Friday 11 April 2014

Would you like a job at Hardknott?

Occasionally I take a moment or two to look at what we've done, where we are going, what we've built and savour the successes. The four years since moving to Millom we have achieved a lot. Starting with a 2 barrel brewery based on tiny Grundy tanks and building it up to where we are now; several 16hl tanks, a bottling line and much improved business sustainability.

We now supply several distributors around the country, have supplied Sainsbury's and still supply Booths with beer. We export to several countries and look set to continue this upward trend. We have also created several jobs, all within an economy that has had some difficulties.

It's satisfying, but we're not done yet. We really need to replace the brew-house within the next couple of years and to justify that we really need to grow a little bigger. To get properly on-top and to make a sustainable future we need to make the whole of the business run a little more autonomously. We've got our first bar coming on-line soon1, which means it is ever more important that I move further into a management role and away from hands on mash-tun digging and cask washing.

The problem is we could really do with several people. A lead production brewer would be very useful. Additionally a brewery maintenance bod would come in handy. A sales and administration person would take a bit of workload of Ann, and make it altogether easier for us to have one of those unusual things that I believe are known as "holidays" without us having to completely shut down the business.

In reality we might be able to afford one more person, as it stands. At a push, perhaps more than one, but we'd have to increase sales and production a bit more to justify.

Either way, we certainly need to recruit in the short term, and perhaps look into he medium term at progression and autonomy. If you think you have what it takes to contribute to our plans, and are either local to us or have a desire to relocate to the beautiful County of Cumbria then please get in touch.

For more information about the roles we have please look here.


1Slightly delayed due to Network Rail's solicitors becoming involved with the lease. We are told this is a formality, and will happen in due course, but meanwhile the legal professionals are generating themselves work by assuring their clients that there are multitude of glyph intersections and point additions to make.

However, the good news is we have a premises licence for the property, even if the property isn't actually ours. Slightly bizarre!

Saturday 5 April 2014

Yerba - A collaboration with Metalman

Until 2013 I had never been to Ireland. In that year I found myself there a total of 3 times. The first was a UKTI funded trip to encourage businesses to export. It was a short trip of only just over 24 hours. The aim of the trip worked and we vowed to return, which we did, twice more that year.

On the final trip in 2013 I was verbally accosted by one Gráinne Walsh. She claimed I didn't remember her. OK, later it turned out I couldn't quite remember where, or when I had met her, but for sure I remembered. However, this did not stop her light-hearted banter and jovial piss-taking. They say if the Irish take the piss they like you. I'm still hoping I didn't misjudge the situation.

Gráinne and Tim1 run Metalman brewery in Waterford, Ireland. They make really good beer. Indeed, their Pale Ale is just exactly what a pale ale should be, very tasty, competently brewed and incredibly difficult to avoid ordering another when your glass is empty.

Gráinne's honest and fun approach left me wondering if this brewery would be good to hook up with and do a collaboration. It seems I had already started to chat to Tim later in the evening about collaborations. However, I'd had some strong beer by that point, and will admit to having memory failings. Indeed, it would appear that my slowly dying brain-cells have played tricks on me and I had incorrectly remembered where we had originally met the Metalman guys, as you will find out if you watch the video below.

Never-the-less, some months later I contacted the Metalman people and suggested we did a collaboration. We went to Waterford where we helped the beer to be developed and brewed. Later Tim and Gráinne came to Cumbria and brewed with us.

Since then our design people. LemonTop Creative, have been working on labels and keg badges that incorporate both our imagery. I think they did a splendid job. I wanted to make sure the equal parts both breweries played in the creation of this beer was reflected in the design. I think they nailed it.

 Hardknott/Metalman Collaboration from Hardknott Brewery on Vimeo.

The Irish version of the beer has been available for a few weeks now. The UK version is just rolling out of the brewery in bottles, cask and keg.


1Tim is in charge of the laid-back department at Metalman. Every brewery should have such a department, and clearly put someone in charge of it. You see, we brewers are a passionate lot, and invariably this manifests itself in undesirable traits, like getting wound-up unnecessarily, demanding that things are done in un-realistic timescales or just generally having un-provoked hissy-fits.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Tom Fool

We take our name, Hardknott, from the infamous pass that travels between Eskdale and upper Dunnerdale. There is a Roman Fort on the pass and reputedly a Roman Road which was used to navigate the pass nearly 2,000 years ago. We started our brewery at The Woolpack Inn back in 2005, which is only a short distance from the pass, in the valley of Eskdale.

The river Esk travels down the valley, past the bottom of the pass, and very close to the pub, and then winds its way down to the sea followed, allegedly, by the route of the Roman Road1. Close to the sea the river passes by a castle up on a hill. It's called Muncaster Castle. The Roman road is likely to have passed by the Castle too.

Castra is a Latin name meaning military camp. Chester, for instance, derives it's name from this Latin word. This is strong indication that the site of Muncaster Castle has been inhabited in one form or another since Roman times. There is a family who live there who go by the name of Pennington. They have been there since 1208. Well, not the people who are there now, that's ridiculous, but some ancestors of theirs many generations ago.

What isn't well known is that there is archaeological evidence of ancient Roman hop-yards at Muncaster. The Romans, fed up of being unable to grow decent grapes in the British climate, turned their hands to hop growing, developing cultivars quite advanced. It is said that they managed a variety so packed full of resinous fruity flavours that the ancient craft brewers would fight for their share of the yearly crop. Further evidence of Roman craft brewing came to light when a Latin stone carving was found discussing the various merits of alternative dispense methods.  "SPUMANS FRIGIDUS CERVISIAM, EST OPUS EST DIABOLI"

Sadly, at the fall of the Roman Empire we lost hop growing skills, along with the skills to make aqueducts, central heating systems and organise really good orgies. It was not until many years later we re-discovered the skills of growing hops. I'm still waiting to attend a really good orgy.

But I digress, although I'm sure Tom Fool would have liked my wanderings. Tom, aka Tom Skelton, is reputed to be a joking scallywag who sat under a tree outside the Castle and directed passersby into routes across the river Esk that were less than ideal. His ghost still haunts the castle, and many a poor soul has had a misfortunate mishap after forgetting to toast the poltergeist.

Anyway, whatever the truth or otherwise of the history of Tom, and other stories from The Castle, what I can promise is that we made a beer exclusively for The Pennington's, the nice people who live there. Peter quite likes beer you see, and we can easily make a few bottles with their label on, it's easy. The beer is called Tom Fool2

I was at The Castle today for some publicity shots. Oh, and to drink beer with Peter Frost-Pennington and Tom's ghost.

The picture on the left of Tom is an original Collingwood of The Fort at Hardknott as it might have appeared in Roman Times.

The beer is also available on cask in the Pennington's hostelries in Ravenglass from tomorrow.


1Actually, there is much debate about the route that the Roman road took in Eskdale. Very few positive verifications have been made as to its location.

2Before any of you point out that another Cumbrian Brewery makes Tom Fool, they don't any more. And The Pennington's own the trade mark too, so there.