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What Happens When 200+ Brewers Get Together in One Place for 2 Days?

Well perhaps not quite what you imagine, well ok yes lots of beer gets consumed and yes some people are a bit late getting started on day 2 and yes some don’t surface at all, but on the whole it is a pretty business-like event, with beer.

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) holds its annual conference in March each year and for the third successive year it was in Stratford on Avon, at the Holiday Inn, a lovely spot by the side of the River Avon.

SIBA is the trade association of Independent Brewers and has over 600 members ranging in size from tiny micro breweries to some large regionals. It also has lots of Associate members representing a lot of brewery suppliers and some large breweries not eligible for full membership. It is the body that lobbied successfully for the introduction of Progressive Beer Duty which allowed many of its newer members to spring into existence.

The Annual Conference has the formal AGM – and for once we weren’t debating what to call ourselves. SIBA started out as the Small Independent Brewers Association but then some of its members weren’t so small any more or they and the group didn’t want to be labelled as such and since then it has been struggling with what to call itself, whether to retain the SIBA or dump it and how to fit what it does call itself into that acronym. Currently it is the Society of Independent Brewers and Associates. So it fits, sort of.

This year the debates were much more interesting around what constitutes “good” real ale or craft beer. Many SIBA members are focussing on different kinds of products – keg beers for one. Just about all the craft beer in the US and in Europe is served in keg and they don’t get hung up on the CAMRA line of “keg beer is not real ale”. Cloudy beers are another – again no-one expects a Belgian craft beer or a German wheat beer to be clear but the guidelines for judging SIBA beer competitions have clarity as a criterion. SIBA is responding to this: last year they introduced a keg craft beer competition which attracted over 40 entries and at the AGM this year it was agreed to take a good look at the clarity criterion on the judging panels. So a group of brewers will get together, including the proposer of the motion and sort it out. All pretty friendly and civilised.

Another highlight of the conference is the trade day when just about all of our suppliers for everything from malt and hops to labels, glasses, software and brewery insurance are gathered at the conference to show their wares. It is a really good way to get around suppliers (and their competitors) and make or renew a personal contact, find out what they have in the pipeline and maybe check out alternatives.

The picture shows the breweery team enjoying a sample of beer with Will from Charles Faram, our hop suppliers. The beer was brewed by Little Ale Cart in Sheffield to show off a new hop variety which Farams are developing. No idea who the chap in the foreground is!

Finally though, there is chance to network with other brewers, find out what is going on with them and what their issues are currently and how they are coping or have coped with issues bugging us. The brewing world is a pretty friendly one where competitors are often also friends and neighbours and mostly willing to act in a friendly and neighbourly way.

Sue Morton

Thanks to Douglas at for the piccies.

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Abbeydale Brewery at Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival

Abbeydale Brewery at Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival

Get used to seeing and hearing members of the Abbeydale team this year. Our aim certainly for 2012 and beyond is to keep our Abbeydale community up-to-minute with going’s on inside and outside the brewery.

So I was invited along to the Magna Rotherham beer and music festival as a beer taster. What an opportunity to show our fans what it’s like behind the scenes of a beer festival and on a blind beer tasting judging panel. Little did I know that our Moonshine was destined to win gold medal in the pale bitter category and then go on to win overall Champion beer of Yorkshire 2012! #notbragginghonest.

To beer tasting then. A wise man once told me “you’re supposed to burp the beer afterwards for a more powerful aftertaste” – well that’s not going to happen cos that’s cool nor is the use of the spittoons. Each beer received a mark out of 10 for the following: Appearance (clarity, cling, condition, head etc), Aroma (malty, hoppy, fragrant, grassy), Taste (sweetness, body, mouthfeel/fizzy etc) and aftertaste (bitter, Sulfury, dryness etc) Basically you can try and define it all you want but what we’re interested in here is do you – as a person – like it and would you go back to the bar and buy another? See the beer flavour wheel for more in-depth descriptions. 

Over 80 beers all from Yorkshire, 30 judges, 7 different categories and 2 hours later. You do the math! But the end result is always the same…a slightly tipsy brewer in the end!

Apologies, it’s my first but of many video blogs,


Dan Baxter

Download the beer flavour wheel.

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The Pub Nearest to the Brewery

In recent years Greene King gave it a good go with some excellent music nights and even let us supply beer to it from time to time but the pub was in serious need of some tlc which they didn’t seem prepared to do.

So just before Christmas, the miracle happened and the pub was bought, closed down, refurbished and reopened in a matter of weeks. It is now being run by those nice people from the Forum Group who as well as the Forum, Common Room and Old House in town also own the York in Broomhill.

The Broadfield is transformed. Loads of real ales, including some of ours, lots of other interesting keg and bottled products, a fabulous array of whiskies and really nice food, majoring on pies and bangers, though I also love the fish and chips and Pat’s favourite is the potted mackerel starter. It has been an immediate hit locally and is becoming a destination for people from further down the Abbeydale valley who are a bit starved for good pubs and a range of beers.

We often walk to and from work, more or less past the door and it is sooo hard not to drop in. It’s a great place to take visitors to the brewery for lunch or a drink. We are very happy to have this as our closest pub. Check it out for yourselves online and in reality.

Sue Morton


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The Return of the Angel Beers

The Return of the Angel Beers

Back in February 1999 the Angel beers made their first appearance. They were conceived as a pair of beers. Patrick, always the scientist, always the experimenter was interested to see just what difference adding roast barley made to the flavours in a beer with the same hops. So Archangel and Dark Angel came about. Each has the same hops in the same quantities but a different malt grist. Archangel is a classic Abbeydale pale ale with 100% low colour malts while Dark Angel has a grist which includes good dose of roast barley (an ingredient often associated with Guinness).

And the results? Well Patrick’s curiosity was satisfied by the experiment and the beers have made an appearance every few years and sold well every time. So try them and tell us what the differences in flavour are. Start or further your education in beer flavours and the amazing difference just a portion of one ingredient can make.

Archangel Dark Angel

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Dr Morton’s Amazing Pumpclips

Dr Morton's Amazing Pumpclips

The Dr Morton’s range of beers and pumpclips are produced for Abbeydale Brewery by artist and designer Ivan Bradley. The clips are a real success, every beer sells out with ease and the beers are now brewed two or three times in the month if there is capacity available. The clips have a very distinctive and coherent branding whilst retaining the ability to surprise and amuse. The clips provide a talking point on the bar and are popular with Publicans and have become collectors items. For Abbeydale Brewery they have provided a source of easy additional sales.

Abbeydale Brewery has always put out beers under the Beerworks name and logo; originally this was an alternate name for the brewery and has always been used for occasional beers.

Some years ago Ivan Bradley, artist and designer for Abbeydale, came up with the idea for a range of pumpclips initially based on a medicine-show theme with names such as Snake Oil and Horse Tonic. He called these the Dr Morton’s series. Ivan, being in charge of the website at the time, put the few images he had up on the site and from time to time mentioned how well he thought the clips would do to sell beer.

Doctor Morton's Snake Oil Doctor Morton's Goat Flush

Patrick Morton, owner of Abbeydale was not impressed. To be fair one of Ivan’s original names was Goat Flush (the "jewel in the crown" according to Ivan). Patrick, who had no intention of ever producing bottled beer, said he thought they would do better as bottle labels and there the matter rested until late 2007.

In 2007, Mark Hill of Brewers Wholesale, contacted Abbeydale with a view to taking their beers and said how much he wanted to try the Dr Morton’s beers because he loved the pumpclips. So Patrick bowed to commercial pressure and a deal was struck where a single brew of each of the Beerworks beers would be produced each month with Brewer’s Wholesale committing to take the majority of the brew and Abbeydale undertaking to sell the rest to their regular customers. The first Dr Morton’s, Snake Oil, was launched in March 2008. Initially Dr Morton’s were bi-monthly.

Despite Patrick’s misgivings, these new beers with their weird pumpclips sold well for Brewer’s Wholesale who would often make additional orders and regular Abbeydale customers began to get quite cross when they "missed out" on getting a nine of the new Dr Morton’s. The pumpclips also quickly became collectors items. On a Meet-the-Brewer night at the Temple Hotel in Matlock almost all of the questions were about the Dr Morton’s range. So, given their success and Ivan’s continued inventiveness, it was decided to make just about all of the Beerworks specials Dr Morton’s.

Now, the Dr Morton’s beers are brewed two or even three times in the month (brew length approx 12bbls initially, rising to up to 35bbls currently, less for higher ABVs of course), if there is the brewing capacity to do so, and always sell out with ease. For the brewers they provide a chance to try something new and different and much fun is had formulating new beers. For the customers they provide entertaining pumpclips – people often ask for them to be taken off the pump so they can read them properly. So, for the Publican they provide a talking point on the bar.

The design of the pumpclips – there are about 23 in the set so far – is characterised by the background which is nearly always green and with an emphasis on typography rather than imagery, through many of them have images too. Ivan continues to generate names and designs with no end in sight. He says that to check he has a design which fits the overall scheme he imagines an old fashioned village shop which sells everything with an little old shopkeeper who buys his vast range of remedies from the travelling medicine man, Dr Morton and asks himself if it would fit. Dr Morton, of course, is a compound mythical, charismatic, salesman, barker, showman and representative to general stores, agricultural merchants and veterinary supply houses. If the design works as a Dr Morton’s product on the shop shelf, it will work on the bar. The shop of course is timeless – maybe a wild west general store or a 1940s grocers or ironmongers. Such is the mind of an artist.

We do revisit these beers from time to time and over the course of a few years expect to cycle through all the beers again. Some have already had more than one outing.

The pumpclips are also humorous, often with a left field take on the name and an apparent misspelling which adds to this. Some are incredibly wordy, some are a simple name and image. Apparently Ivan understands how all this fits together. The sales are the proof of the pudding. In November 2008 the Dr Morton’s special was Goat Flush. Apart from the odd double take when selling the beer on the phone, there was no outcry and the beer sold well, by then people had got the joke, understood there was always a good beer behind the weird green pumpclips and were happy to drink Dr Morton’s Goat Flush, although it did make an appearance on the bad taste policing website Pumpclip Parade. The only one of ours to do so as far as we know.

As a set we think these pumpclips are interesting, entertaining, sometimes provocative and extremely coherent as a brand. They are instantly recognisable and yet their diversity is such that the brand is unlikely to run out of steam anytime soon, so long as Ivan and his sense of humour remain intact. Coming up this year have gems such as Moose Abuse Juice and Insane Root.


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Always Look for the Abbey

Always Look for the Abbey

Abbeydale Brewery was started in 1996 and the concept for the design was put in place by owner Patrick Morton and his old friend Ivan Bradley, a graphic designer, before brewing began. The Abbeydale name had good local connections with the location of the brewery as well as being a good brewery name. The ruined abbey logo appears in every pumpclip and provides a unifying theme along with names which are often ironic and tangential and humorous. Additional point-of-sale material has been produced emphasising the theme of “always look for the Abbey…”


Abbeydale Brewery was started in August 1996. Before a pint had been brewed, the concept for the design of the pumpclips was in place. Patrick Morton, the owner and brewer was keen to have a coherent design concept which would serve the brewery for many years. He was fortunate in having an old friend Ivan Bradley, a graphic designer and artist, who mainly specialised in photography and airbrush paintings but whose main talent was for realising visualisations. Moving on from crayons and brushes, Ivan had been dabbling with an early Mac and took to the new medium like the proverbial duck. This computer was a black and white – not even greyscale – machine which rather limited its scope for beer label work, so this was updated to a colour-able model with a view to ongoing production.

There was initially debate about what to call the brewery but Abbeydale won out over Vulcan, Morton’s and one or two other forgotten suggestions, though the alternate Beerworks name was retained too and is still used. The name Abbeydale was based on the brewery location in the Abbeydale district of Sheffield and Ivan’s Grand Scheme for Thematic Harmony.

Abbeydale was a good name in many respects. To Sheffielders it is a local name and distinctly brands the beer as a local product. Abbeydale is most famous for its ruined Abbey, called Beauchief Abbey (pronounced Bee-Chiff) and for the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet an early eighteenth century water powered industrial site. It is a common local myth that the brewery is based at the hamlet; in fact we are a couple of miles up the road in less desirable end of Abbeydale in a site which used to be a steelworks until the 1980s. So for Sheffielders there is a strong local identity to Abbeydale. Outside of Sheffield, Abbeydale conjures up very different images, the “dale” gives it idyllic rural notes while the “Abbey” conjures associations with long brewing traditions in ecclesiastical establishments both here and abroad.

Having established that, Ivan and Patrick were determined then NOT to go for very obvious “Merry Monk” type names and artwork but to come at the theme obliquely and from many different angles so that the theme could be used for a very long time.

It was decided right at the beginning that every pumpclip with the Abbeydale name would feature the Abbey Ruin, based on the remains of Beauchief Abbey, somewhere on the clip. Abbeydale Beers generally, though not invariably (where would the fun be in that!) have names with a vaguely ecclesiastical or mystical slant. These are often ironic or tenuous or the theme is tangential. There is a serious attempt to avoid the obvious and the clips are not meant to be taken too seriously. Sometimes the theme is purely visual. Thus the thematically “correct” Black Bishop was partnered by “White Knight” with a common chess theme, both featuring the Abbey in the guise of a rook.

Ivan was adamant that the ruin remain sizeless and scaleless so it could be used in interesting ways on different clips. Thus it has featured as a logo on countless clips, as the gate to hell (Temptation) as a missing artefact (Larceny), as the spots on a dog (Damnation), as honey (Bee Ale Z’Bub), as a Belfry (Belfry), as butter (Daily Bread), as a fake (Deception) and, on the most recent pumpclip, Fascination, as a twinkle in the eye. At last count there were some 70-odd pumpclips featuring the Abbey. A good selection is included in the supporting materials.

A few years later when there was a little cash to spare a Bar Towel was produced which features the Abbey and the strap line “Always look for the Abbey…..” and people do. When Damnation came out the brewery actually received phone calls and emails from people complaining they could not see the abbey. “Just look at the dog’s spots” was the response.The brewery now has bar runners, again featuring the Abbey ruin and the same strapline on a much updated graphic. The ruin also features on an etch effect glass.

The initial style of the early pumpclips reflected the graphic tools Ivan had at his disposal the time. Chronologically Moonshine, Absolution, Matins, Black Mass came earliest and are the simplest designs. The Last Rites in use is a slightly later revision of an original version. Some of the later clips are more complex as the sophistication of the available hardware and software increased. Some of the more recent clips are based on photographs which are then reworked, retouched or used as the basis for paintings. Resurrection and Daily Bread are good examples of this.

The original design concept of the sizeless, scaleless Abbey Ruin, the Abbeydale name and the oblique approach to names has served us well for sixteen years and shows little sign of running out. Ivan continues to generate interesting and exciting designs which catch the eye and stand out on the bar and the single unifying theme of the Abbey Ruin along with the name ensures that anyone who cares, knows it is an Abbeydale Beer.

  • About Us

    A true Sheffield institution founded in 1996 and based in the heart of the Antiques Quarter, Abbeydale Brewery blends heritage and tradition with creativity and innovation.

    Abbeydale Brewery brochure

  • Contact Us

    Abbeydale Brewery Ltd
    Unit 8, Aizlewood Road
    S8 0YX
    Telephone: 0114 281 2712
    Email: [email protected]


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