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Reflections on 2021

Reflections on 2021

2021 – the year of our 25th anniversary! I think it’s fair to say it hasn’t been quite the year we’d planned (a Zoom night in, whilst very enjoyable – and you can watch it here – wasn’t quite the party we’d had in mind!) but we’ve made the most of it, we’ve celebrated in as many ways as we could, and most importantly we’re still here and ready to roll into 2022.

In amongst all the uncertainty and challenges, we have a lot to be positive about and thankful for. We’ve brewed over 2 million pints this year – mashing in over 330 times across a whopping 82 different beers. This means we’ve managed to increase our production levels back above those seen in 2020 by around 20% – although we’re still approximately 35% down on what we brewed in 2019. Cask now comprises just over 70% of our total output.

The beers we released in celebration of our 25th anniversary were definitely some of our highlights – bringing back popular old favourites Brimstone and Last Rites, plus twists on some of our much loved regular beers including Cryo Heathen & Double Deception, and some big hearty stouts for good measure. And our Funk Dungeon project joined in the celebrations too, including our first big bottle releases with the launch of our Cellar Master’s Reserve series (stay tuned for more of these to come!)

The cornerstone of our Brewers’ Emporium range, Heathen has had quite a year too, with Fresh Hop Heathen making a guest appearance as well as Cryo Heathen – which we’d initially intended to be a special brewed just for our birthday, but which you all loved so much we had to do again in the autumn! We’ve got a few more twists on our APA up our sleeves for 2022, so watch this space. And Moonshine is still by far our most popular beer, making up more than 4 of every 10 pints we make (although pre-Covid it was consistently over 50% of our total volume, which is a good reflection of how much we’ve diversified in this ever-pivoting world!).

Our canning line, which you may remember arrived in the first few weeks of lockdown in April 2020, continues to prove itself a very valuable part of our team. We’ve released 59 different beers in can (over 17,500 cases in total), which accounts for about 16% of our total output – interestingly, a very similar proportion to that seen in 2020. Minikegs were filled with just under 1% of everything we made… which is almost the exact same figure as what we were releasing in keg just 7 years ago – how far we’ve come!

We added some wonderful new members to our team this year, with Chris and Ewan adding to our little fleet of drivers who’ve been busy meeting and delivering to our 1000+ direct pub, bar and beer shop customers, and Ash, Thom and Dan joining our brewteam. They’ve all settled in brilliantly and we’re looking forward to them creating and sharing their first recipes in 2022! This little bit of this post does also give us the opportunity to do a huge shout out and enormous thank you to our wonderful staff: it’s their flexibility, patience, ingenuity and willingness to do whatever they could to keep us moving forwards and working together which has guided the business through these very challenging times. This of course includes the fantastic team at our pub, the Rising Sun, who have coped admirably with changing regulations throughout the past couple of years and continually provided a warm, welcoming atmosphere at the heart of the community.

And on the topic of new additions, in March, our designer James and his wife welcomed their baby boy Phoenix Johns Murphy to the world… so it was felt the naming of our last Geoglyph beer would be a suitable way of celebrating his arrival! The beers within this range of pale ales were all named after constellations that correlate with the Nazca lines of Peru (more on the series here). No Phoenix Geoglyph exists, but James wasn’t about to let that get in the way of his artistic vision and so created one! The actual Phoenix constellation can be found in the Southern Hemisphere during the winter months.

Collaborations have been a little trickier to co-ordinate this year, so have played a smaller part in our production than we’d have hoped, but we have loved hosting Queer Brewing along with Out & About Sheffield to create two beers with us (which have also been raising money for local organisation SAYiT, who we will be making a donation to early next year), and we’ve also made an as-yet unreleased cider-beer hybrid with the excellent Ascension Cider, so look out for that one in 2022. In addition, we have welcomed local tea purveyors Batch Tea Co and members of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling to brew with us over the course of the year. Our team have visited other breweries as far afield as… erm… still Sheffield, making a mountain IPA with our pal Scott, previously of Team Abbeydale and now head brewer at Heist, and also venturing down to London to create a Margarita inspired Gose with ORA Brewing.

For obvious reasons, events have also been just a small feature of our year, but we were privileged to be selected as one of three breweries to create a nationwide collaboration for Indie Beer Shop Day, producing a special beer to celebrate the wonderful independent beer shop sector in the UK. And we did manage to celebrate Funk Fest in style – this year we went mixed venue for our mixed fermentation celebration, with Sheffield becoming a city of sour for Halloween week! Looking ahead to next year – if, fingers crossed, things return to whatever anyone can remember as normality, we WILL be having that big party for our 25th-and-a-bit birthday! And hopefully will be able to get out and about a little more to say hello to you all in person too.

An ENORMOUS thank you to everyone who’s supported us this year – whether that’s as one of our amazing trade customers, by buying a pint in a pub, some cans from our shop or one of the fantastic retailers we supply, or simply sending us a little hello on social media – it really is hugely appreciated by us all. We’re a team that love what we do, and we hope that shows in the beers we produce. Once again, our staff, industry peers, customers and community have shown what an adaptable, resilient, imaginative and overall really rather wonderful bunch they are, and it’s that which has made our 25th birthday year one to remember.

Here’s to the next chapter!


Team Abbeydale

Photo: Mark Newton Photography

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Black Mass

Black Mass

Black Mass is the enigma of our core heritage beer range, sitting somewhere in between a stout and a well-hopped dark beer – we like to say it might have been one of the very first Black IPAs! This week marks exactly 25 years since it first came into being, so to find out more about our “sultry dark ale”, we’re handing over to our brewery owner Pat Morton to tell us all about its history…

“Black Mass was first brewed on 6th November 1996, and was only the 26th batch of beer ever made here at Abbeydale Brewery. As far as I can recall; this first brew was successful. It was largely a development of my first commercial stout: Kelham Island’s Bête Noire, and alongside my homebrewing experience meant that it was a relatively familiar style for me to create, despite it being almost an “outlier” compared to the rest of our range. It was one of those beers where the name came first – Black Mass was intended to be a counterbalance to the Absolution and Matins brands, both of which were pale, easy drinking beers, so both the name and style stood in contrast to these. With that name, the ABV had to be 666!

In my early twenties I did most of my drinking in Irish pubs, which meant I drank a lot of Guinness. In the 1970s there was a lot to like about keg Guinness. The alternatives were lager (which I never drank), keg bitters (unspeakable) and the Russian roulette of cask beers. Draught Guinness was dependably consistent and (comparatively) flavourful. So this was one of the key inspirations behind Black Mass.

The recipe has changed quite a bit over the past 25 years – the very first brew was single hopped with Cascade, and had oats and mixed cereals in the grist – whilst the malt bill is still complex (featuring crystal malt, both chocolate AND pale chocolate malts, black malt, and roasted barley), it’s more consistent now. It’s had all sorts chucked into it over the years, even smoked malt on a few occasions. It’s a very pretty beer to brew, with the dark malts forming a nice spiral in the mash tun. Throughout the years it’s always been quite heftily hopped (it weighs in at over 150 IBUs), as I was looking to emphasise a good depth of bitterness, and wanted the assertiveness of the hops to cut through the flavours from the roasted grains. Originally it was used to sweep up any of the hops we had open! We don’t take such a cavalier approach these days, but it is a very forgiving beer to brew! It was (and remains!) an expensive beer to make, but I’ve always thought it’s worth it.”

We’ve made a few variations of Black Mass over the years – giving it a long run off was the perfect base for Dark Matter, a 3.6% mild (a style we have only very rarely dabbled in over the years), and we brought down the ABV again for our release of Baby Black Mass in celebration of our 20th anniversary in 2016. This one came in at a quaffable 4.8% but with additions of freshly ground coffee and lactose to ramp up some of the flavour components found in the original brew.

Black Mass was a very modern beer back in 1996 and it absolutely still tastes relevant today – it’s won gold in the stout category at CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Yorkshire competition on four occasions between 2009 and 2017, plus a silver in 2020. Rich and smooth on the palate, with delectable flavours reminiscent of bitter chocolate, fruitcake and raisins, and aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, and just a hint of burnt toast, it’s classic and familiar yet simultaneously unique and boundary defying. In 2020 it made the move into cans alongside the rest of our core range, meaning it’s a little easier to get hold of these days (something which many of Team Abbeydale are very happy about indeed!).

You can get a can to try for yourself in honour of Black Mass’s silver anniversary via our online shop, or at an array of independent retailers nationwide.


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Sheffield Red – The Artwork

Sheffield Red - The Artwork

The latest beer has recently been unleashed from our Funk Dungeon project! Sheffield Red is the seventh chapter in our series of super special, limited releases, so we thought we’d share more of the story behind the incredible artwork on this beer. (And head here to read more on the beer itself, in a technical run through of the brewing process).

Our awesome designer, James Murphy, has taken inspiration from three main images and some other points of local history to create the skele scene you will see on our cans.

The central characters are based around buffer girls, important parts of the workforce in Sheffield’s world renowned cutlery industry. Two of these were immortalised in a famous painting by printmaker, draughtsman, writer, and teacher Sir William Rothenstein in 1919. Buffer girls were responsible for making sure cutlery and other metal goods had a smooth, shiny surface. It was hard, hot, and dirty work, so the neckerchiefs and headscarves you see depicted in the artwork were worn to try and keep the women clean and keep the worst of the sand they used to polish the cutlery off them. The central character is wearing “buff-brats” – dress typical of a Buffer Girl during World War One, with the character on the right hand side wearing clothes which they would have worn during World War Two, like those you can in the “Women of Steel” statue outside Sheffield City Hall. The character shown painting on the left is James’ interpretation of Rothenstein himself.

The pose of the central character is based on that of the famous Rosie the Riveter – a fictional character yet cultural icon who represented all of the women who worked in industrial settings during the Second World War.

There’s a nod to the Duchesse De Burgogne label included in the form of a little skeleton sparrow hawk – this is one of the all time favourite beers of a number of our team here and was a key inspiration behind the establishment of our barrel ageing and souring project. We like to see this style of beer as our little homage to that.

There are other little secrets hidden within the artwork too – you might be able to spot that the name of the large molten steel ladle is ‘Lizzie’, after the famous elephant who worked in the steel industry in Sheffield during the First World War. And although from a later time, there are some Morton’s cutlery and a tuning fork in one of the Buffer Girl’s pockets, representing our brewery founder Pat Morton’s connection to Sheffield’s industrial past – you can read more about this here.

Finally, can you spot the “Mind Your Head” which appears in each and every one of our Funk Dungeon special releases?!

Cans of Sheffield Red are available now from our online shop and via independent retails nationwide – and look out for it popping up on bars too!


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Funk Fest 2021 – the line up so far

Funk Fest 2021 - the line up so far

Hi, funky beer fans!

In case you missed it – Funk Fest is returning for 2021, as a multi-venue celebration of all things sour, wild and mixed fermentation!

Taking place from Monday 25th to Sunday 31st October, we’re working together with breweries, pubs, bars and beer shops around Sheffield and beyond, who will all be joining us in shouting about some amazing mixed fermentation and wild beers, ciders and even natural wines. Here’s what’s lined up so far…

Monday 25th October – Beer & Bites, The Rising Sun. Our brewer Jim has teamed up with our wonderful chef Dave to create a delicious tasting session, featuring six Funk Dungeon releases perfectly paired with six yummy nibbles. This event is now sold out!

Also on the Monday, the Rutland Arms will be pouring the very first of our Queer Brewing and Out & About collaboration, Glory!, Glory! – a pink peppercorn saison. They have an extra special "plum sauce" variation with the addition of plums and Szechuan peppercorns which is a one off keg! Cans of Glory!, Glory! will be launching next week too, with 10p from each can being donated to local LGBT+ charity SAYiT.

The Crow Inn will be hosting a Berliner Weisse event on Tuesday 26th October, featuring a specially created base beer and different flavours of syrup made by the Rutland Arms kitchen for you to choose from. We did something similar in 2019 and it was an awesome night, so don’t miss out!

From Tuesday onwards, Hop Hideout are curating a UK mixed fermentation showcase, starting with beers from ourselves and Little Earth Project, with a Cider Women showcase also running throughout the week. Plus on Friday, they’re launching the next 750ml bottle release from Crossover Blendery!

We’re very excited to have a cidery on board too! Ascension Cider will be at newly opened The Cider Hole on Thursday 28th October for a tasting of six of their always fantastic (and occasionally a bit bonkers) ciders. Tickets available here!

Friday 29th October sees some incredible guest breweries getting involved – the Pangolin are hosting a Yonder Meet the Brewer and Tap Takeover (this is a ticketed event, pop in to Pangolin to get yours!), and Shakespeares have a whole bunch of beers pouring from Belgium’s Brouwerij Alvinne (plus a special cask of an otherwise as yet unreleased Kriek from the Funk Dungeon). And our friends at St Mars of the Desert will have a new version of their excellent Stingo range available during their taproom opening hours.

Ascension are making the most of their trip up from Sussex, as on Saturday 30th October, they’re joining us for a brewday… and you’re invited! In person tickets are incredibly limited (snap one up here), but we’ll be sharing loads of insights from the day online too. We’ll be making a Graf – a beer cider hybrid – and we can’t wait!

And funky beers will be in the spotlight across Sheffield throughout the week at Bar StewardsJabbarwocky (did someone say Funk Fest inspired dumplings?!), Industry Tap, Beer Central, the Green Shop, Turners and the Kelham Island Tavern (who will have two Funk Dungeon beers ON CASK – a Nelson & Galaxy dry hopped saison and a one off apricot sour!). Outside of Sheffield, Arcadia in Leeds will have three of our beers available over the week, including the very last keg of BA Chianti Sour, and the Broken Seal Tap Room in Stevenage have a keg of Sheffield Red which is being included in a tutored tasting on Friday evening.

We’ll also have videos to go with our new releases for you to watch and taste along, and will be running various other online and interactive bits and bobs all through the week too.

Also a shout out to The Bear, who have got some of our special kegs reserved for a Meet the Brewer event on November 12th – remember Funk Fest is for life 😉 

Keep checking back here as there are more events being confirmed all the time (and do check details with the venue direct before you travel too to avoid disappointment), and if you’re a producer, retailer or venue that would like to be involved, there’s still time to get funky with us! Please get in touch with anything you’d like to do to help us spread the mixed ferm word, we’d love to have you on board! 


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Abbeydale Origins: Daily Bread

Abbeydale Origins: Daily Bread

Daily Bread is our best bitter – a 3.8%, well-balanced, easy-drinking beer, malt driven with a subtle sweetness. It’s the most traditional beer we make, and yet it’s only been part of our core range since 2005 – coming into being almost a full decade after the pale, hoppy ales we’re so well known for.

From the beginnings of the brewery in 1996, brewery owner Pat Morton set out to brew the kinds of beers he liked to drink. With American and Australasian hops beginning to make their way onto the market, and with neither Pat nor co-owner Sue enjoying the flavour of crystal malt which was so prominent in the readily available “brown beers” which were made by all of the big national breweries at the time, we built our reputation instead on pale and hop-forward beers, many of which we still make today (especially Moonshine and Absolution!). People quickly came to associate the name of Abbeydale Brewery with this sort of beer and so we didn’t see much of a need for anything like a best bitter in our range of regularly available beers.

This all changed when we took over The Rising Sun in 2005! Most of our regulars there were John Smiths drinkers, a somewhat stubborn (but lovely) bunch for whom Moonshine just wouldn’t do! And so we set about thinking how we could win them over, taking on board feedback and creating a new beer with our community in mind… and so Daily Bread was born. It wasn’t something the brewteam were particularly excited about at first (Pat even snuck in on a Sunday and brewed the first batch in secret!) but it’s a beer we’ve all grown very fond of indeed over the years. It’s very much designed to be a traditional and straightforward bitter, but one which is still lovingly and carefully crafted. It’s also the only beer currently in our core range made with predominantly UK grown hops (Fuggles).

The originator of the name is lost in too many beer fuelled discussions, but it certainly came from the folk in and around the brewery at the time and fits in with the loose ecclesiastical theme that connects a number of our beers. And Daily Bread as a name is very fitting for the style – it speaks of sustenance and simplicity, and of all of our beers it’s the best one that communicates to the customer exactly what it says on the tin (literally, since beginning to can it last year!) and the drinker knows just what to expect before taking that first sip.

The move to smallpack has helped to start to build up a new following for Daily Bread, and it’s one of only a few beers of this type to be seen in can. It scooped the regional Gold award in the SIBA Digital Beer Awards 2020 (Bottle/can British Bitters category) and overall national Bronze – with the Silver & Gold winners here being in bottle. So in its own way, the beer we’d always seen as the “least fashionable” of our core range is now a bit of a trailblazer! (You can pick up cans of this award-winning hero here!) In 2023 it also scooped Regional Gold in the SIBA Bottle & Can Awards 2023 (Bitters category).

Here’s to Daily Bread – a timeless classic and an ever-dependable pint. Cheers!

Photo credit: Mark Newton Photography

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Sheffield Red

Sheffield Red

*This post was originally shared as a Twitter thread on our @AbbeydaleFunk account by our brewer Jim, which commenced in March 2020. It went down pretty well, so we thought we’d share it a little more widely!

“We thought we’d give you a glimpse into a particularly atypical brewday here by going through the process for this year’s release (editor’s note: now the 2021 release!) of Funk Dungeon: Sheffield Red.

This is the third brew of this beer over 3 years, but each batch has a variation in process and ingredients – as the beer develops in wood, and flavour character shifts in time, we have made adjustments to the base beer to reflect our intended character ready for blending for the main release.

The first step of the process is, as always, mashing in – we don’t brew to any particular regime associated with other styles of sour beer, such as the decoction mash schedules linked with Lambic or traditional Berlinerweisse production – for us it is difficult, and largely pointless.

We mashed in at a higher temperature than normal (around 69-70c, compared to our more usual 64-66c) and for around 45 minutes, compared to the hour that we stick to for most of our wort production. This iso-thermal stand helps to produce complex sugars designed for slow fermentation, so there is plenty for the brett to eat over time and enable further development of the final beer.

We like our Funk Dungeon brews to be a little more experimental with our malt grists, too. Previously we’ve used a high percentage of grains such as wheat, oats, or spelt, and this time we are going for rye, for colour (roast rye) and a little bit of residual sweetness (Crystal rye). A simple water treatment of gypsum for pH adjustment is the final addition, before the mash is left to stand with a slow vorlauf (mash recirculation), for greater wort clarity.

The next step is to start running the wort from the mashtun through to the kettle. We will wash some of the colour and more from the dark malts as we sparge (like a sprinkler system for beer). The sparge temperature then rises to 86C which will denature enzyme activity quickly, again allowing for slow fermentation. There is still some colour and some sugar left in the grain. But for this recipe we are aiming for a reasonable starting gravity, so we’ll stop at PG 1014 and 12EBC. Stopping at this stage also aids clarity later on, as we don’t sparge through too many polypeptides, that could cause flavour faults and haze in the finished beer.

It’s now time to bring that wort to the boil where we’ll also add our first hops. We are bittering to an IBU of 30 using some 2015 harvest Dr Rudi for a grassy, herbal spice character which should marry well with the rye and the oak. It will also give just a little hint of isovaleric "cheesiness" that is so prominent in Lambic and other aged styles.

The boil takes 90-100 minutes which encourages the Maillard reaction (a chemical reaction which leads to a darker colour… the same thing that happens when you sear a steak on a griddle pan), giving us a pleasant caramel that will be present in the final beer, which works well with the dry acidity after fermentation is complete.

Once the boil is complete, we run the wort into our hopback which is where the rest of our hops are waiting. This is a step we perform for pretty much every beer we make at Abbeydale, although not that many breweries have access to a hopback. The late steep of whole hops provides a rounded softer bitterness than if used in the kettle and doesn’t blast off as many of the fruity and floral notes – this is what has helped us become so well known for our delicate, hoppy pales, but turns out it is also useful for a sour red ale!

The next part of the process is something we aren’t quite so familiar with, having only done it once before… COOLSHIP FILLING! Whilst we aren’t inoculating the entire brew length of this brew with wild yeasts, we are aiming to encourage some little floaty beasties to have an influence on the beer overall. (I keep calling it a coolship. But its dimensions are not really suited to chilling the entirety of the wort in a time that is advisable. I am using it more in this case as a yeast capture mechanism, which will be blended with pre-pitched wort.)

At this stage, we’re ready to transfer into fermenting vessel, which has been prepped a little differently to usual. Ordinarily, all yeast matter would be disposed of once a beer has done its time in FV, and a full CIP (clean-in-place) undertaken before refilling, but in this case we are transferring the wort into one of our stainless steel tanks which has only just been emptied of our most recent (at the time) Funk Dungeon brew (this was Through the Sticks, a collaboration with the one and only Little Earth Project) and we’re leaving the yeast bed behind for today’s brew to feed on. Racking straight onto the yeast bed means we should aim to avoid much of the "lag" phase for the yeasts. This “krausening” speeds up fermentation as the yeast goes straight on to consuming sugar.

For now the wort will sit overnight and we’ll blend it in FV and give it a week maybe 10 days or so to ferment around 90% of its journey to PG1000.0 before transferring into oak.

We’ll pitch our house Brett blend (which we call Barbarella) into barrels as well. Barbarella has 15 or so different strains of Brett (built over time from a combination of various commercially available blends and some lab pitches) stored in a wooden firkin ready to deploy. The blend is able to be used for primary and secondary fermentation, and is overall an amalgamation of Saccharomyces var. Diastaticus, our house (clean) Saccharomyces, a few lactobacillus strains harvested from grain, and Brett. The main character we see with this is a dry, light lemony refreshing finish.

Once everything is in FV, it’s time to dig the hops and get everything very well cleaned and shiny, ready for the next brew.

Day 2: Fermentation is flying – around 25% of the total expected fermentation has happened in around 18 hours. The pH has dropped like any saccharomyces fermentation, from 4.98 to 4.55, and the Krausen is happily blipping away.

Whilst the beer-to-be is still in the coolship we are recirculating the wort – while largely unnecessary as we are transferring everything into one fermenting vessel, when racking to barrels this ensures even mixing of yeast and bacteria on the surface is mixed thoroughly throughout.

We’ve lost around 7% of the wort to evaporation and the temperature has dropped from 88c down to 27c, which is a little too slow for full spontaneous fermentation, but enough for some bacterial capture (strains of lactobacillus are far more comfortable at the higher end of the temperature band).

With the aim of better understanding the contribution of the coolship to our house saison yeast we are separately force fermenting the wort with a stir plate in the lab – we’ll take a look-see under a microscope after a few days…

Day 6: After almost a week on the stir plate, we’ve had a yeast Krausen rise and fall in the flask. The sacch performed an attenuation of 69%, leaving the beer at 4.94% and the pH dropped quickly. The beer tastes a little lemony, and whatever the coolship welcomed in is certainly a positive addition to the yeast blend overall.

These are strange times at the moment, but for this beer, time will itself be the key and with the right attention it will be ready when you are. When we get through all this and safely out the other side, we’ll grab a beer and think of times gone past and those still to come.”


….Fast forward to July 2021 and the beer is ready for blending decisions to be made! The beers have been resting in a mixture of French red wine and neutral American oak for anywhere between one and three years. Each and every barrel had a sample taken and was tasted individually to assess their major flavour characteristics to see what they would contribute to the final beer (and to check for any flavour faults). Happily we didn’t find any off flavours in any of the barrels, but some had a more pronounced wood character than others. The volume of each was carefully considered to make sure the resulting blend showcased the very best that the beer could be.

And we’re now into September, and that “resulting blend”, around 50% of which is the brew outlined above, is due to be released next week! Introducing Sheffield Red – Barrel Aged Sour (5.8%). Tart upfront, there’s a burst of acidity from the very first sip. An abundance of red fruit flavours, grape skin tannins and sour cherry notes, all pulled together by a gently oaky backbone.

The beer will be available in keg and can from next week, and will be one of the beers in the spotlight at our Funk Fest mixed fermentation multi-venue beer festival! As well as pouring at some of the participating venues (more on that coming soon) cans will also be included as part of a special festival tasting set, which will be available on our online shop to pre-order very soon!



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Funk Fest 2021

Funk Fest 2021

Hi, funky beer fans!

The MegaGoat is BACK… in a slightly different format!

Since the last time we held an event at the brewery back in September 2019, things have changed in so many ways. Amongst these, we’ve acquired a canning line and extended our online shop operation, both of which take up lots of space in a venue which was not exactly blessed with spaciousness to start with (as those of you who’ve visited us before will be aware)! With uncertainty still in the air, we just don’t have the room to safely and responsibly welcome people inside.  All of this means that we’re not currently able to hold an event actually within the brewery itself.

HOWEVER! Building on what we’ve started over the past three years, including 2020’s Funk Fest At Home, we’ve come up with a plan to share the funky beer love and make sure we’re offering something that’s accessible to everyone, alongside encouraging beer drinkers to support their wonderful local venues who have had a particularly tough time of it over the past year and a half. We’re really keen to support the wider industry, in keeping with the spirit of the festival and in celebration of the wonderful producers of these styles of beer.

And so… Presenting Funk Fest 2021: Mixed venue. Mixed media. Mixed fermentation.

Taking place from 25th-31st October, we’ll be working together with breweries, pubs, bars and beer shops around Sheffield and beyond, who will all be joining us in shouting about some amazing mixed fermentation and wild beers, ciders and even natural wines. If you’re a producer, retailer or venue that would like to be involved, please get in touch with anything you’d like to do to help us spread the mixed ferm word, we’d love to have you on board! 

We’ll also be hosting an online tasting of a selection of releases from our Funk Dungeon project during the week – watch this space for more details!

Please join us in getting involved with the spirit of support, collaboration and funky celebration that Funk Fest is all about. We’re very lucky to have so many outstanding producers of these styles of beer (and more!) surrounding us, and we’d love you to join in the conversation.


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Abbeydale Origins: Absolution

Abbeydale Origins: Absolution

Absolution has been in production for as long as Abbeydale Brewery has existed – when brewery owner Pat Morton set up in 1996, he established three pales (Moonshine, Absolution and Matins) and one dark beer (Black Mass) as the initial core range. And Absolution was the very first to make it to release – actually the second beer brewed here, but sadly the first (Moonshine) ended up going down the drain (more on that here)!

And so it was Absolution, our 5.3% golden ale, that went out on that very first delivery, to the legendary Three Stags Heads at Wardlow Mires, exactly 25 years ago on August 16th, 1996.

It’s been a popular beer around the Peak District ever since and can still be found as a permanent fixture on the bar at pubs including the Three Stags and the wonderful Red Lion at Litton today. So much so that when cavers Robbie Shone, Rob Eavis and Katie Dent, regulars of the pub, discovered a new series of caves deep in the heart of the Peak District in 2009, they named one of the chambers after our Absolution!

The Absolution cave is located in a fairly inaccessible part of the Titan system, described as being “extremely well decorated with numerous short stalagmites clustered together and many straws adorning the roof”* and the colour of the rock there reminded the intrepid explorers of our beautiful golden ale. Of course, we threw a party at the Red Lion to celebrate – and launched a limited edition pump clip featuring a photo of the newly discovered cave. We’d love to hear from you if you were there!

Originally single hopped with Goldings, our Absolution is now a little more complex in terms of hops, with a carefully selected combination of six now contributing to the beautifully rounded fruity flavour. It’s won multiple awards over the years, medalling in the Champion Beer of Yorkshire premium bitter category six times since 2011, including winning Gold most recently in 2020. Incredibly drinkable and very well balanced, with a good level of sweetness, it’s a beer which has truly stood the test of time and one which we’re incredibly proud of as we head into our 26th (!!) year.

We hope you’ll join us in raising a pint, or a can, to celebrate our Silver Anniversary with us. You can find cans or casks for a party on our online shop, as well as on bars and shelves of independent retailers around Sheffield and beyond – let us know if we can help you find a stockist in your area!


*From “For Fun and Revelations”, Rob Eavis, Descent (206), 2009.

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Blind Devotion

Blind Devotion

Those of you who are familiar with our Funk Dungeon project will know that these are beers that take time. And our next release has been even longer in the pipeline than most!

All the way back in April 2019, we announced that our Funk Fest beer festival was to include a homebrew competition, with the overall prize being that the winning recipe would be brewed here on our main brewkit.

The rules were simple – anything goes, as long as there’s an alternative yeast at play. We had almost thirty individual entries, ranging from Kveik NEIPAs to brett fermented black forest gateau stouts, with entrants hailing from all over the UK and even one international entry! And so our judging panel (our brewery owner Pat, Funk Dungeon lead brewer Jim, beer writer Katie Mather and Chris & Pete from Torrside Brewery) got to work in trying them all. The quality overall was fantastic, with some remarkable beers entered. But the winner of the competition on the day was James Newman, with an absolutely stunning pineapple weed saison. Comments from the judges included that it was a “lovely proper saison”, “very nicely balanced with an excellent adjunct character”, and “elegantly done”.

Unfortunately at the time of the festival, we were right at the end of the pineapple weed season, and so the brew had to wait until mid 2020. And then Covid hit and threw the whole world into disarray.

We finally managed to welcome James to the brewhouse in October 2020, by which point James, Jim, and various other members of Team Abbeydale had freezers full of foraged pineapple weed which we had gathered throughout the summer of lockdown.

The recipe was adapted very slightly to suit our processes whilst still retaining the character of the original brew, using our house saison yeast blend and adding a higher proportion of Nelson Sauvin to act as a filter bed for the pineapple weed in the hopback. A ceremonial addition of the last bottle of James’ award-winning beer into fermenting vessel, and our collaboration was officially go!

The beer has spent 9 months in neutral American oak barrels and prior to blending and carbonating ready for can was dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin to enhance aroma. More pineapple weed was added at this stage for a final flourish too, this time from the 2021 season and gathered by Jim whilst on holiday at Little Earth Project and their beautiful campsite in Suffolk.

The result is a light and refreshing beer, with gentle tartness balanced by a good hit of hop character and a floral, herbal backbone from the pineapple weed. The residual house culture in our barrels give a pleasant balanced lemon character, which means the acidity is higher than the original competition entry, but we feel this creates a great fusion between James’ original recipe and the personality of our Funk Dungeon.

The beer is named Blind Devotion, taken from a Miss Havisham quote from Great Expectations… we thought that a pineapple weed bouquet was just the kind of thing a skele-bride might clutch, and the idea spiralled from there into the design you see on the can, created by our wonderful designer, James Murphy. Cans are available to purchase via our online shop, as well as from independent retailers nationwide.


PS – while we’re here, we’re very happy to announce that fledgling plans are starting to take shape for Funk Fest 2021! Mixed venue, mixed media, mixed fermentation. Keep your eyes peeled for more news coming soon.

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Dreadnoughts Upriver to Peaceful Power

Dreadnoughts Upriver to Peaceful Power

The next in our Hidden Treasures of Sheffield series features the River Don Steam Engine (nicknamed “Big Davy”), the most powerful working steam engine in Europe, capable of delivering a whopping 12,000 horsepower. Originally built for rolling armour plate for Dreadnought warships in the First World War, the engine now lives at Kelham Island Museum, where it still runs twice per day.

As a team, to put this series together we’ve thought hard about those areas, monuments, buildings and bits of history that help to form what Sheffield means to us. We’ve chosen to include this incredible piece of machinery in this series due to a personal connection to it and a link to the pre-Abbeydale Brewery days… here are the memories of our brewery co-owner, Sue: “It is an incredible engine. I started at River Don Works where it was housed as a graduate trainee in 1977. I was recruited by Hugh Wentworth-Ping, who was responsible for saving the engine, raising the £20K scrap value to pay British Steel and getting the engine transferred to Kelham Island Museum. I remember my interview with him to this day. He was a larger than life character, extremely outspoken and unrelenting in the face of incompetence. But those who were prepared to stand up to him got on very well with him. That’s what I did in my interview. There were 5 people on the panel and he kept talking over them and interrupting them. In the end I said to him rather crossly something along the lines of “I’m sorry but I can only answer one question at a time, do you want me to answer yours or the one posed by the other member of the panel?” He guffawed, subsided and behaved himself. When I took up the job he was always great with me and helped me a lot, though I was always careful to answer him boldly. Most of the rest of the team were scared witless by him!

As for the engine itself, it was mothballed when I got there, since 1974 I think. I was shown over it by the engineer responsible for it. When it became apparent that it was being sold in 1978, Hugh arranged for the news magazine programme which went out daily after the news, “Nationwide”, to come and film it in action. He actually arranged for it to be hooked up to the old rolling mill to it and got some plate to roll, complete with birch twigs to throw on as the metal went through the rollers. The crew spent the day getting background shots around the works, particularly the Melting Shop which was the most spectacular (and dangerous). I was asked to escort the camera crew in the Melting Shop and make sure they got what they wanted whilst also making sure they didn’t cook or otherwise injure themselves.

I was there when they ran the engine for the last time that night. It was spectacular. I still love going to visit the engine, remember Hugh and all the other characters I met in the steel industry. It is a very impressive sight.”

You can see the engine in action for yourself by visiting Kelham Island Museum, it is well worth a trip (and head to their website to learn more about the history of this magnificent and mighty machine)! The beer behind the pumpclip is one of our classic pale ales, a 4.0% easy drinking and sessionable beer with a citrussy body and a gentle bitterness to finish.

  • 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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