Jun 19

Caldera Coffee

Caldera Coffee from Much Hoole, Preston. 

It is a great pleasure to get to know the other traders at the farmers’ markets we travel around. We have been doing Hoghton Tower since the beginning and feel like it is our home market.

I am developing my appreciation of good coffee and it was good to meet Dan from Caldera Coffee at Hoghton last month.

Dan’s journey was similar to ours. It started with a gradual appreciation of high street coffee, followed by an awakening of how good coffee can be when produced by someone with care an attention. He was easy to spot with his coffee grinder and coffee bean sacks.

Following a bike crash, Dan had time on his hands and began roasting his own coffee using beans from local importers. A caldera is the larger void created when a volcano collapses in on itself. Dan likened it to the void in his pocket once he began roasting. We know the feeling.

I believe beer is for sharing and using as the start of a conversation. Good coffee should be the same. I was looking for something to take to work and share with a couple of blokes during the week. We stand around in the staffroom, sniffing and sipping. It starts a chat and we spend most of the time grinning.

I took with me a Columbian Cenoic and a Malawi. Both ground and suitable for a french press. We spent a bit of time chewing over the various techniques when using an Aeropress (the kids bought me one for christmas). Good to talk to someone who knows their business.

The Columbian was robust enough to handle me adding a drop of milk without losing its flavour (sacrilege according to the other two).

The Malawi suited a little milk to bring out the chocolate in the background. Excellent.

Heading out to the market and swapping a few bottle of our beer for a couple of bags of coffee adds to the experience and is what market life is all about. I will be back for more.

You can find out more about Caldera Coffee on their website www.calderacoffee.co.uk and follow them on twitter here. 

Nov 18

So…you wanna start a brewery – Our Message in a Bottle

It is Children in Need time again and it brings to mind the advice of the late, great Terry Wogan. He famously said that he hadn’t got millions of listeners, he only had one. He was in a studio and imagining broadcasting to a single person listening to their radio. I experienced that day after day. It always felt like he was talking just to me. 

I once heard an author discussing their finished novel as a being like a message in a bottle. They write and send it out into the world. They don’t know where it it will end up or who will read it and they wrote with that single, mystery person in mind.

Beer Bottle in Sand

If ever an analogy was true it was that one. We sell our bottles and they head out into the world. It got me thinking about the person on the other end. The person who ends up opening it up. Who do I imagine them to be and what message am I trying to send them?

When I am thinking about a beer to send out, I do have someone in mind…or rather a pair of people. Beer is a social drink and I imagine it bringing people together. A drink to chat over. It gives me a lot of pleasure when someone comes to the stall looking for a beer to take home to their dad or a close relative. It happens a lot. We sell most of our beer on Sunday morning and I imagine a bottle or two heading off with the customer as they go and see their family in the afternoon. I want it to come out of the bag, raise a smile and be a bit of a talking point. Something to share and bring people together. It might be something instantly recognisable and easy drinking or it might be something more challenging to share and widen experience. To learn about beer together. 

Way before I started brewing, I used to visit my grandad whilst he was living in sheltered housing in Halliwell. I would often take him bottle of beer and it brought us together. It was the starting point of a conversation that might head off in any direction as we stood next a big world map he had pinned to the kitchen wall. I knew that he looked forward to it. I get an immense amount of pleasure when people come and take a bottle or two for the same reason.

My single Wogan listener/drinker is that person who takes a bottle with the intention of sharing it and brightening up someone’s day. My message in a bottle is that beer is a social drink best drunk with friends and loved ones…make it local, make it interesting. Learn about beer together. Let it start the conversation and who knows where it will end.  Long may it continue.



P.s. After a few beers last night and contemplating standing all day on a market in the snow,  Phil says ‘Stuff that (paraphrasing), I’m brewing for Zak Avery.’

To keep up to date with our beers, like our facebook page and follow us on twitter.

Nov 12

Cloudwater’s banging bass and chill-out room

I am very old and was around in Manchester at the end of the 80s as rave was picking up a head of steam. The bass would get you and become addictive. Sometimes, you might need to step out for a minute or two before your brain exploded. Now in my late 40s, I get the same thing with hops. I am addicted but sometimes, I need to step outside for a moment. We picked up 3 beers from Cloudwater which took me back. 

We first became aware of Cloudwater on a trip to pick up some beers from Wilson Potter Brewery in Middleton. We were chatting about the number of new breweries springing up and they said that there was rumour of a big one just about to get off the ground in Manchester. Fast forward a little and we were picking up beers from Marble and chatting with the newly opened Chorlton Brew Co. when we heard that Clouwater had opened.

We didn’t come across their beers until a beery day trip to Thomas street. We had many beers that day and were rather smitten by Marble but the beer of the day was undoubtably a 6.8% Cloudwater DIPA on keg. It cut through the fug of the late afternoon and stayed long in the memory. One of those beers that you then compare others against. It hit me between the eyes, was clean as a whistle and was head and shoulders above everything else. 

We then started to read about it online. It seemed that the Cloudwater DIPA was becoming a bit of an internet sensation. Since then, we have picked a bottle or two up whenever we have seen them.

One of the good things about Cloudwater are the visitor sessions and Phil and I found ourselves wandering around Piccadilly at 10.30am one Saturday morning in August looking for the brewery.

14925561_1685453088433762_4825687021403730396_nThe place where the magic happens is an unobtrusive building and we spent a pleasant couple of hours finding out about the brewery, chatting and sampling straight from the fermenters. An impressive set up. One thing I like about Cloudwater is the apparent lack of secrecy. Both in the brewery and on the bottles, everything is listed. We came away with some inspiration and made our way through the bustling Manchester Pride crowds to Beer Nouveau and Alphabet before the Gaslamp, Brink and home. A good day.

We like to keep our stall fresh with a few interesting beers so I headed back over to Manchester to pick up a few cases. The place was busy. Cloudwater have no trouble selling their beer and there was plenty of evidence of a good throughput and beer heading out. I came away with:

Cloudwater Brew Co – Centennial Eldorado – 4.5%vol – Session IPA

A nice session IPA sitting next to our own 4.4% Holy Citra. Thought it would be good to compare a couple of unfined IPAs with a west coast character. No doubt that the Centennial poured much more pale which had me reaching for the bottle and looking for the grain bill. Some caramalt in there but clearly less than the Citra. A little wheat too. The aroma was proper cloudwater. It is so distinctive with this having more citrus going on than usual. Our Citra compared well and wasn’t lacking aroma. First taste had a good light carbonation. Juicy but not overpowering. I can’t think about centennial hops without the 1978 TV series coming to mind. Set in Colorado, Centennial spanned 2 centuries.  Almost 40 years later, mention centennial and I get flashbacks. Sunday afternoon murder and intrigue stuck in my 9 year old mind. Happy days.



The term ‘session IPA’ got us wondering. We called our Big Bertha Stout a ‘session stout’ and knew what we meant. We called it session because it was quaffable. It wasn’t just the strength but the drinkability. Could I sit and spend the afternoon drinking this? Yes, I think I probably could. I often need a bit of light relief during in the midst of hoppy IPAs but this wasn’t too much. Light, lemony hops coming through to the finish.

Cloudwater Brew Co – Vic’s Secret – 6.5%vol – IPA

Next up was the 6.5% Vic’s Secret named after the hop. Pictured below sitting next to a bottle of our own Belmont Midge. Clearly more full on than the earlier, lighter session IPA and the Cloudwater aroma hits you straight off. Some Citra in there too which was good to compare with the Midge’s dry hopped Citra aroma.


The Vic’s Secret is definitely an IPA rather than a DIPA. A good definition to make. It has tons of hoppy character but it doesn’t hit you like a sledgehammer. For drinkability, the Midge stood up well. Not as complex but a deep bitterness that kept us reaching for it.

Cloudwater has such a distinctive aroma that one whiff transports me to the northern quarter. I am a bit of a hop head but I sometimes need something a bit different before I take a deep breath and head back in. The third beer of the trio was perfect.

Cloudwater Brew Co – Sorachi Grisette – 3.5%vol – Grisette

I imagine this lovely, light grisette as the perfect antidote to those emerging from the northern quarter in a hop fuelled fug. Dry and refreshing and having the same effect as it would on the workers leaving the mines and factories of old. The aroma is again distinctive of Cloudwater but this time because simply because of its prominence. Nobody puts aroma in beer like Cloudwater. This time it promises a fresh spiciness and pours very pale and lively. I reached for the bottle but could find no record of the yeast used on this one. It would be interesting to know whether it was a saison strain or something else.


I have had a bit of a soft spot for grisettes since selling an excellent Partizan grisette on our first ever stall. This was just as good.

We interspersed with a Lancashire vs Cheshire cheese taste off before going back to it. Third sip and the Sorachi came through loud and clear. I have been a sorachi fan since we had a couple of cases of Rammy Craft’s Nihon Hana which is made with Himalayan Pink Salt and for ages, I thought that was what the distinctive taste was. It kept bringing me back for more. The sorachi in this grisette is distinctive without detracting from the light, dry character of the beer. Bang on.

We will be bringing them to our markets over the next week or two. See you there. 

To keep up to date with other brewers that we will have available on our stall, like our facebook page and follow us on twitter.

Sep 18

Beer Diaries – 4 bottled gems from Rammy Craft

Our beer adventures seem to have been inextricably linked to Matt and Rammy Craft. His beers were on our first ever farmers’ market stall and we have been regular customers of his ever since we first bumped into his wife, Lysha at Summerseat Garden Centre about 3 and a half years ago. Matt was ill and she was doing a tasting session in his stead.

Matt kindly sold us his 200 litre mash tun as he upscaled a little. I could sense his pain at letting it go. It had been made with care and attention and had seen him through many brews. It is now doing the same for us and has not let us down yet.

We keep our stall fresh by adding a selection of local beers and Matt’s are invariably interesting. He always has something new for us to try. We have followed his path from part-time to full-time brewer and our first selection was a beer he made to celebrate his 5 years as a commercial enterprise. He called it 5.

Rammy Craft Ales –  5 – 9.3% vol – American Imperial IPA

5 is a beer to respect. It is one of those that is either the first beer of the night or the last. Whichever, we think it is not one that should be lumped into the middle.

5The bottled looks great and sits there daring you. It pours deep and rich with a big creamy head and citrus aroma. No filtered, pasteurised nonsense going on here. The first sip is alive with carbonation and big hoppy hit. As you get into it, vanilla from bourbon, oak chips comes through. This beer packs a punch.

I was passing through Bunbury’s soon after it release and was lucky enough to get hold of a half on draft. I needed a quiet sit down afterwards. We have had a few bottles stashed away and bring them out for special occasions. I have one hidden and it will come out on New Year’s Eve.

The next 3 choices were picked up from the unit in Bury were Matt now bottles his beers. He wasn’t there at the time but messaged me later to say that he thought we had chosen well. We started with one that Matt rates as one of his best ever.

Rammy Craft Ales – Quattrus 5.3% vol – IPA infused with real citrus fruit

The bottle states clearly that this is arguably one of Matt’s best ever creations. Good choice of word. I stood at the bar with Matt at last year’s Bolton CAMRA beer festival and we got chatting about our favourite parts of the process. It is the creativity and the sheer variety of Matt’s output that makes Rammy Craft stand out.


Quattrus is made with orange peel and limes and it pours rich and deep. We gave away lots of samples today on our market stall as the antithesis of our own 8.1% malty, Scotsman’s Stump. It has a great dry bitterness that avoids being sweet and cloying. If this is marmalade it is a very grown up version. 

On to the beer with the lowest abv of the selection.

Rammy Craft Ales – Live and Let Rye 3.6% vol – American style with rye

Pours with a good, creamy head that promises plenty of body for its 3.6%


I have been searching for a tasty rye since having an almost perfect pint from Blackedge Brewery (Horwich) in the Cheethams Arms in Chapletown. This was a little lighter and full of American character. We sold a few of these today. We get quite a few regulars looking for a lower strength beer with plenty of character and this certainly fits the bill. There is lots going on in there. It sent us down the path of thinking of other characterful beers in the same sort of range. Lightweights and Gentlemen (Irwell works – Ramsbottom) came up. I am a fan of Lightweights but this is more my cup of tea. A good choice.

Tea leads us nicely into the last Rammy choice of the evening

Rammy Craft Ales – Citrus Tips – 5.8% vol – Tea infused IPA

This came towards the end of a long evening. To paraphrase Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man. ‘That god, I found it last.’ 


Citrus tips is made with lemon peel which comes through in the aroma and infused with tea. First taste is excellent. Plenty of citrus but the tea counteracts it superbly. Smooth, balanced and bitter. In a evening of many beers, this was the best of the night.

We still have a few bottles of each to take with us to market however, I might have less of the Citrus Tips than expected. 

A really enjoyable evening trying a good selection. That is what it is all about for us. Interesting beer. Cheers Matt. Top job. You can find out more about Matt on Rammy Craft’s website.

To keep up to date with other brewers that we will have available on our stall, like our facebook page and follow us on twitter.

Sep 06

Beer Diaries – Getting Serious with Jenny

You may well know that we sell our bottles beers on our stall at local farmers’ markets. We have a core group of regulars who come looking for a beer and a chat. They don’t expect fancy labels and slick branding. In fact, that is the opposite of what they want. We sell more of our bottles with little sticky white (and legally compliant!) labels than any others. For them, it is about provenance and meeting local producers.

CeAiGMLWoAABQ_8.jpg-largeHowever, we do see it as our job to spread the word about small Lancashire brewers. We like to have a few bottles from other local breweries. It keeps the chat and the stall interesting. We only sell bottles from brewers we have met and breweries we have visited. That way we can tell our customers a little about the way the beer has been produced and the person behind it. It gets us out and about. We swap stories and advice. It is one of our favourite things to do.

Last week, I headed up to Rochdale to meet Jenny from Serious Brewing. Jenny and husband Ken set up Serious Brewing with a £25k loan from Business Finance Solutions with the aim of providing bottle conditioned and key-keg beer to local outlets. Their 6BBl kit from Johnson Brewing Design is superb (a few pics from their website here).

Jenny had selected 3 beers that she thought would appeal to our customers. A couple of days later found me and Phil running the Bolton Community Half Marathon and settling down afterwards in the Sunday afternoon sunshine with a bottle opener.

Serious Brewing Company – RedSmith IPA – 4.3%abv – Red IPA (330ml bottle)

I love a red IPA. I was introduced to them by the excellent Infra Red from Hardknott which we had on our first ever market stall. I enjoy the added depth promised. This poured with a slight chill haze and set my mouth watering in anticipation of a juicy bitterness.

Serious Redsmith It reminded me of our own Holy Hop which is made with 5 American hops. On first taste,the RedSmith managed to be both dry and soft at the same time with Cascade and Centennial coming through without being overpowering. Plenty of life and pleasant around the mouth. Second mouthful and the aroma steps back to leave a good American taste without overdoing it. A good over the top bitterness on the finish taking it out of pale ale into IPA territory. Couldn’t resist opening a Holy Hop and doing a bit of blind tasting. Very close. Close with eyes open too. The sort of beer we like to drink.

We moved up the strength scale into the second of Jenny’s beers.

Serious Brewing Company – Kardinaal – 6.5%abv – Dubbel (330ml bottle)

The Dubbel is my preference amongst the Belgian dubbels, trippels and quads. I am a fan of that caramel hit. This poured a dark, reddish brown that shouted alcoholic warmth. The first taste was all caramel and toffee and was smooth as anything.

Serious Kardinaal Glad to say that the alcoholic warmth was well in the background and on second taste is was raisins and vanilla which was full bodied and sliding down nicely. A good Autumn beer that speaks of brandy snaps and clottled cream. The finish was short with no lingering aftertaste or bitterness. Felt the need to go back for more and gone all too soon.

On to the last and strongest beer in Jenny’s selection.

Serious Brewing Company – Blue Sky – 6.8%abv – Saison (330ml bottle)

After the richness of the dubbel, the saison seemed like a perfect antidote and poured with a big frothy aromatic head. We have a history of saison drinking after running with Wild Beer Company saison being our beer of choice.

Serious Blue SkyGood thirst quenching stuff. First taste gave that saison spice alongside some vanilla in the background. Carbonated, zingy and dangerously drinkable for a 6.8%

3 good beers chosen for our customers by the brewer. Each a good example of their style and a chance to chat and educate our market goers as we go. For me, that is what it is all about. Sharing good local produce with people who want their food and drink made with care. What more could we ask.

You can read more about Jenny and Ken at Rochdale online here. 

To keep up to date with other brewers that we will have available on our stall, like our facebook page and follow us on twitter.

Cheers – Chris


Jul 23

Why having no time or money is a good thing

We are 3 years into our beery adventure and we still have no time or money. We reckon that is a good thing. It all started with a stall selling interesting bottled beer at a local farmers’ market. We had no idea at the time that it would lead to us brewing but here we are with our own cask ale starting to go out to pubs. It is still enjoyable and exciting and I put that down to our rules for growth.

We said from the start that we would grow organically. No cash injections or loans allowed. We don’t put any money in that we don’t earn from sales. It has served us well. It means that we are not heading down a pre-ordained path but have the flexibility to follow where the adventure leads us. It keeps us lean and every bit of profit is important to us. Good margins are vital but then you also learn about the importance of cashflow. Overheads can kill you so we have to keep them to almost nil. We want no pressure on us to service a loan each month. We have no budget for advertising but we don’t need to advertise far and wide. We just work on building up a core base of customers close to home who care about us and vice-versa. At the moment we pretty have much sold everything before we brew it. Our biggest issue is keeping up with demand.

CeAiGMLWoAABQ_8.jpg-largeWe keep heading off to Morrow Brothers to buy another firkin (We now own 6 and a half) and you get the feeling that  people who have been in the business a long time think that we are doing it the right way. Slow and steady. For people like us who have not spent years in the brewing industry it is important to enjoy meeting people and learn from the ground up.

We have a limited amount of time too. I think that this is just as important for creativity as financial constraints. We devote about 3 Sundays a month to the brewery. It makes you be organised and focus on what works best. Do we brew 3 times a month and sell all out to pubs in firkins? Do we brew once and sell bottles on 2 markets? Do we brew twice and do one market with the rest going to pubs? Do we brew 3 times and just sell bottles on Eebria? We are pragmatists and look for the things that work best but we also follow the fun. This whole thing is meant to be enjoyable and living the dream.

This discipline of limited time and money is good for us. When we deviate from it, we become flabby. We had a phase where we hit every market we could. We made decent money but it masked inefficiency, left us worn out and the fun and enjoyment went.

We are progressing step by step. Every brew allows us to add a bit more equipment and refine our methods. There will come a point when we move from brewing under a gazebo (We really do – everything under one tiny roof) to a unit somewhere but there is no rush. We won’t jump to that until we know we have enough customers to make it work and we have the know how to avoid the many blind alleys you can head up.

When I started blogging, the best piece of advice was to keep writing and find your voice. It starts to emerge after 100 or so posts and your blogging identity slowly forms. I think that it will be the same with beers. We will keep brewing and down the line our true identity will come out slowly. We can allow that to happen if we take it steady and don’t force the issue. It is at that point when you can start to build a brand that is genuine and will stand the test of time. It would be too easy to spend a fortune on branding and it jar with what we eventually become. 

For now, I am still getting a buzz when I walk into a place and see our beer on. I hope that never goes away.

Cheers – You can check out our beers here and find out where will be next here. 





Apr 18

So you wanna start a brewery…Living the dream.

I was standing at the bar at Bolton Beer Festival having a chat with Matt from Rammy Craft. The subject had turned to the part of the process that we enjoy the most. Brewing is creative. You start with raw ingredients and try to turn them into something wonderful. It is a buzz and I can see how in the commercial world, it can easily get lost. What starts out as a passion could easily become humdrum as you produce the same beers month in and month out. The reason we love Rammy Craft so much is that there is always something new to try. It never gets dull.

It is important to us to keep hold of that thing that started us off. The thing that you go to bed thinking about and wake up thinking about. Keeping hold of where it began.

For me, it was watching the first series of River Cottage with Hugh Fernley Whittingstall. He had sold up and moved to the country to see if he could live off the fat of the land. I enjoyed everything about it. It was the episodes where he added value to his produce and sold them at farmers’ markets that lit the flame. I wanted a bit of that.

I started to visit local farmers’ markets and Hoghton Tower became a favourite. I dreamt of giving up the 9-5 and running my own stall. It was about a combination of local produce and the buzz of turning raw ingredients into money. I remember chatting to someone at work 12 or 13 years ago about my dream to run an artisan bread stall. I knew nothing about baking bread but I loved the bread we came home with and it seemed like a way in. Little did I realise at the time, that it would be beer that gave me the chance to grab a bit of the good life. 

Fast forward over a decade and yesterday was Hoghton Tower market. We have been running our beer stall there now for close on 3 years of years. I spent the day chatting with the friends and regulars we have made about life in general and about our latest beer.

It is easy to forget the important things in life. This is the bit that I enjoy. I am living the dream. Standing on my own stall at Hoghton Tower as a local producer. Turing raw ingredients into something they will take home and enjoy and making a few bob along the way.

For other producers, the buzz is in building a brand. Taking one product, making it consistent and sending it far and wide. I get that too but it isn’t the same for me. Not at the moment anyway.

Dreams change and there may come a time when it loses its shine but what shouldn’t change is the excitement. The butterflies. Look for them and follow them. The humdrum is necessary but only if it allows you to fan the flames of that original excitement and keep it alive. Long may it continue.



Feb 19

Beer Diaries – A proper Dubday afternoon

It all started with a chance meeting with the DUB boys in Bunburys a couple of weeks ago. I had just ordered my father-in-law a pint of DUB Tropicana (great name) when I noticed them at the bar in DUB hats and fleeces. It was good to finally meet them all and have a chat.

It is almost 3 years since our first market stall at Hollands in Bromley Cross. Our friend Steve told us about a mate of his who was creating custom made kit for small brewers. Pallet Brew was the name. We went home and googled it. I have watched those videos a few times. When Pallet Brew’s Lewis began to brew as DUB we sort of followed their progress from a distance. It is inspiring to a couple of brewers like us to see how it can be done.

We had a good chat and loosely said that I might call down and pick up a few cases for our stall so it was good to finally get down into the industrial units near Raikes Lane, Bolton and have a look round.

12745514_1552569905055415_866452154537897262_nWalking in, it is hard not be a bit jealous. DUB’s 10 barrel set up is lovely bit of kit. As nice as you would expect from someone with a background in putting kit together. Four 2200 litre fermenters dominate the centre of the unit. They may soon be dwarfed by containers twice that size. Brewing twice in a day will allow for a 20 barrel fermentation. More than enough for going on with!

Sitting in the corner is the original 200 litre kit. Again, it is beautifully put together. It is till used regularly for smaller runs and serves 3 smaller fermenters.


200 litre kit still in regular use

I had gone down to pick up some DUBkin, their pumpkin ale. Alex roasted 20kg of pumpkins at home before adding them to the mash tun. Cloves, ginger and assorted spices went into the fermenter. Pumpkin pie in a bottle. It was my kind of drink. Deep, spiced and smooth.


Alex with a glass of delicious DUBkin. Took 20kg of roasted pumpkin in the mash tun.

Lewis shouted over “Has he tried the sour?’ and Alex disappeared again and came back with 3 glasses. A light sour and a dark sour. The light was spot on. Not too crazy with just the right amount of bite. My sister described her last Citra sour as alcoholic fruit juice. Close your eyes and taste. It works for me.

The light is called DUBday and the dark DUBnight.

The dark sour was full of Chinook and again wasn’t overpowering. The trick came when you blended the two. It just worked. Looks like there are plenty of suggestions for a name for the blend. I would go for ‘DUBday Afternoon’.

We then cracked open a bottle of our own Holy Citra. I wanted to see what Alex thought. Good first reaction. Good Citra hit. Nice balance. He agreed that we could get the aroma up a bit more with some dry hopping. We will have a play with that one.

Chatting on the way out, I talked about not allowing any cash injections into our brewing. We just reinvest what we make and Lewis said that he was the same. Just grown organically. It is good to see that it can be done.

12733368_1552569965055409_8908743879666474846_nNice fellas, all of them and I will be back. Probably bump into them in Bunburys too. DUB are opening their first outlet in Horwich soon with plans for a second in the pipeline. The local scene has a good feeling about it at the moment. It is a nice thing to be a part of in our own small way.

You can keep unto date with our brewery and stall news by following us on twitter and liking our Facebook page.

The Lancashire Beer Circle is a Facebook group aimed at connecting Lancashire Brewers with Lancashire people. The chat is warm and friendly. Come and join in, you will be made very welcome.




Feb 17

Hopstar – In the heart of Darwen’s community

Hopstar Brewery from Darwen is one of the staples of the Lancashire Beer Circle. We have got to know brewer Natalie well and she often drops us a few cases off as she is out and about delivering. A thing that she loves to do.

Hopstar was born out the hobby of beer lover Barry Tyson back in 2004. Barry has a strong belief in only using the best ingredients and pretty soon was supplying the Black Horse in Darwen with his 2.5 barrel plant housed in a garage.

Natalie from Hopstar joins us at Houghton Tower

Natalie from Hopstar joins us at Houghton Tower

Things grew from there and in 2008, daughter Natalie came on board to do some driving and she slowly started to learn the art of the brewer.

2010 saw Hopstar move into a little unit in Darwen with a 6 barrel setup. Natalie took over the reigns full-time and Barry opened up their brewery tap, Number 39 where there is always something going. The best way to keep in touch with Number 39 is through their facebook page here.

Last time I spoke to Natalie, she was brewing around 50 barrels a week and you get the sense that it is being out and about meeting landlords and publicans that she really loves. She supplies over 100 outlets altogether. A bit of a difference from her childcare background but not a change that I think she regrets.

The thing we love abut Hopstar is that it feels rooted in Darwen and you can sense the locals are proud of their beer. There have been a few other brewers cuckoo brewing at Hopstar and Natalie does a great discount for those locals returning bottles.

Natalie has been a great help to us in our short life so far. She gave us advice on boxes and labels and often stops off on her travels to drop a few cases with us. Who knows, she may even let us do a bit of voluntary work with her over the coming year. I get the feeling that may start with washing bottles.

We sell all the varieties of Hopstar that Natalie bottles:

Lancashire Gold  (4.0%) A light beer with a good combination of malt and hops. Maris Otter Premium and Crystal malts makes a well balanced body with an English and two American hops giving great taste for this session beer

Lush  (4.0%)  Because the hop is the star. Our original copper coloured ale brewed with lashings of tasty Amarillo hops. Full bodied and very moreish.

Chilli Beer  (3.8%)  A fruity, hoppy beer with a tongue tingling subtle hint of chilli and heat that bulids towards the end of the drink. Infused with the fruity flavours of one of the hottest chillis, but less of the heat.

Dizzy Danny (3.8%)  Best seller on cask. Golden coloured hoppy and fruity. Crisp smooth malt finish.

We would love to get hold of Hopstar’s Smokey Joes and you will be the first to know if Natalie does a run in bottles.

You can keep unto date with our brewery and stall news by following us on twitter and liking our Facebook page.

The Lancashire Beer Circle is a Facebook group aimed at connecting Lancashire Brewers with Lancashire people. The chat is warm and friendly. Come and join in, you will be made very welcome.



Feb 17

So…you wanna start a brewery – Less haste and more speed

We are now almost 3 years into this beery adventure and a year into brewing commercially. We do this in our spare time and sometimes we just get caught up in real life  and the months slip by.

Today was meant to be a a brew day but my son was ill. A change of plan and we made it into a strategic day instead. It is good to stop for a moment and do the things that will move us forward properly rather than just spinning plates.

2 big pots of coffee, one or two specially selected educational beers and 7 hours later, we have moved things on. We should do it more often.

Today we:

  • Finally got round to speaking to a supplier, getting a few questions answered and ordered a 300 litre temperature controlled fermenter. It will be here the day after tomorrow. We went into this venture with a golden rule. No cash injections. We are going to grow steadily and reinvest what we make. It makes us lean and we watch the pennies. The fermenter will be our most significant investment and comes from cash earned over the Christmas period. We had been dithering and worried about then using the rest of our kit but you have to think about what you can do rather than what you can’t. It is possible to fill that fermenter with the kit we have so away we go.
  • Updated our brewing and HMRC records. We just needed to sit down and do it. We pay our taxes each month but it is good to get hold of it properly.
  • Designed a new series of labels. Good fun and took ages. 2 heads are better than one. It helps stop us going off on one.
  • Stump500ml label 17.02.16Spoke to a couple of new breweries about getting a few cases in for our Lancashire Beer Stall. This is one of our favourite things to do. We started by championing Lancashire beer and we will continue to do so.
  • Sorted out our work and storage spaces ready for the fermenter to arrive.

The pressure to brew, brew, brew is always there but sometimes you need to let go for a moment and find a better way. 

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The Lancashire Beer Circle is a Facebook group aimed at connecting Lancashire Brewers with Lancashire people. The chat is warm and friendly. Come and join in, you will be made very welcome.




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