Edgy Lake District brewery doubles in size to meet demand from changing British palates
Tiny Hardknott wins deal to go into over 300 stores
Hardknott Brewery in Cumbria has recently doubled its production to meet the rapidly growing demand for its bottled beers – and been rewarded with its first contract with a major supermarket. The success of the edgy craft brewer is a great example of the entrepreneurship that’s changing the country’s beer aisles.
“It would have been hard to find beers like ours on the shelves a few years ago,” says Dave Bailey, owner of Hardknott. “Our brewery was seen as too small and our beers as too ‘way-out’ for most retailers. The rate of change has been astonishing.”
Over 300 Morrisons’ stores have just started stocking three Hardknott ales. They are all IPAs and, as Dave points out, not one of them could be labelled as mainstream beers. “Audacious might be a better descriptor!” he says.
The flavour profile of the three beers, Code Black, Infra Red and Azimuth, is 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.
The bottled ale market is increasing by 10% a year with specialist craft beers growing even faster. “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.”
Hardknott Brewery is one of the ground-breakers of the north, there right at the beginning of the craft beer uprising, and moving fast to keep up with demand. The deal with Morrisons, which sees 4 x 330ml craft bottled beers made available for £6.00,makes Hardknott one of the smallest craft breweries to achieve a national listing in one of the top supermarkets.
The fact that the brewery bottles on-site is a significant factor in the winning of contracts. The level of control is clearly greater – and 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. “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!”
In recognition of the growing sector of the market, the Office of National Statistics has just added craft beer to the basket of goods and services used to calculate inflation.