Following Saltaire Breweries re-branding, I went down to see what else had changed? The location might disappoint those with notions of a brewery set within the UNESCO world heritage site that is Sir Titus’s monument to Victorian philanthropic paternalism, but regular visitors to the Saltaire Brewery Tap room (open Tues to Sunday) and Monthly Beer Club events will know the brewery is actually a mile and a half down the road in Shipley itself, sat on a sort of island between the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool Canal.
If you haven’t been for a while you’ll notice things have changed a bit. The original brewery with it’s mezzanine floor is now purely the cask side of the operation. The Tap room is a stand-alone premises and the brewery has moved to a larger building next door, transforming itself into a shiny state of the art brew kit that allows them to cascade brew, mashing roughly every 4 hours and doing up to 4 brews or 100BBL a day if they wanted.
I think I was busy photographing something, or maybe poking my nose into somewhere I shouldn’t when Ewen Gordon MD told the group where the beer went to after it had been through the initial brewing process? Anyway, I showed myself up by asking what everyone else already knew; the beer is piped across the yard into the fermenter/conditioners in the casking facility or under the road into the warehouse they acquired next door.
Next door was a shiny, glossy, all new and fresh smelling sight to behold. Enough tanks to condition 300BBL at a time before it goes through the state of the art bottling plant, with space a plenty to expand.
They’d been testing the bottling line for a couple of weeks with their own beers. When in full production the intention is to look for contact packaging opportunities. Ewen said they can do batches as small as 1000L, but would prefer to do larger quantities. He admitted that locally there weren’t many brewers producing that sort of quantity.
Looking around, with every one murmuring oooh’s and aaah’s, it’s quite clear where Saltaire are going with their £2.5M investment in their expansion and rebranding.
Ewen told me the demographics of the customers they were looking at were essentially younger and more inspired, but yet they didn’t want to forget, or alienate, their loyal customers and the breweries roots as a producer of cask ales.
In the short term Saltaire’s ‘Coffee Collection’ which is due for imminent release is one to look out for and Ewen hinted there may be a reincarnation of the Hazelnut Coffee Porter in the pipeline.
While I was there we were treated to some of the cask Triple Chocoholic which was very nice. They’d even transformed it into yummy Christmassy cup cakes, I’ve got the recipe if anyone is interested, as well as Triple Chocoholic Christmas Puddings. I’ll tell you what they were like after Christmas day.
Although there were several cask ales on offer, the standout for me was the keg Full Tilt, a 5.2% Aus x NZ Pale ale. It wasn’t full in your face hop forward, just tasty and the sort of beer anyone could drink all evening, Craft, with a small c if you want. But lets forget all this meaningless talk of craft, this is just good modern progressive brewing that will appeal to lots of people.
Interesting facts and features included the £10k bespoke yeast store. Ewen explained their original yeast came from Thwaites. It’s now developed into their own Saltaire strain and is virtually a full time job to look after.
I had to ask something, again, there’s always one isn’t there, what did the pallets full of 50l plastic drums have in them? Saltaire Blond, Morrisons for the use of in their beer baked Hams, Sausages and Pies. Reinforcing the fact that Morrisons are indeed the best.
Looking at the market, the cask beer report, what people are drinking and the fact that Saltaire have engaged with a new distributor giving them access to another 68 countries across the globe. I think they’re well positioned to maintain their position as a leading independent brewer well into the next decade.
Not just in the ‘selected’ supermarket bottled beer sector neither, although I do think from what I saw that this area will be one of their mainstays, but still allowing traditional drinkers to enjoy their cask ales whilst broadening their footprint in the, I hate to say it, crafty side of things.
That aside. I can’t sign off without mentioning the excellent Christmas Streetbowl, supplied by Bears Pantry. A lot more than all the individual and most tasty of Christmas dinner ingredients in a single pot. More like all your Christmas wishes come early. The only way to describe it is to say if Bundobust did meat and Christmas dinners in a pot, then this might just be better.