New ale tops up decade of quality pints for Wensleydale
Wensleydale Brewery has named 10th anniversary ale, Decadence. But there has been nothing louche about the recent revival in its fortunes.
Only a year ago, the thriving microbrewery, based in Bellerby, North Yorkshire, was facing closure. Now Wensleydale is celebrating the major milestone this month following its busiest summer yet.
“It’s been such a fantastic summer, we’re thinking about expanding our production capacity,” said new co-owner Geoff Southgate.
The turnaround is due largely to the enthusiasm, hard work and know-how of Geoff and his colleague Carl Gehrman who bought the business from their former bosses in February.
Although aged just 24 and 23, the pair, who are believed to be among the youngest brewery owners in the country, already have plenty of experience.
Geoff, who lives in Coverdale, began working part-time for the brewery when it was based at the Foresters Arms in Carlton and he was still at school. He stayed on after his ‘A’ levels and was joined by school friend Carl a year later. Between them they now manage all aspects of the venture.
Carl said: “Geoff and I had both been here, running the brewery like it was our own. We’d always made the effort, going the extra mile for sales. We thought: ‘If this is what we do when it isn’t ours, think what we can do if we actually ran it’.”
Their first six months in charge has seen plenty of changes and new initiatives aimed at boosting sales of Wensleydale favourites, such as Semer Water.
A successful relaunch party at Bolton Castle in July was attended by over 300 people and is now set to become an annual event. And throughout the summer the pair have been all over Yorkshire, setting up their stall at beer festivals and country fairs.
A major revamp of the brewery’s branding and a new web site has made much of Geoff and Carl’s strong Yorkshire roots. And the pair say they are indebted to local landlords and real ale lovers for all the support they have given.
“They know we’re local lads and people have supported us at every opportunity,” said Carl.
Although sales to local pubs, farm shops and independently run stockists are the mainstay of the business, the brewery also sells its cask and bottled ales as far afield as Hull and Newcastle.
Wensleydale Brewery’s success story is part of a recent boom in independent breweries. Despite the economic downturn and hard times in the pub trade as a whole, microbreweries seem to be bucking the trend, with over 60 in Yorkshire alone.
“More and more people are choosing real ales and especially artisan beers like ours that are locally produced,” said Geoff. “If people go out, they want something better for their £3 a pint than the sort of thing they can buy much cheaper in the supermarket.
“There are as many different favourites as there are types of beer – stouts, bests, pale ales – so we just try and meet all tastes. That’s the good thing about having a microbrewery – you’ve got that flexibility.”
Following their action-packed summer, Geoff and Carl are now gearing up for a busy Christmas and preparing for the annual sales rush on bottled beers and presentation packs.
With all those bottles to stockpile, the company’s 10th birthday is likely to be a low-key affair. Still, the pair might find time to sink a couple of pints of Decadence, a citrusy IPA-type beer that packs a punch.
“We made sure we brewed a 10th anniversary beer that we both really liked,” said Geoff.