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Bradford shareholder Phillip Ogg: brewery now into a completey new era

Bradford back on track after near collapse

Bradford Brewery, which returned brewing to the city after a gap of 60 years when it opened in February 2015, is back on track after being rescued from the brink of collapse.

Shareholders Phillip Ogg and Mark Lister were forced to step in after the brewery ran up crippling debts and suffered quality problems.

Following investment in refrigeration plant, a switch to a new kegging and bottling contractor and a redirection the strategic focus towards the wholesale trade, sales have already doubled. Production on the 10-barrel plant, which had slipped to 40% of capacity, is now up to 50% and on target to hit 65% early next year.

“The business got into trouble quickly but it was a while before we found out how bad the situation was. There was a lot of debt.” reported Ogg, a former insurance underwriter who has taken over as managing director from founder Matthew Halliday, who left the company “to pursue other interests”. Lister is financial director.

Compounding the debt problem, at the end of last summer the company was forced to destroy 3,500 bottles of beer as a result of “below standard” packaging. Cumbria Bottling has now taken over the contract.

“We’re now into a completely new era and are taking things to the next level, driving growth and innovation,” Ogg said. The business has been turned around “simply by refocusing our sales direction through wholesalers and chains and beginning to develop other revenue streams.

“I think the second year is the hardest for any new brewer. After the first rush of publicity pubs start to demand something new, and you’ve got to deliver that.

“Now we know where we want to be in the market and have planned a range that gets us into wholesalers, and we’re already planning production for next spring. The market needs fresher product and a constant flow of specials.”

Under head brewer Gordon Rothery, who joined 15 months ago from Hand Drawn Monkey, Bradford’s range has been rationalised to four core brands: Bradford Lager, Hockney Pale Ale, Northern Soul and Blonde.

Odsal Brown Ale has been dropped but will be reintroduced on a seasonal basis alongside other special brews including Hockney’s 80th, which will be a late-hopped pale ale brewed to celebrate the local artist’s landmark birthday, and a lemon and lime wheat beer, currently in production.

Distribution is growing and widening, with Bradford’s beers now going into central Manchester and Blackburn. Relationships with the local pub trade have been repaired after on-trade customers, too, experienced quality issues.

The company is also close to opening its second tied venue in central Bradford to join the on-site brewery tap. There are also plans to bring back its Made of Bradford range of merchandise.

Phil Mellows
18th August 2017

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