The journey from first starting brewing to deciding to set up our own Microbrewpub has been a relatively short one. Yet, it’s become so consuming and integral to our lives that it feels like we’ve been at it forever. About 3 years ago, I started home brewing, in its most basic form, from hopped extract kits. These kits are a just add water and yeast kind of thing: the Betty Crocker of Beer making. I collected some unused gear from my stepbrother: a fermentation bucket, couple of kegs and some odds and sods like a hydrometer and some siphoning tube. I chucked a kit together in the bucket and a month or so later I was the proud owner of a decidedly average keg of bitter. These kits are a great way to start brewing but you’ll never make great beer with them. In fact, you’re only ever finishing off someone else’s beer.
Early brewery setup
Then Graeme, the Meanwood Brewery’s Brewer Prime, moved back to Leeds. When we were younger our plans for world domination had always been tied together but after several years of living at opposite ends of the country our alliance had waned with our youth and vigour. When we were very young kids our first joint venture occurred when we struck upon the genius business idea of making and selling folded paper kippers. If we had stuck at it we would have cornered the paper-fish market by now. Later, in our misspent youth we were in several bands which eventually brought us from Middlesbrough to Leeds. It turns out that 2003 was not ready for the mainstream return of Prog Rock, flares and our trademark amber jewellery.
More recently, after Graeme’s return to Leeds we started hatching plans again. We started writing together: Graeme had been working on scripts for some time and I had just completed a Master’s degree in Writing for Performance and Publication. It was amid hashing out the narrative beats for an epic space opera that we started brewing together as a side project. Graeme joined me on my final kit brew and we immediately started the process of learning how to brew properly. We started reading, watching and listening to everything we could about brewing. We started visiting breweries, and tracking down styles and brands of beer we’d never tried. We bought, and more often built, our own equipment from scratch, and started brewing all grain style like proper breweries do. At first we bought pre-selected grain bills and soon moved onto building our own recipes.
The current brewery (still in our kitchen but much more advanced)
That brings us to now. The new hobby of brewing was born of our shared love of beer, science and the art involved in creation. It didn’t stay a hobby long and we started thinking about brewing to sell. As beer lovers we are both pub lovers too, and specifically the fairly new revolution of micropubs. Graeme had been thinking of opening a venue himself and together we struck on the micropub idea. Across the UK pubs are failing but there is a thriving bubble within that shrinking market called the micropub: small friendly places focusing on quality beer, craft products and good conversation.
Ideas started getting thrown back and forth between us and quickly the Microbrewpub idea was born. In this venture we’ve not only combined our love of the micropub, somewhere small and personal to drink and chat, with our love of brewing and creation, but also with our love of Meanwood. Both now living in Meanwood, we were seeing each other much more often and we both loved our neighbourhood. We knew if we were going to do this it had to be in Meanwood.
The plan we are working on now is the culmination of all our adventures together. The brewing, the beer, the pub and Meanwood are just parts of the bigger picture. Our love of story and narrative structure is the theme that will tie everything together. This is our story that we want to tell and concepts of narrative will be intrinsic to our beer. Some of our combined wealth of acoustic guitars and other instruments will be moved to the pub, free for people to do a turn if they fancy, like days of yore. Our ultimate goal will be to have a stall in the pub selling Leeds’ finest paper kippers.
In our finest paper-fish making outfits