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Managing director Ewen Gordon: move to craft keg will provide Saltaire access to specialist beer bars

Saltaire Brewery to join the craft keg rush

Saltaire Brewery is to launch a craft keg range and take all packaging in-house after doubling the size of its brewhouse earlier this year.

Managing director Ewen Gordon told The Brewery Manual that the transition to a new 40-barrel kit installed in April had gone seamlessly. The company is now ready to move to what he described as “the middle level of brewing”.

He explained, “We’ve built a good reputation, especially in the north of England and increasingly nationally, on the back of a lot of awards so there’s a real confidence in what we do. Now we want to flex our muscles and challenge ourselves.”

While continuing to maintain a “big focus” on cask ale, Gordon revealed that Saltaire will be introducing a ‘craft’ offer later this year that will include heavily hopped and unfiltered styles.

“We won’t be putting marshmallows and peanut butter in our beer, but craft has opened up opportunities for brewers. People are beginning to understand you don’t have to drink with your eyes and beer can be unfiltered.

“We already do a little bit of keg but the new range will complement what we do and add another dynamic to Saltaire Brewery, helping us take our products into more specialist bars.”

The brewer will also be signing off on its next capital investment within the next few weeks, he said. The new packaging plant, including kegging and bottling lines, will be a six-month project and should be up and running by the middle of next year.

“It will mean we’ll have control over the whole product. We already mill our own malts and bringing everything back in-house fits with our ethos, a focus on quality that has never changed.”

Another aspect of the Saltaire ethos entails building long term relationships with suppliers. When it came to expansion it stuck with Moeschle, which installed the company’s first brewery in 2006.

The new £1 million semi-automated 40-barrel brew kit is based on a modular system that means capacity can be cranked up to four times its current level – “which should last us at least five years,” said Gordon.

“We’ve grown year on year at a good pace since we started 12 years ago, and we’ve had a lot of small expansions, adding bigger tanks to our original 20-barrel kit and brewing more frequently. But we got to the point where there had to be a step-change.”

Saltaire’s success has been based on the popularity of Saltaire Blonde, “now a Yorkshire staple with 130 permanent lines in pubs”, and Cascade Pale, a “national player” that has raised awareness of the company name across the UK.

They are supported by 20 or 30 other brands, most famously, perhaps, Triple Chocoholic, which most recently claimed Gold in the Speciality Beer competition in Camra’s Champion Beer of Britain contest last summer. 

While Gordon said the 4.8% abv brew will remain a seasonal beer on draught, the bottled version has played its part in driving demand for Saltaire’s beers from supermarkets, with Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op all significantly increasing distribution across their stores.

“Triple Chocoholic has been an iconic beer, especially in the Camra world, and Champion Beer of Britain awards get things moving. But it’s never going to take the business to another level -  however much we wish it would!”

Phil Mellows
29th September 2017

Updated 6th October to claify Salatire's Gold at this year's GBBF was in the Speciality Beers category

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