Despite this I'm feeling a mixture of emotions. We've been here for 6 years. We've worked very hard and put much in the way of capital into the business. We're quite exhausted and need to be able to hand over to somebody else who can continue to nurture this ancient Inn for a while. We've never owned her you see, legally of course we have, but really we have simply been her guardian for a little while. Today we exchanged contracts on the sale of the freehold to very worthy people. We feel relief, heavily plated with bereavement. This is not to mention the huge worry of what happens next and how we make a living. Oh, and the small detail of where we will live.
I look back and see what we have achieved. When we bought this pub we had never run a pub before, never even run any sort of business before. I'd never brewed beer and only spent a limited amount of time in a commercial kitchen. For that matter I had never looked after real ale, luckily I am a quick learner.
We seem to have made a living at the job. We also seem to have improved the building. I'd like to think we have shown that it is possible to run a pub in a way that is unique and prove that it makes just as much profit as trying the traditional appraoch. It also seems that if I went back to my old job, bought back my house and lived my life as I had done, I'd probably be a little better off due to the marginal capital gains achieved. Of course the house we lived in probably isn't on the market and my previous work place might well decline any approach.
Still, I don't want to go back to that way of life. I have gained tremendous skills and insight into the beer world, the pub scene and the wider hospitality industry. I know how to brew beer, and if you don't mind me having a moment of big headedness, I'd like to think some of the beer I brew is really rather good. Moreover, the incoming owners couldn't quite afford to purchase the brewery and all the goodwill associated with the name. I am getting to take that with me.
It's scary; I'm going to float Hardknott Brewery as a stand alone entity. I will of course continue to supply The Woolpack Inn with beer. Some products will probably be exclusively brewed for the Inn, depending on the arrangements we agree. The brew kit has been relocated in a new property and I'm engaged in considering branding for the wider beer world. I'm looking at the options for capacity expansion as 2 barrels per brew really doesn't cut the mustard for an independent plant.
So that's it, that is the secret plan I've been working on for a couple of months now. It takes a while to get all the ducks in a row and until today it needs to be kept under wraps. The good news for all you blog readers and beer geeks is that one way or another my beers will reach further afield. I don't know yet what proportion will be cask and what will be esoteric bottles, but there will for sure be some of each.
I'm sure there will be lots of questions, there are certainly many running through my mind, but for now, you'll have to excuse me, I've got a brewery to assemble in some secret location....