Mostly, these breweries are smaller start-ups, putting very tentative feelers out into the market place and making use of their select contacts near to where they are based. Most of the operations so far are based around cask ales and some limited amounts of bottling, but there are noises being made in some camps about putting out kegged offerings when footholds are gained in the market.
For the purposes of a bit of visual context (we all love a bit of this, don’t we?) I’ve been very kindly allowed to link up to another Merseyside blogger’s work; Gavin Hutsby of LiverBeer has put together a map of the local area with most of the breweries tagged, with the Liverpool/Southport/Chester area covered. Most of the breweries discussed on this article can be found (should you ever need to find them) on this mapping.
Anyway, time for the tidings to be spread, get your teeth into this…
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat by including the Citradelic brewers, as Melwood have been around for a while and indeed, took part in the first Battle of the Breweries a few years ago [http://electrokemistcuisine.weebly.com/blogs/electrokemistry-event-battle-of-the-breweries-round-1]. Things have progressed nicely for them since that time, becoming mainstays of the Liverpool Cask scene and having a presence at pretty much all the local beer festivals in Merseyside and beyond, not to mention teaming up with erstwhile Wapping Brewery stalwart Stan Shaw to build the brewery up.
The reason for the intrusion/inclusion is the expansion that they have planned for later this year. The brewery is currently located in a small farmstead premises on the Derby Estate of Knowsley Hall, the move will be to a former kennels building and agricultural college on the same grounds. This move will increase the potential and the size of the brewery, providing not only much needed expansion, but also some incredibly characterful surroundings and potential additional facets for the business. John Marsden is already excited about the prospect of greater output, without factoring in the potential for a laboratory, room for storage, possibly brewery tours and other quirkier ideas along the line. The end of this summer and into autumn could see some very interesting developments on the Derby estate.
At the site of a former aquarium business in Maghull, Les O’Grady has been busy getting stuck into filling casks and bottles rather than building fish tanks of all shapes and sizes. He and business partner, Geoff Wainwright have been gradually feeling their way into setting the venture up and Les is no stranger to things on the Liverpool brewing, craft beer and cask beer scene. The kit is fairly small at the moment, with Les being very philosophical about how he could have taken a chance to make things bigger, he fully expects to have grown significantly by the end of the year.
There has been plenty of support for Neptune from other local businesses from restaurants through to pubs and bars, so fully expect to see something on cask or a bottle in the fridge very soon. The low abv Low Tide (at 2.8%) Bitter was on cask at 23 Club on Hope Street recently, along with bottles of Triton and Riptide which sold out relatively quickly. Holborn Cask Ales in Ormskirk, amongst other bottle shops have been swallowing up the beers of the deep.
Red Star Brewery
The culmination of 3 gentlemen coming together over a pint and deciding to take the plunge and make their own; Glen, Ian and Dave have procured themselves a sizeable unit near to the Formby bypass with a very fresh lick of white paint and a large 8-10 barrel kit to produce their own range of ales. To date, these have been rather well received and although have fluctuated in terms of naming (the use of ‘Formby’ in the title has proven to be something of a boon in certain areas for sales purposes). Ales such as Revolution (or Formby IPA), Formby Blonde, Partisan and Hurricane have all done rather well at a variety of venues, including the latter two at St Luke’s Church Beer Festival in end of July/start of August.
No doubt that the range will expand and quality will be fine tuned as time goes by, but for the moment you can find a select range in bottles and a slightly larger range in casks around Formby, Freshfield, up to Preston, across to Leeds and onward into Sandbach.
Rock the Boat Brewery
In the picturesque village of Little Crosby, tucked away on the edge of Merseyside there is a former joiner’s workshop which has undergone a thorough clean out, paint job and refit along with a 2008 extension to the premises. Rock The Boat Brewery’s site is very characterful and rather understated on the outside; one really wouldn’t know of the industry being undertaken within.
Retired mathematics teacher David Barker shows me around his 8 barrel brewery which is looking remarkably pristine at the moment; Although casks are leaving the brewery for a number of local pubs on a regular basis, David is still finding his feet and looking for a strong foothold in the market place, but with many years brewing experience from working for Scottish and Newcastle in sales in the late 70’s before he began work as Quality Technician at Whitbread’s Samlesbury (now owned by InBev UK) until 1987; during which time David tells me that the brewery football team beat the Heineken Brewery team in a European Breweries tournament final a eye-watering 5-1. With his experience it shouldn’t be too long before he manages to find his beers a niche.
During the course of the conversation, David said he owed thanks to Joe Coulson at Leyland Home Brew for his years of encouragement and advice, if anyone is thinking of taking up home brewing or needs advice to make progress, Joe is a great source of information - no doubt contact can be made through Rock the Boat.
The ongoing evolution of the branding for Rock the Boat is something David is also having a hands on experience with, a former student of his partner’s is undertaking the design work for the pumpclips and has commissioned a unique font along with some potential tie in with Britain’s naval and maritime history along with a charitable tie-in. It seems to all be adding up at the moment for David. Rock the Boat’s beers can be found at The Saracen's Head and Heaton's Bridge Inn in West Lancashire, The Cornerpost in Formby, the Birkey, Sparrowhawk, Stanley Arms in Aughton and the Royal Hotel in Waterloo amongst others. David informs me that the last cask of Dazzle sold out in 5 hours at Cornerpost. Rock the Boat's beers are also available in Liverpool at Ye Hole in Ye Wall; The Excelsior; The Bridewell; The Grapes on Knight Street and the Augustus John. Best get your skates on then to find some then, eh folks? (I’m refusing to do a missing the boat gag…).
The Parker Brewery
Having started up in April 2014, Parker has hit the ground running relatively quickly thanks in part to a solid network of clients and no shortage of competency for their craft. Rick Parker came from a background in wine sales eventually to making his own brews and now has a steady, stable and constant flow of business for the casks and bottles in the Parker line. The business model sounds entirely focussed, with a concentration on cask and bottles for the five beers that they currently brew, although there has been a hint of some seasonal offerings once more of a rhythm has been struck. It is unlikely there will be any keg offerings of their beers at the moment, as this doesn’t seem to fit in with Rick’s plans for Parker Brewery.
Based in Banks, just north of Southport, Parker is at the very northern fringe of Merseyside (probably actually in West Lancashire) and is located in a remarkably tranquil and agricultural area. The brewery is a 5-barrel kit as of September 2014 and seems to put out some highly visible offerings across northern Merseyside and in Lancashire. The upstairs of the brewery has been converted into a bar by Rick and his accomplice Stuart (who has built an excellent bar from reclaimed wood, it has to be said) where the receive guests on occasion; there are rumours of a regular Thursday opening spot, along with the ability to receive special visits should numbers suit.
In terms of the actual beers, they are straight up and no nonsense offerings in traditional styles of a pale ale (Centurion), a blonde ale (Viking), a best bitter (Barbarian), a red ale (Saxon) and a stout porter (Dark Spartan); all of which eschew any adjunct in favour of malt and hops. Luckily when we called in, they had just about got the red ale ready for bottling, so that will be on the shelves of bottle shops within due course.
Parker have been on a front-foot stint of Meet the Brewer and tap takeover events across Merseyside/Lancashire in August, The Blackburne Arms in Liverpool, The Frank Hornby in Maghull and The Merton in Bootle have all had the experience and it is likely their influence is to spread further in the area, so keep your eyes peeled.
Sadly, fate worked against me on my planned meeting with Simon and Shona Potts (they also have 3 pots at the brewery – word play eh? Ronnie Barker would be proud, -ish) and I didn’t get up to see their premises due to both of our day jobs getting in the way of having a good conversation about their plans, beers and set up. Simon seems to be the visceral department of the brewery, with occasional support from his wife, Shona, the brewery is only nano-scale, yet perfectly formed as Simon informs me. They are on a 100 Litre kit currently and the brewery is limited in space, but they have been able to get a decent level of output in cask and have recently put a run of bottles together for their Sprocket IPA, which is going to be their more sessionable IPA serving. At the time of writing, Simon excitedly informed me that he was awaiting the labels to come to them from suppliers; the beers will then hit the market place – presumably in Southport and certainly in Tap and Bottles (where they launched Sprocket IPA at the end of August).
So far Simon’s favourite brew to come out of the premises is a 7.4% IPA which didn’t receive a name, but he claims it is a follow up to the Sprocket, which is due for a launch in collaboration with Tap and Bottles at some point, curiously said to involve ‘tiny horses’ before it transpired they had launched the beer in the presence of two shetland ponies (as an apt nano-substitute for dray horses). Simon also informed me that there is to be a darker offering coming from the 3 Potts in the near future too.
Black Lodge Brewing
Sadly this one remains something of an enigma, I have a handful of remarks and pinches of hearsay; sadly there’s not enough at this stage to put anything meaningful across. It would be best to follow the Twitter account and keep an eye on the quirky website to see what will come from this ‘Collaboration’ Brewery later in 2015.
There was another brewery on the cards to talk over, such as the Oceanic Navigation Steam Company, who are selling to a number of Liverpool city centre pubs, but alas, they didn’t respond to any requests for dialogue and sadly their twitter presence was less than endearing (i.e. they were pretty rude) upon requests for information about their brand and remit. At this moment, it is understood their brand is actually brewed and bottled under contract with George Wright in Rainford.
It is likely that maybe a few more breweries will pop up across Liverpool and Merseyside along with areas immediately around this area of the northwest, which is brilliant for diversity of the drinker, but unless each finds a niche in the market and this market remains buoyant some may fall by the wayside. Keep your eyes peeled and your fingers crossed, local beer in about to come flooding in.
14-09-2015 Article updated to acknowledge Joe Coulson for Rock the Boat's endeavours.
Unit 1, King House
Sefton Lane Industrial Estate
Red Star Brewery
54 b Stephensons Way
Rock the Boat Brewery
6 Little Crosby Village
Tel: 07727 959 356
3 Potts Brewing Company
The Parker Brewery
Tel: 01704 620718
Black Lodge Brewery
4 Kitchen Street