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Well I suppose we’d best start our first blog in 9 months with an apology. With this blog we plan to review the year that was, which should give you a sense of how manic it has been for us and why you’ve had to wait so long for an update. But, like buses you aren’t going to have to wait very long for another one to come along, as we have some very big plans for 2018 that we’ll be sharing with you very soon!
So to the year that was………
In 2017 we’ve met and worked with some great people, expanded the team, grown the brewery, released some great beers, been part of some amazing events and won an accolade or two along the way. So we’d like to follow our apology with some thanks to anyone who has been part of this amazing journey. Whether you work with us, have in someway supported us, visited us, or simply drank our tasty brews we salute you. Without each and every one of you all Brew York would not be what it is and would not continue to grow as it does. We look forward to seeing how we can make 2018 an even bigger year together. More on this coming soon!
Once again 2017 saw some cracking events hosted down at Brew York. Thanks to anyone who came down and supported us and our beery friends at any of these fantastic events.
The highlights for us would definitely have to start with our first birthday party where we launched a competition to design a beer and come and brew it with us. From this Alex Fionda, friends and family joined us to brew what became one of our favourite beers of the year in Blood Eagle, a blood orange and pink grapefruit pale ale. The competition will be back again this year so make sure you make it down to our second birthday celebrations for the chance to design a beer and win an opportunity to brew with us at Brew York.
Hot on the heels of our birthday party some great fun was had at the 2nd year of our City of Ale beer festival. We were delighted to welcome back Bad Seed, Brass Castle, and Half Moon breweries and thrilled to welcome North Riding to join us for the first tim
e. We welcomed record numbers and the brews, music and food all went down a storm!
One of the biggest thrills of the year was putting on a Keg beer focused festival (KegFest North) in November. Whilst some lessons were learned around timing and heating it was incredible to welcome four of the UK’s greatest breweries in Anarchy, Blackjack, Hawkshead & North for the three day party. Rest assured we have a plan to ensure we are even better setup for bigger and better events in 2018 free from the concerns of the weather.
2017 saw us getting out on the road a bit more, something we plan to do a lot more of in 2018. We’ve done Meet the Brewer events in London, Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle, but September was certainly the most manic month. We were truly privileged to receive an invitation to make our first appearance at Leeds International Beer festival and rub shoulders with some of the greats from the UK and International brewing scenes. It certainly led t some memorable moments, none more so than seeing the emphatic and euphoric reaction to Imperial Tonkoko (the 7.5% supercharged version of our Coconut, Cacao, Tonka and Vanilla infused Milk Stout) which we launched at Leeds.
Leeds was swiftly followed by a return to York Beer & Cider Festival. We were honoured to be asked by York CAMRA and the family of Luke Watson (a young CAMRA volunteer that had tragically lost his battle with cancer earlier in the year) to brew a beer in Luke’s honour. We ended up producing a Pecan Pie inspired Porter which we called Luke Piehawker. The beer was very well received and took a bronze award in the speciality category of the Locale awards. We were also elated to pick up another category gold in the Locale awards with our newly released New Zealand Pale, Haast’s Eagle as well as a category bronze for our American IPA, Big Eagle.
The locale awards weren’t the only awards we picked up in 2017. The most prestigious was definitely taking overall Gold for cask beer at the North East SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) awards in August for Keras, a 4.1%American
Pale Ale. We even managed to secure Silver in the other main category for small pack beer (cans/bottles) for Tonkoko our infused Milk Stout. Both will now go forward to compete in
March 2018 for national SIBA recognition.
We recently picked up a DBA design award for our branding thanks to the work of the ever-excellent United by Design who continues to knock
it out of the park for us.
The Tap Room has been getting recognition of it’s own with entry into this years CAMRA Good Beer Guide and as the first limited opening hours and non dedicated public house venue to win Pub o
the Season from our local CAMRA branch. I know Andy our Tap Room manager especially enjoyed being asked by us at a moments notice to do a speech to celebrate the presentation of that particular award!
Around mid 2017 our only brewing assistant and sales guru Aidan Maxwell tore his Achilles on a drunken night out and was side-lined from brewing for a few months. With demand having escalated massively we then quickly sought the appointment of a new assistant brewer. We appointed Tom Andrea, an eager recent university graduate that we had originally met through the homebrew scene and had done some prior work with us on a volunteer basis. Coining the phrase ‘The Curse of the Brew York Assistant Brewer” Tom was promptly out of commission himself after getting a nasty burn in week 2 of his employment and was unable to be involved in the brewing for around 3 weeks.
With the staff shortages and ever increasing demand we then decided to further expand the brewing team with the appointment of Barnsley born and bred Mat Shaw, an experienced brewer with a CV including Wharfbank and Acorn breweries. Not wanting to miss out on the Assistant Brewers curse, Mat then promptly injured his foot after falling over on a wet night out in Sheffield. Thankfully Mat’s foot issues turned out to not be as bad as at first thought and he was promptly back in the mix taking some of the brewing workload off Head Brewer Lee.
You’d think that would be it, but the curse struck again just recently when Tom attempted to cut his thumb off while removing wax from a bottle of beer on a night out in Durham. This led to 8 stitches and another 3 weeks on the brewing bench for Tom. For what is still a relatively small business with just a small brewing team (Head Brewer Lee, Brewer Mat and Assistant Brewers Aidan and Tom) we think we’ve had more than our fair share of illnesses and injuries in 2017 and look forward to an injury free 2018! (This may well mean banning the team from drinking when not under our supervision!)
Curses and jokes aside Tom and Mat have been superb additions to the Brew York team and have allowed us to spend more time focusing on our processes, our quality and recipe development. We hope to see more of the fruits of this borne in 2018.
In extending the Tap Room opening hours to now run Wednesday to Sunday we’ve also been able to double the size of the Tap Room team through 2017 with many great new guys and gals joining the team (big shout out to you all). We’d like to give a notable mention to one in particular in John McClure our resident Hoptail (beer cocktail) master who has made a great contribution. Firstly John has managed to take some of the strain of our ultra committed and capable Tap Room manager Andy. In addition to that he’s turned his hand to the excellent upgrade of our Beer Garden, shouldered part of the regular delivery runs and given our Tap Room and Events an extra dimension with the Hoptails and our every expanding Gin range! It gives us great pride to see how together, John and Andy have taken the Tap Room from strength to strength in 2017. We truly are lucky to have such a fantastic team working for us and we love reading the reviews about how much people have enjoyed the beers and the service in the Tap Room.
If there were two directions that really sum up where we took our beer in 2017 it would definitely have to be the Collaboration Beer (Collab) and the Sour. We were privileged to produce a stellar Tropical IPA (X-Parrot) with Errant of Newcastle, a complex Imperial Stout (Kodiak) with Tapped and a punchy and comically titled Triple IPA (Sellout Juice) with the top rated Vocation. You’ll be able to catch the one year highland whiskey barrel aged Kodiak at our 2nd Birthday party in early April 2018.
In 2017 we also got into sours in a big way, dipping our toe in with an easy thirst quenching 2.8% Lemon & Lime Berlinerwiesse (Reinvent the Peel), followed up by a Juniper and Lingonberry Sour (Raid on Sigtuna) with up and coming brewery Bone Machine. We then continued the botanical theme with a Rhubarb and Juniper sour (Rhubiper), but the pinnacle would have to be Goose Willis, a gooseberry fool sour produced in collaboration with the York Brewdog bar for 2017’s Brewdog Collabfest. In fact we loved that beer so much (and thankfully so did you), so you are going to be seeing a lot more of that one as it joins the 2018 core beer line-up and will now be available in cans soon and all year round.
In the wider beer world it was definitely the year of the hazy beer with New England/Vermont style ales dominating the UK beer scene. Not immune to this we of course got involved firstly with the super tasty and sessionable 4.3% hazy pale Triple H (Hoppy, Hazy & Heavenly) and we followed this up with a hazy Vermont style IPA in the very popular and juicy 6.6% NUBA. We have continued to experiment with this style and are particularly pleased with recent results with a new yeast strain with which we plan to produce more of these styles going forward.
Since launching Brew York, we’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve been asked if we would hire out the venue for wedding receptions. However as we’re slightly off the beaten track and that it’s a little bit of effort to head down to Brew York we know exactly how people would feel having made that effort to then be confronted with a ‘Closed for Private Function’ sign. With that in mind we took the decision to refuse all private hire requests for Fridays and Saturdays.
Imagine our surprise therefore when Louise & Martin contacted us and said they were so keen to book the venue that they’d get married on a Thursday to make it possible. Well how could we refuse? Sally who spends most of her time tidying up after us messy guys took it upon herself to become our wedding planner extraordinaire and it was truly to amazing to see what she achieved with the Tap Room to make the day extra special for the lovely Louise and Martin. It certainly inspired us look at what we might be able to do in the future to accommodate special occasions like this for other such amazing people.
In November it gave us great pride to find ourselves with the lead photo and a prominent mention in a Guardian article championing the York alternative food, drink, music and art scenes. It gave us extra cheer to see many of the names and businesses we were mentioned alongside. There are too many to mention but you know who you are! For anyone who missed the article you can catch-up on the link below:
We couldn’t let 2017 pass without concluding with a reminder of the most laugh out loud moment of the year. In April 2017 we were contacted by Kegwatch as someone had reported to them that we had cut apart some kegs to make our men’s urinals and that they needed to check we owned the kegs and hadn’t just stolen and bastardised someone else’s kegs!
Of course we could prove ownership, but we were comically stunned that someone out there has visited our Tap Room and rather than revel in the novelty of our keg urinals they’ve thought ‘how very dare they, this needs to be reported!’ Really? Get a life my friend!
We are really proud of what Brew York Team have been able to achieve together in 2017, but as hopefully you will have recognised by now we are not ones for resting on our laurels. We have massive plans to make 2018 our biggest and best year yet by some distance. We’re not quite ready to spill the beans yet, but keep checking back as very soon we will be publishing another blog that will give you details of how we will be growing the team, tap room and brewery in 2018.
As a final note for those of you not aware we now have two social media streams depending on your interests:
For updates regarding the brewery (new beers, brewery developments etc) you can follow:
@BrewYorkBeer (Facebook & Twitter)
For updates regarding the Tap Room (events, what’s on the taps, promotions etc) you can follow:
@BrewYorkTapRoom (Facebook & Twitter)
Thanks to everyone who has been part of the journey in 2017 and here’s to an even better 2018!
Lee, Wayne & the Brew York Team