23 Dec 2016

2016 - a year to drink to?

What a year it’s been. Sad to say that we’re well and truly in the age where National Treasures start to disappear. Seismic change on the socio-political stage too. More than ever in this ‘post-fact’ age, where immediacy is valued so highly, and the thresholds for acceptance, tolerance and enjoyment are that much lower, we need to remember that there is plenty to be cheery about. There is plenty of good in the world. There is certainly a lot of good beer in the world. And so rather than morbidly dwelling on the doom and gloom, let’s raise a glass to new dawns, to striving towards betterment, to the pure unbridled joy that can be had from sharing a really really tasty beer with friends.

For Ilkley Brewery, 2016 has been somewhat of a rollercoaster: the transition from old to new investors saw a complete overhaul behind the scenes, as well as some range and branding changes. We’ve welcomed new faces (hi Tony, hi Richard!), and said goodbye to a couple of others, wishing both Josie and Christa well in their next chapters at Stone and Magic Rock respectively. We have continued our commitment to the (real) Living Wage, introduced a share option scheme and established an in-house training programme to supplement our commitment to external training (Adam is the latest to embark on gaining his IBD qualifications). We have also undertaken an extensive review of our brewing facility, including taking on a 2nd warehouse and building bespoke offices, reception and shop onsite. We’ve nearly completed SALSA accreditation, to further assure our customers that our production and hygiene standards are top notch. 

We’ve started a rolling re-investment plan to upgrade our brewing equipment. We also finalised our expansion plans, enlisting the industry’s best to help plan, design and deliver the best solution as we bridge the gap between where we’re at now, and the brewery we want to become over the next 5 years. We had in fact sourced new fermenters, received planning permission for silos and external tanks only for the Great British public to make a decision that added 20% to our investment plans in June. We’re in this for the long haul, and that expansion will happen, but perhaps in a more prudent fashion. Watch this space… In the last 6 months, we have been focusing our energies into launching a new range of products, putting our beer in to cans [separate blog to follow] in the best way possible. With this to supplement the growth of our keg and bottle sales, as well as the steady performance of our cask beers, we’re brewing flat-out and even our January and February brewing slots scheduled and booked (so much for post-christmas down-time!).

Josie has also worked tirelessly to fill up our 2017 order book already, and we’re excited about new partnerships and customers that will allow more people across the country to taste our beer more often. We’re also building on some key relationships we’ve developed this year, notably with Toni at Pigs Ears looking after our cask distribution in London, and James of James Clay fame doing the same with our keg beers, but in the North as well as in London. Our partnership with Small Beer covers the East Midlands, ASD the West Midlands, and Big Beer in the South West. Pivovar and Glassworks cover the North East and West, along with LWC for cask, and we’re looking forward to working with Alesela in Scotland. Couple this to the continued growth of coverage for our bottles via M&S, Morrisons, Co-op and Booths among others, we’re now stocked on more shelves than ever before. Beerhawk and Beer52 have been staunch supporters online, and we can’t wait to add the cans to these listings. Next stop Australia, Scandinavia, India, China… the world!

2017 will also be the year where new things happen. If this year has been about distilling what we’re doing, and making improvements about how we’ve done things, next year will be about unleashing our creativity once again. Our new Head Brewer will continue the good work that precedes – we’ve created 120 unique beers in the past 8 years, and now we’re happy with our core lineup, we can focus once more on pushing our envelope. We’ve got some exciting developments to be unleashed at Craft Beer Rising in February, alongside our cans. Collaborations? We’ll be bringing back favourites and celebrating our friendships in this great industry by making more beer together. Small batch and limited release? We have beer in wood as I type… more space to watch…

That pretty much sums it all up really. Beer is for drinking with friends. It’s for making friends with. It’s been brewed happily for you, with a view to making your life a better place. So as we toast a new year, or perhaps celebrate the end of a difficult one, let’s toast together.