sam's marketing and social media expertise has resulted in them hitting the ground running. Their first brew in the lead up to Christmas (Winter Tweed) sold out purely through word of mouth - not a single sales call was made! An impressive start.

Brewing on a 6BBL kit tucked away in a unit at of Newton Business Park in Hyde (really tucked away - took a bit of finding we can tell you), the brewery now boasts a (almost obligatory now) repurposed pallet bar from which they run regular brewery taps - keep an eye on their social media feeds to see when. They have also just started bottling some of their range - so look out for those hitting the shelves of your local bottle shop too.

Anyway, enough of our yakking, time to see what Sam and Anthony have to say about all things Tweed Brewing...

Music - Tab & Anitek 'A682' - Find them on Soundcloud

*For Tweed, one question was politely declined, so we are one short on this particular interview.

Northern Alchemy

We were introduced to brother-in-law brewing duo Andy Aitchison and Carl Kennedy - Northern Alchemy - the day after IMBC last year. 

Well, apparently we were introduced. You see, we were on the final leg of a twelve bar crawl with our pals Andrew Mitchell and Emma Wales at the time, who are also good friends of Andy and Carl. I seem to remember we held a reasonably coherent conversation with them, gently swaying pint in hand down at Font Bar. Looking back we were probably all quite refreshed after a solid day of sampling ales around town, so the conversation flowed very easily and (as I'm told) eventually turned to us paying them a visit for the blog.

Now these fellas love a collaboration. The inside of one of the cupboard doors in the brewery is given over to signatures of all those who have held a mash paddle in the name of brewing up beer with Northern Alchemy.

So our experience with them was to be no different. As we'd recently been up to Newcastle for the blog last year, we instead headed up this time for a brew day (and a few beers) in the heart of the Ouseburn Valley by The Cumberland Arms in Northern Alchemy's distinctive HQ:

Yep, their 200l kit is housed (very well housed in fact) inside a re-purposed shipping container at the side of the pub. It has to been seen to be believed. A brewery tour could be conducted in under a minute. It's a real testament to the way Andy and Carl work together, as with space at a premium inside there needs to be a rhythm and arrangement to the way the brew day flows.

Apart from today. With Andy holed up in bed with tonsilitis, Carl had to make do with two brewing numpties who regularly just got in the way. 

The brew for the day was to be a Marmalade and Assam Tea IPA. We wanted to do something which took a bit of Manchester up to Newcastle, so when Andy and Carl asked us to come up with an idea for the brew, I started by looking at some sort of ingredient we could bring with us from our patch. I landed on Duerr's Marmalade (still made locally - since 1881 don't you know), which we could base an IPA on. Lack of brewing knowledge on my part of course meant that we couldn't actually use the marmalade itself - too much refined sugar you see - but ahead of the brew day Andy set to work on a deconstructed version of the marmalade to reproduce the same characteristics (can't tell you what, that's a trade secret). To this basis, Andy suggested with a good toasty malt base and an infusion of tea, you'd end up with a breakfast in a bottle, so with some Assam tea from renowned Newcastle coffee and tea emporium Pumphreys we were set to go.

It was a superb brew day, and to see the kit in action was brilliant. What these two produce on what must be one of the smallest brewing set ups we've seen to date is nothing short of amazing.

We'll be having a small gathering on Sunday 19 April at Font Bar in Manchester, where Andy will be bringing a keg along so we can share the fruits of our labour. All proceeds raised on the sale of the beer will be going to our charity of choice, Forever Manchester. Watch this space for more details...

Now, over to half of Northern Alchemy, Carl, who in the dwindling light of the pub ably answered our questions over a pint of their superb Coffee and Orange Oatmeal Pale...


Good things come to those who wait. Or who are at the very least, patient. So thanks for hanging around and giving us time to get our act together for this next visit.

It's not so much of a secret now that we were the mischief makers behind #tryanuary and wow, did that go off with a considerable bang. We had no idea it would chime so well with everyone, and were blown away by all the support and involvement it got. It also consumed every spare moment we had, so unfortunately the blog visits had to go on the back burner. It'll be back bigger and considerably better next year, so keep your eye on goings on in the lead up to the end of 2015.

Anyway, January has come and gone and here we are back in the saddle, raring to get pedalling our way around some more great breweries this year. Suffice to say we have a very long list of new places and people to visit, so this year has all the markings of a bumper year.

We're hoping to do more 'collective' visits this year too - taking in a handful of breweries in one go. It works a lot better for us in terms of planning, timing and building up enough content for the blog to keep you folk interested. So watch this space!

So, onto our last visit. The turn of Brewsmith Beer.

And, guess what? No bikes involved again. Sorry.

You see, we were doing a full brew day with them and needed to be there at 6am, and it would have been a good two hour ride. We don't care what the blog might be called, we're not getting up at 3am on a cold, dark and rainy November morning and arriving soaking wet at a brewery no matter how much you protest. 

Anyway, arrive we did - 15 minutes later than advertised due to my poor navigation to be greeted by owner and brewer James Smith, as well as Dan and Gina from Wigan Central Bar. Dan was also joining in the day as another brew monkey, so once we'd had a quick brew on we cracked with cracking on with the brewing. Today's schedule was for Brewsmith Bitter, one of the breweries four main beers.

Brewsmith is a family run set-up (James, his wife Jennifer and dad Ted) brewing on their 10bbl kit tucked away next to the East Lancs Railway line on the outskirts of Ramsbottom. They hit the ground running last year with a small but very strong core range of beers - Pale, Bitter, IPA and Oatmeal Stout adding to that more recently Anvil Ale - a hoppy dark bitter. The Bitter won SIBA NW Regional Gold (not only in its category, but overall) within the first three months of them brewing which is testament to their hard work and commitment!

So onto our interview with James, which instead of footage of middle-aged men on bicycles has some more interesting clips of the brewery and brewing from the day!

Music - 'Rare Bird' by Anitek