As an introduction to the inaugural Festival of Brewers in Leeds on June the 29th/30th, organiser Mike Hampshire and I will be profiling some of the attending breweries, some of which may be new to drinkers in Leeds and beyond. First up for me is Horsforth Brewery.
Suburban Brewing Dreams
Horsforth lays claim to being the largest village in the United Kingdom which, given that it is now a rather sizeable suburb of Leeds, seems like a bit redundant. It’s certainly more like a small town these days, with decent pubs, eateries, a University and more recently, a brewery.
Like Horsforth itself, Mark Costello’s Horsforth Brewery has also grown recently. From an accomplished home brewing set up to 1bbl capacity brewhouse, brewing twice a week, Mark decided to take the next step last year. Whilst the business seemingly operates out of Mark’s garage, the building was actually reconstructed with the sole purpose of being his brewhouse, resulting in a compact but professional setup.
Mark still brews part time alongside his existing job at the moment and enjoys the balance that gives him. ‘I’m hoping that Festival of Brewers will be an indication of how well things are going. I don’t struggle to sell beer, and the Horsforth Pale absolutely flies out on cask, which makes it my go-to beer at the moment and which I brew as much as possible. I’m a big fan of Saisons as well, I did one last year and I’ve been waiting for summer to brew it again. Wheat beers are also a favourite, and I like Rye beer especially my Black Rye IPA, which is a bit of a hard one to get people to try, but once they do I find that they like it’.
Expansion and Identity
Mark acknowledges the pressure of establishing his brewery in a busy market, and sees it as important to create an identity and brew beers ‘that work’. ‘There may be more adventurous brewers than me out there, but i like creating beers that showcase the flavours that are meant to be there. And some people may call my brewery traditional, but others may call me a crazy brewery – not many trad brewers make 7.5% fruity saisons. I look to people like Magic Rock who understand the width of their customer base. As the market for beer around Horsforth has grown, with new places like the Hop Shack and Granville’s widening people’s horizons, creating a great hoppy cask Pale will lead to them trying my other beers on the back of it’.
Mark’s beers have made it into most of Leeds’ bottleshops, as well as Ilkley, Otley and Ossett, but given that every brew is selling out at the moment, Mark acknowledges that extra capacity is going to be needed to further increase supplies, as well as investing the time to secure new customers. Last year’s bottled Raspberry Saison sold out to the trade within a day of release which indicates how well regarded the brewery was even after only operating at it’s current scale for a short period.
Given the success of the previous brew, Mark is planning to showcase his Saisons at the Festival of Brewers. ‘I’m going to have four Keg beers – Horsforth Pale, Rubis (my Raspberry Saison), Soleil (my Rhubarb Saison) and Weiße Rose (my Hefeweizen). My Hefe is typically full of that Banana aroma that we associate with German wheat beers and i’m looking forward to seeing how people respond to it’.
‘I’m looking forward to the experience of having my own bar for the first time, I’ve worked bars before but this one really counts personally and I’m looking forward to seeing drinkers’ reactions up close. I haven’t advertised the brewery at all other than on social media, so I’m looking forward to seeing who’s heard of me too! Getting feedback from unbiased customers is fantastic, especially if it’s good.’
Unity and Togetherness
Speaking to Mark, it’s clear how much being involved with the Festival of Brewers means to him, and how excited he is to begin pouring for the public. ‘It’s a really interesting idea, as there are loads of good beer festivals out there that all feature the well known breweries, and rightly so, but this is a unique range of breweries and I’ve always liked the idea of supporting the little guy – and in comparison to others the breweries here are the little guy. All the owners of the attending breweries will care deeply about the event, and will have put a lot of effort into their setup for the day, so to see customers making that effort to attend in return will be really encouraging to us. I’m looking forward to trying the beers that Crooked Brewing bring to the festival, and they’re great guys as well. I’ve not had too much from Wishbone, which i’m looking forward to sampling, and trying Meanwood Brewery’s beers.’
As I talk to Mark, he is prepping to brew his Raspberry Saison for the festival and is thinking over a few tweaks to the recipe to ensure the beer will taste better than ever, and he is full of praise for the other brewers that he knows will be doing the same. It’s clear that any competitiveness between bars will be of the friendly variety, and this togetherness will be a real strength not only at the Festival, but for the Leeds brewing scene going forwards.
About the Festival of Brewers
The first ever Festival of Brewers event takes place on 29th and 30thJune 2018, with New Craven Hall hosting, which can be found just one-mile South of Leeds City Train Station.
All too often, independent beer festivals choose to focus their attention on the same, larger, popular UK craft breweries. This makes it difficult for the hundreds of smaller breweries across the UK to share the spotlight. Festival of Brewers aims to address that by only showcasing local small and independent breweries.
You can find out all the information, including participating breweries and street food vendors, tickets and how to find the venue on the website www.festivalofbrewers.co.uk.