Hardknott Brewery in Cumbria has recently doubled its production to meet growing demand for its beers. The success of the edgy craft brewer is a great example of the entrepreneurship that’s changing beer drinking in pubs and homes up and down the country.
“It was hard to find beers like ours in shops and pubs a few years ago.” says Dave Bailey, owner of Hardknott. “They were seen as too ‘way-out’ by most pub chains and retailers. That’s now changed. The benefits of going beyond the ordinary are more obvious. Licensees are genuinely interested in what craft brewers have on offer. So we invested in doubling our brewing capacity and in introducing new packaging facilities. With the growing demand, well, it would have been rude not to!”
Hardknott has a range of beers and all of them, from Juxta Beer, with its humble 1.9% abv to Colonial Mayhem with its egotistical 8.1% abv – burst with flavour. It would be difficult to label any of them as a ‘mainstream’ beer. “’Audacious’ might be a better descriptor!” says Dave.
The bottled ale market is increasing by 10% a year, the premium cask ale market by around 4% a year – and specialist craft beers are growing even faster. In fact the Office of National Statistics has just added craft beer to the basket of goods and services used to calculate inflation.
“This reflects a shift away from the dull and predictable, towards the exciting – and sometimes challenging,” comments Dave. “People are looking for an experience for the palate, not just a quenching of thirst.
“The changing tastes among consumers are allowing buyers to be more adventurous, and this in turn supports small breweries like ours to keep exploring, innovating and pushing the boundaries.”
Recent investment in bottling on-site is paying off – in terms of increased orders as well as quality assurances. “The level of control is clearly greater – giving drinkers greater confidence that any Hardknott beers they buy will be exactly as the brewer intended them to be.
”The beer is fresher and has been handled less. There’s no travelling to and fro with beer sloshing around in a big tanker,” says Dave, force majeure at this small, pioneering brewery. “It’s just the real stuff, brewed and bottled on site by us – and delivered as direct as possible, with all the care you’d expect of a brewer totally obsessed with quality beer that actually tastes of something!”
Three of Hardknott’s beers, Code Black, Infra Red and Azimuth, are now available in Morrisons. Or you can buy bottles direct from the brewery http://www.hardknott.com/Shop/ and encourage your local pub to stock casks of Hardknott beers. As Dave says, “Tell licensees about Hardknott Brewery being one of the ground-breakers of the north, an important part of the craft beer uprising. Let them know about our mission to keep on providing exciting new taste experiences. They are more likely to put in an order for a cask if they know you’re keen to try – and that your palate is ready for the revelation!’
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Notes to Editors
Hardknott Brewery started in 2005 at the top of Eskdale, in The Lakes, close to the foot of Hardknott Pass and the hamlet of Boot. It moved to Millom in 2010
To get the massive flavours and stunning aromas into Hardknott beers every bottle takes at least 10 hop cones to make.
To give the solid mouth-feel, alcohol content and satisfying balance every bottle needs over 2000 malted barley grains.
3 Examples of Beers from Hardknott – Code Black, Infra Red and Azimuth
Code Black, Infra Red and Azimuth are heavily influenced by new hop varieties in the Western States of America. By ‘dry-hopping’ with generous quantities of choice hops, mainly from the US and New Zealand, Hardknott achieves its characteristic vibrant fruit and citrus flavours.
Azimuth IPA (5.8% abv) packs a real punch of juicy peachy notes. Code Black (5.6% abv) is a black IPA. Drinkers might be taken by surprise not so much by the lingering bitterness of a black beer but by such uncharacteristic bold citrus notes. Infra Red (6.2% abv) is a hoppy red ale with massive hop characteristics, citrus and toffee, hints of roast parsnips and a solid bitter finish. “Not for the faint-hearted,” as Dave says.