Monday, 19 March 2018

A catatonic beer industry

After several years of careful consideration as to the future of Hardknott and in particular after I have examined the beer industry very closely it is my sad duty to inform you that our brewing facility at Millom will very shortly cease production. It simply isn't sensible for us to invest any more of our own personal equity in a market that is so saturated, and where brewery gate prices are stagnant when costs are rising year-on-year.

It continues to frustrate me that many commentators in the industry are heralding how massive the craft beer thing is, and yet stupefied by what appears to me to be an inevitable likelihood of massive attrition of many small brewers as they realise that making money at this daft job is the preserve of very few.

We do not know yet what the future holds. We have a hope that we may well keep the Hardknott ethos and beers alive in a way that stands by the provenance and spirit from which we were born. We are already engaged with potential partners in this regard and hope to have some news soon.

We also have beer in tank and some stocks. We think at current rates of sale, and with stuff in production, we'll have beer until May or June, and selling it would make me feel a little happier.

What I can say is that I am in many ways relieved. Also very sad, obviously. It is now over 12 years since we first started brewing. I have learned a lot, and potentially discovered some fairly uncomfortable truths about the beer industry. It is for this reason I am relieved, because I am likely to be much more forthright regarding the many things that are so wrong with the industry, and there is plenty, trust me.

A period of reflection, perhaps some time-out, perhaps a regroup and restart, or perhaps I'll just find a job, who knows?

Meanwhile I have a busy week. Two great things are happening this week. I do have a life outside beer and musical theatre has been a helpful therapy when I've been going through periods of disillusionment with the beer industry.  I am very proud, the week Andrew Lloyd Webber has his 70th birthday, to be involved with a likely sell-out1 7 performance run of an amateur2 production of Cats.

This same week we have the micro-brewing legends that are Sue Hayward and Gazza Prescott visiting to take part in a Waen/Hopcraft/Hardknott collaboration brew, and laugh at me in a unitard. Watch out for what might be that swan-song of our endeavours.

I hope to return here in due course to start a constructive appraisal of life as a micro-brewer. I have a lot of damming things to say about the way the beer industry works. The way in which SIBA and CAMRA alike are missing some very important issues that could be resolved to make the micro-brewing sector much more sustainable for the poor souls who are brewing, and who often have nothing but a dream of getting good beer to good people.


1It is likely that all performances will sell-out. As I type this there are only 21 tickets for Saturday matinee. The rest of the performances are completely sold out. (I believe there may be a small number of returns available each night very much on a first come first served basis)

2Giving the company the term amateur really does not do justice to the talent in this society. I'm only a small cog in this 51 strong cast and the professionalism is incredible. It's going to be a great show.


Ed said...

Good luck for the future Dave.

Andy Bellamy said...

Dave, I'm very sad to hear you will be ceasing production. I have fond memories of some cracking beers you have crafted over the years. Good luck in your future endeavours. You will be missed.

PTRowe said...

Our local CAMRA holds its meetings in a pub that refuses to pay over £50 a firkin. We naively joined SIBA thinking they could help us find a route to market, only to find out they were pushing the price paid by pubcos down to a similar price. It's been hard to come to terms with the fact that those who should be helping are actively working to make the situation worse. I'd like to thank you for standing up time and again as the voice of reason, and for your continued attempts at holding SIBA to account. Good luck in your future endeavours and hope for all our sakes you don't turn your back on the brewing industry for good!

Mike said...

So long and thanks for all the beers . Really enjoyed some of your brews over the years, keep doing what you love and not surprised you're strong enough to move on when it's time to do so. All the best in what you do next, hopefully I will get up your way one day!

Mike .

luke said...

Sorry to hear this. Hope you carry on Gypsy brewing, I hate musicals ;)

The Beer Nut said...

Really sorry to hear this, Dave. Best of luck to you and Ann with whatever you decide to do next.

david said...

Sad news when visiting the Lake District I’ve always enjoyed your beers living in the south east they would go down very well and I guess that’s the problem there’s so much competition in ever region of the U.K.

Chris Routledge said...

This is really sad news Dave; you're one of the good guys. I hope you figure out what comes next soon. You've made some amazing and memorable beers over the years, and brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of drinkers. Good luck to you and Ann, and try not to pull something in that unitard.

Rob Nicholson said...

I've read your blog for many years and whilst I'm sad this is the outcome, I'm not entirely surprised. Kudos for battling SIBA et al. Your recent post including the graph showing number of breweries shocked me. I thought it was at saturation 3 years ago but it's nearly doubled in that time. Your post has been posted on the CAMRA discussion forum but sadly I think many CAMRA members believe that cask ale should be cheap as chips :-( All the best in whatever the future holds.

Rob Nicholson said...

PS. I first came across your beers in the Woolpack Inn quite a few years ago. What a find! Came back to Eskdale many times but you'd moved on.

stuart webster said...

Sorry to hear this news. We at Greenodd Brewery wish you weĺl.

David Peart said...

I wish you well in whatever you do Dave. You have great passion and I hope you will continue to be part of the drive to get British brewing running the way it should be.