Back when I was an engineer1I dreamt of running my own business. It came to a bit of a head, fairly suddenly, when a combination of dissatisfaction with the job I was doing combined with a little bit of luck property wise. We sold our house and bought a pub.
This was late in 2003. I have always had a love of good food and drink, preferably locally sourced, made by people I know, full-flavoured and interesting. I liked something different. Always on the lookout for a different night out, that different flavour, interesting take, and anything really that moved away from the same-old-same-old that dominates the wider leisure industry. This ethos, this desire to be different has percolated through everything we've done in our business.
In 2005 we decided to buy some brewery kit. A 2-and-a-bit2 barrel brew house complete with two fermenters. I set it up in the Autumn of 2005 and got it all working and mashed in for the first time Christmas Eve 2005. The beer fermented over the Christmas period and we had the first beer on the bar New Years Eve just in time to see in 2006.
Fast forward to the present day, five years after we sold the pub and moved to Millom, and we are rapidly approaching our Tenth Anniversary. We've grown quite a bit, bought a bottling line, and bigger and better tanks. We've still got a long way to go before I feel we have a secure and solid future for Hardknott - we are literally desperate to build a new brewhouse for a start.3
Ten years down the line I have a team that seem to get on with the job of making stunning beer without much hassle. I only occasionally get asked for technical input and in that regard have stepped back to the role of just tasting the beer, looking over recipe proposals and feeling like, if I interfere, it would simply be for the sake of stamping my authority. Don't fix what ain't broke they say, so I don't.
Of course I couldn't let our 10th Anniversary date slip by without doing something special. We haven't made a Rhetoric for a little while. The next one is Rhetoric IV, and so we thought it should be our anniversary beer. We've made an imperial stout with peat smoked malt. It adds a great extra dimension we think.
We've actually called this one Rhetoric IV.I - or if you prefer 4.1. "Why the point 1?" you ask. Well, because we've put some in some spirit casks to bottle later on in 2016, just so you have something to look forward to. Rhetoric IV.II, IV.III and IV.IV will be issued through 2016 when we deem them to be ready.
We'll be bottling Rhetoric IV.I very soon, so look out for it.
1I still consider myself to be an engineer. If stuff goes wrong at the brewery it is generally me who has to fix it. Indeed, my "To fix" list grows every day. I'm sort of hoping that some things will drop off the end and make it on to the "To weigh in" list as we get to afford to replace some things, but that is another story, which I hope to tell you soon. Meanwhile, I am now a part-time engineer, as I also have a business to run.
2I used to kid myself it was a two and a half barrel brewery. It wasn't really. I was lucky to get 9 firkins out of a fermenter, and generally 8 and a pin much more likely. Our tanks now are around 1600 litres or more per brew. Nominal 10 brewery barrels.
3Again, more news on this soon, I hope. My people are still working on a few things here. You know, accountants, business plans, solicitors and contracts. All really boring stuff I have to deal with just to move us upwards and onwards.