I often think it might be quite odd to be a brewer. There you are, digging spent malt out of a mash tun with your shirt off (it gets terribly hot in there), perhaps thinking about where the beer you
just brewed will end up, when without warning a bunch of journalists sweep in and start taking photos of you. Even if you are a brewer of the lean, wiry variety (as is Peter Curran, the head brewer at Moorhouse's in Burnley, Lancashire), answering questions while standing shirtless in a mash tun is one thing; undraped photos are quite another.
I felt a bit sorry for Peter. The brewery was just at the end of a mammoth brewing spree to provide beer for the JD Wetherspoon beer festival. It had been two brews a day for a few weeks
and, with a shift brewer on holiday, Peter had to roll up his sleeves (well, discard them al together, along with the accompanying shirt) and get stuck in.
I was visiting with the British Guild of Beer Writers
the reason for the visit
being that Moorhouse's
is about to start work on a spanking new brewery. It's an ambitious project, set to treble the
it as a new regional brewer. It's a fitting next chapter in a long history, with an almost unbelievably romantic recent twist.
When the current owner, Bill Parkinson, heard
the brewery that made his favourite beer was scheduled for closure, he decided to buy it. A deal was struck within
within a couple of months he owned the brewery. I've seen the original brewplant (it's more of a museum piece now)
and I hope he didn't pay too much for it.
While Moorhouse's focuses on cask ale,
it also produces a range of bottled beers, three of which are widely available in the UK. There is also one that is brewed exclusively for export to the US , and
Moorhouse's also licenses one
of its products to be brewed in Cyprus.
Not only are the three UK beers all very good, I have to say that brewing a US-only product, and licensing another beer, shows a shrewd understanding of brand building. I have a bottle of the
export ale in front of me
- and very nice it is too - a peachy malt and
toasted oat aroma, sweetish on the tongue, with a slightly heady apricot-accented finish. That's definitely going in the book (500 Beers & Ales - available in all good bookshops later this year, folks).
It's interesting to see how businesses are behaving in the current economic climate. Some are pulling in their horns, happy to consolidate their position and stay safe. Others, like Moorhouse's, are grasping the nettle, knowing that this temporary dip isn't going to last forever, and when things pick up
they will be well placed to strike and take advantage of a boom time that will surely follow. It isn't really a case of the green shoots of recovery being visible, but it's interesting to see people planting the seeds that will become those shoots.
So if you're a retailer, how can you nurture those seedlings? I guess it's a case of stocking local beers, supporting your local brewer or winemaker (yes, we have a local winemaker in Leeds, in fact I really should get in touch with Leventhorpe)
and realis ing that, in the current climate, the most important thing is to think globally
but act locally. Sow those seeds now, because good times will come again.