Blackedge Brewery

Well, Episode 13. Unlucky for some.

It had to run out sometime. Up until now, on the whole the weather has been pretty good to us for these visits. Not that we mind a bit of rain, but it doesn't make for the best of ride footage and, like we've mentioned before, standing in a brewery in wet gear isn't ideal.

It definitely doesn't make for the best ride footage when you discover that the camera hasn't been working all the way there - so even if we did want to show you the rainy journey, complete with all the weather on the lens, we couldn't. Ah well.

On a more positive note, it was a pleasure to be welcomed in by Shaun on our arrival to Blackedge Brewery in Horwich. You can pretty much guarantee if we've arranged to meet a brewer on a Saturday, they are going to be busy brewing or trying to crack on with something that didn't get done during the week. So for Shaun, (who was holding down his day job as well as keeping the brewery ticking over whilst brewery partner Wayne took a well earned holiday) to take the time for us to quiz him with our questions was very generous of him indeed.

 

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Blackedge have a great little set up tucked away in a unit off Chorley New Road. Shaun informed us that they are moving to larger premises just across the yard soon to enable them to make more of the Tottering Temple (watch the video for more about that) and give them some breathing space for the 5bbl kit they run.

As usual, we'll let the brewer do the talking now - over to Shaun to enlighten you on all things Blackedge...

 

The ride was a direct, soggy route to Horwich along the A6. Here's the GPX file, should you be feeling masochistic enough to want to take a ride that way.

Music "Opaque" by Anitek (www.soundcloud.com/anitek)

Cheshire Brewhouse

It's been a while coming, this visit to Cheshire Brewhouse. We've been in conversation with Shane since the end of last year about getting over to visit him at the brewery, but with him potentially moving premises (now expanding into the unit next door instead) and a few false starts in trying to combine the visit to him with other breweries in that direction, it took until the end of last month to actually pin down a date.

As it was we gauged the weather well and the sun shone on us all the way from our Glossop starting point right through to the brewery on the outskirts of Congleton. It was quite a ride – a 100k round trip – but Shane made it very worthwhile, entertaining, educating and enlightening us for a good 3 hours. 

He's rightly very proud of his kit - an impressive 5bbl set up, which is shortly to double in size to 10bbl. As seems to be the case with many of the brewers we've met, Shane has an engineering background and it shows with his resourcefulness in the unique build and operation of his brewing set up - it's definitely not an off the peg bit of kit. Although squeezed in to the one unit at the moment, once the brewery utilises the adjacent space we get the feeling there'll be no stopping him!

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If you're not familiar with Cheshire Brewhouse's beers (err, what planet have you been living on?), Shane produces some of the most balanced and easy drinking brews out there. Particular favourites are Cheshire Gap, a very tasty and floral 3.7% pale ale and Engine Vein, a beautiful copper coloured best bitter coming in at 4.2%. Such is the popularity of these two from his core range that he brews them on a weekly basis. Listen out for information on what other beery delights Shane creates at the end of our video with him.

So, after a quick change into his iconic CB red and black darts shirt, we settled into the upstairs bar area in the brewery over a pint of Cheshire Gap and fired up the camera and put our interview questions to him...

Ride GPX is available here. We went from Chisworth near Glossop through to Congleton via Marple, Poynton, Pott Shrigley, Macclesfield and Gawsworth.

Music "Work Sounds" by Anitek (www.soundcloud.com/anitek)

Fool Hardy Ales

This edition sees us visit our first brew pub - The Hope Inn in Stockport, where Fool Hardy Ales create their brews.

The iconic looking premises started out their life in around 1840 as The Hope & Anchor - a brewhouse coupled with a 6 barrel brewery. Looking up at the fascia of the building, gives away it's subsequent role between the 1890's to early 1960's as The Hope Inn - part of the well known Hulme based Hardy's Crown Brewery estate. Bonus points if you know of any other former Hardy's Crown Brewery pubs still standing in Manchester (there's actually five others)! 

Coming full circle (and with a naming nod to it's history), it's now back to being a pub and brewhouse - the home of Fool Hardy Ales run by Martin Wood and his partner Samantha Halfyard. We ventured along on a very grim and rainy Thursday afternoon last month to meet and quiz Martin with our questions!

Not only was the weather terrible enough to nearly put us off cycling (hey, we're not fair weather cyclists, but standing in wet kit in someone's brewery isn't our idea of a good time), but the sight of 11 cask ales on arrival really made us wish we had left the bikes behind for this visit. But then it wouldn't truly be 'Hop on the Bike' would it? The things we do for you, eh?

We'll just have to venture back soon without the bikes!

Over to Martin now to give you an insight into Fool Hardy Ales and his experiences in brewing.

No ride GPX or video this time round - it was a very short, wet and urban hop from the centre of Manchester for us!

 

Red Willow Brewery

Ageless, Directionless, Feckless, Headless. 

No, not words that have been used to describe this blog author, but the beer naming conventions of Macclesfield based brewery, Red Willow.

Owned by husband and wife team Toby and Caroline McKenzie,  Red Willow produce some of the most popular and recognisable brews on the northern beer scene. Well balanced and full flavoured, they are truly drinkable. Headless is a particular favourite of mine, and the range available (check the website here) definitely has something to suit everyone's palate.

Additionally, If you've had a bottle of Virgin's 'Tilting Ale' on the journey down to London, you've tried a Red Willow beer (the only one which falls outside of their '...less' naming), thanks to their partnership last year with the company. Seek it out if you can - its a great English Pale Ale - light, bright and hoppy.

At the brewery tucked away in a mill building just on the outskirts of Macclesfield, Toby was doing a bit of brewery maintenance at the top of some ladders as I arrived. Introductions and preparations made, I rolled out our normal line of questioning...

Interview starts at 1:54 for those more interested in beer than bikes!

With chillers and fans running during filming, there was a bit of background noise on the recording, so apologies if you have to crank up the volume a bit on this one.

Ride GPX is available here. We went from Manchester through to Macclesfield via Cheadle, Woodford and Prestbury - very leafy, once you're out into Cheshire!

Music "Physical Graffitti" by Anitek (www.soundcloud.com/anitek)