There’s already a great deal of interest surrounding the launch – scheduled for the Spring – of Manchester’s Cloudwater Brew Co.
Before they’ve brewed and released a single ale, Cloudwater is generating genuine excitement from the sort of people who’ve seen pretty much everything – a lot of new breweries arriving, and a fair number of them disappearing again – over many years on the Manchester ale scene. And when you look at the roster of talent that’s behind this particular new brewery, it’s easy to see why.
I met and talked to Cloudwater co-founder Paul Jones at the Black Jack Christmas Brew Tap last month. I too was very impressed, not only with his enthusiasm for beer and brewing, which is a given for everyone who opens a brewery, but also with the way he was talking about setting up Cloudwater Brew Co. as a business, first and foremost.
Paul clearly recognises that great breweries don’t just happen because someone – however good a brewer they might be – decides to start brewing. As well as high quality products, from the outset great breweries need to be planned, staffed, supported and marketed with future development, expansion and growth very much in mind. That’s a key element of the Cloudwater mission and it suggests that great things will soon be happening at their Ancoats HQ and will keep happening for a long time to come.
In the meantime, the setup phase of the project is very much underway – as you can see from the recent updates on the Cloudwater Brew Co Facebook page – and Paul very kindly took some time out to answer a few questions for Manchester Ale News:
Manchester Ale News: What’s the origin story of Cloudwater Brew Co? How did the project get started and who’s on the team?
Paul Jones, Cloudwater Brew Co: James Campbell and I first spoke about a new venture together not long after he had left Marble Brewery late in 2013, and spent the months of winter that year, and as it turned out, until summer 2014 securing a premises, and researching and ordering the brew kit. I’d long respected James’s output at Marble, so getting the chance to work with him on a new project, and seeing his vigour and excitement grow over the months has been deeply pleasing. People with James’s length of experience in the beer industry aren’t often easily impressed – they’ve often seen it before, so seeing him joyful and enthusiastic as our plans formed and were actioned has been infectiously affirming.
We were joined by two good friends of mine in September this year – Al Wall, an experimental home brewer, and a very experienced bar manager and cellar-man, previously of Port Street Beer House, Brew Dog Manchester, The Salutation, Deaf Institute and Sand Bar (to name a few), and Will France, who has had a little over a year’s worth of brewing experience at the wonderful Summer Wine Brewery, and previously was manager of The Beagle and Port Street Beer House and instrumental in developing Common and Indy Man Beer Con.
Manchester Ale News: The Manchester brewing scene is getting stronger and stronger all the time. What do you guys bring to the party and what’s your unique selling point?
Paul Jones: First and foremost, as a company, we’re not really new to the scene. We have over 20 years brewing experience and 27 years alcohol retail experience in the team, so we hope that we will be able to temper the bold ambition we have with a degree of maturity and steadiness.
As well as what we hope will be a tightly controlled output from our brewhouse, we are setting up a barrel store in an archway that we have just signed the lease for. This will round off our offering with something quite timeless, and see us have the ability to age and sour beer in up to 200 barrels at a time.
Manchester Ale News: Judging by the photos on Facebook, you seem to be setting up in a sports hall sized space – do you have a long-term expansion plan that you’re already working towards?
Paul Jones: We had great advice from several well established breweries to plan for the future, so we have tried to take into account where we might end up after a couple of years getting off the ground. We have seen just about every single successful brewery double in size over a short space of time, so we decided to start off with a 2400l (20 US BBL or 15 UK BBL) brewhouse with three hot vessels, and mainly double size fermenters. We also have enough floorspace to at least double our initial cellar tank capacity, and additional space to run a second steam boiler which will see us being able to double brew in a reasonable amount of time, and triple brew should we need to.
It takes such an incredible amount of time, effort, and expense to set up once that we were determined that our brewery is capable supporting a lot of hard work and hopefully growth for many years to come.
Manchester Ale News: Have you decided on the shape of your core range yet, and what’s it going to look like?
We have decided that we won’t have a core range at all, instead we’ll focus solely on seasonal beer, with four distinct ranges each year. As modern beer enthusiasts ourselves we love to try new things all the time (although we all have many reliable favourites that we regularly reach for), and want to try to put the seasonal ingredients that beer is made from at the centre of our recipe creation, instead of somewhat battling against the changes in hop and malt quality both annually and over time.
Manchester Ale News: How much artisanal and/or limited edition brewing are you planning on doing? And can you give us any teaser info as to what we can expect to see?
Paul Jones: In essence, all of our output will be limited edition. There are few people in the world that could convincingly try to predict what ingredients we will have to work with by the time the next crops are harvested, and fewer still that aren’t working in a field rather than working in a brewery. So we’ll keep things open ended and fresh by limiting our output to seasonal beer that puts what we have at hand to greatest use.
As we are looking to get going right on the cusp of the transition from winter to spring you can expect a clementine wheat, and a small black beer, with what we hope will be an exciting range of lagers as we get into Spring and Summer. Much loved favourites such as IPAs and pale ales will likely feature year round, but they’ll be adapted to each season with body, strength and intensity changing accordingly.
Manchester Ale News: If there was one brewery or brewer that you could collaborate with, who would it be and what would you brew?
Paul Jones: We all have our personal favourites, but Al would love to collaborate with Tobias from To Øl, Will with Yvan from Brasserie De La Senne, James with Alexis from St Feuillien, and I’d love to collaborate with Simon Rogan.
Manchester Ale News: Will your beers be making an appearance at any beer festivals in the near future? How soon before we can get to sample some Cloudwater goodness?
Paul Jones: We sure hope so! There are many festivals up and down the country that we hope to appear at next year, from the more traditional cask centric festivals to newer distinctly modern leaning festivals.
We’re hoping to launch in Manchester on the 16th of March, and to open our brewery tap on the 4th of April. Save the dates!