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Abbeydale Origins: Moonshine

Abbeydale Origins: Moonshine

In celebration of our 25th anniversary, we wanted to take the opportunity to cast our memories right back to the early days of Abbeydale Brewery, and tell you a few tales about our heritage, our beginnings, and how far we’ve come. And so, exactly 25 years to the day since we first mashed in the very first Abbeydale brew, we simply couldn’t miss the opportunity to share the story of Moonshine – our flagship beer, our biggest seller, and a true Sheffield icon!

We first told a version of this story in April last year, when cans of Moonshine were an imminent reality, but still the only way of getting hold of our 4.3% pale ale was on draught. Now a lot has changed in the past year and a bit, and with pubs being sadly closed for a great deal of that time, Moonshine in can has been a real success. Just like the popularity of the cask version was responsible for enabling us to grow and thrive between 1996 and 2020, the release of it in 440ml cans was a key contributor to us continuing to survive throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. And in the fourteen months that have followed since our cans of Moonshine launched, we’ve sold over 130,000 of them!

Moonshine was the first gyle (batch) that was created on our brewkit, on the 26th July 1996. Now you might have heard us say that Absolution was the first beer we ever brewed here (it’s even on the cans!), and this is true in that it’s the first that made it to release – a fact I only discovered when I found the very first brewbook! Our brewbooks document each stage of our brewing process, and although we now have a bespoke database (built by brewery co-owner, Sue Morton) to monitor our brews thoroughly and efficiently, each step is still lovingly written by hand too, and we’ve kept every single one of the 110 books which hold every tiny detail of the thousands of times we’ve mashed in. Anyway – imagine my surprise on seeing the fateful words “Gyle 1: Moonshine” written in the front of Brewbook #1, with Absolution relegated to the second brew! However, this first batch never made it into cask, with the first three batches of Moonshine being not-quite-right. We’ve been committed to the highest standards since our very first days, and so those fledgling barrels of what was to become our most popular beer were destroyed. (The story of Absolution is coming soon too – a beer that behaved itself impeccably from the off!)

Moonshine was the first recipe our brewery owner Patrick Morton worked on when setting up Abbeydale Brewery, being exactly the type of beer that he most liked to drink, and inspired by the pale, hop-forward American beers which were just reaching our shores in the mid 90s – but at a slightly more sessionable ABV. At the time, he never believed it would come to be such a success – named Sheffield’s most likely cask ale to be found on bars around the city throughout the last decade, most recently in the Sheffield CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale) 2019 Beer Census (the 2020 version of course could not go ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic), Moonshine has also been the recipient of numerous awards over the 24 years of our history. Beginning with winning Sheffield’s Steel City Beer Festival on its very first appearance in 1996, it’s also been awarded Champion Beer of Yorkshire 2012, runner up Champion Beer of Yorkshire 2017, and won a national bronze medal in the Golden Ale category at the prestigious Champion Beer of Britain Awards in 2018.

Moonshine is light on bitterness, with the emphasis on late-added hops for flavour rather than hops added to the boil (which would extract a higher level of bitterness). Originally 100% Willamette hops, and with a character still very much driven by Willamette, the recipe for Moonshine has shifted gently over the years, blending in other hop varieties including Citra, Centennial, Delta and Chinook, at carefully adjusted volumes to ensure the flavour of the beer itself remains as consistent as possible despite seasonal variations in the raw ingredients. Hop forward in 1996, as trends have changed it’s now perceived as quite gently hoppy, but still with a deliciously refreshing, more-ish character.

Pat and Sue have always described Moonshine as a cross-over beer. Says Sue, “Often people used to tell me they didn’t like beer, but they liked Moonshine. I reckon that what they often didn’t like was crystal malt and very bitter flavours in brown, bitter beers. So Moonshine converted many non-beer drinkers and lager drinkers to real ale and pale hoppy beers. From there, many have moved, with us, on to more adventurous styles, and many others have loyally stuck with their first love, Moonshine.”

It’s come a long way since that very first pint was sold on 2nd September 1996 – it forms over half of our overall production (something which remained true when the majority of our sales were beer in can during the latter part of 2020 – a fact which took us a little by surprise!) and it’s a beer our brewteam craft up to 5 times each week (Jamie holds the record for having Moonshined the most!).  When pubs re-opened following the coronavirus pandemic, it was the first pint the whole team flocked to… oh, how we had missed it!

Today at Abbeydale Brewery we’re really proud that we can continue to produce such a consistent and popular beer as Moonshine, alongside our ever-expanding range of other beers and styles. And we are very proud indeed to have been an early part of the beery revolution that has led to such a massive variety of beer being available in the UK today.

We hope you’ll join us in raising a pint or can this week! If you’d like to treat yourself to some cans, click here to find them on our online shop, or look out for them on the shelves of many of the independent retailers we supply – get in touch if we can help you track down your closest venue!


Laura, on behalf of Team Abbeydale

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Celebration – Mimosa QIPA

Celebration - Mimosa QIPA

After the return of Brimstone and Last Rites earlier in the year, we’ve got a whole host of absolutely mega beer releases coming out in honour of our 25th anniversary! The plan is to bring out a beer each week from now until the end of August, covering the entirety of our birthday month.

To get things started and make sure we’re all in the party spirit, welcome Celebration! This beer is a ridiculously refreshing 2.8% Mimosa Quarter IPA, brewed with Citra, Amarillo, and an innovative new product from our pals at Yakima Chief Hops – Cryo Pop™! Created with cutting edge technology, this blend contains hop varieties which hold beer-soluble compounds capable of surviving the intense brewing process, meaning they deliver a supercharged punch – or ‘pop’! – of aroma, which we thought was just perfect for our beer, inspired by everyone’s favourite first cocktail of the day! To boost up that Mimosa character, we’ve also added a whole 200L tub of orange juice to complement the citrussy notes found in the hops.

This beer actually began life back in 2018, when our Christie rustled up a one-off keg for a beer and brunch pairing event for Sheffield Beer Week at the Rutland Arms. We’ve taken the same Bucks Fizz based inspiration and scaled it up for this full release – originally paired with mushrooms cooked in prosecco butter on toast (YUM) we reckon this would also be the perfect partner to a BBQ in the sunshine!

Celebration is available now on our online shop as well as heading out to independent retailers and bars around Yorkshire and beyond. We’ll be launching pre-orders for mixed cases of all of our special birthday brews very soon, along with tasting sets for an online mini birthday party, so keep your eyes peeled for further details.

Crack open a can and join the party!


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Subscription boxes

Subscription boxes

Did you know we’ve recently launched our very own subscription box? The perfect way to get a monthly delivery of an exciting mix of our brand new specials and familiar favourites, and other treats and little extras too!

We like to keep the exact details of what’s going to be in each box a surprise, but if you head below there’s a little peek at the first two boxes to give you an idea of the sort of goodies you will receive.

Our subscription boxes are just £29 per month, and this includes delivery as we’ve extended our free delivery offer to them too. Subscriptions can be amended or cancelled at any time – there’s no minimum commitment and we plan to keep the club going indefinitely.

If you’re interested in joining our Sub Club, head to our online shop, where you will find it right at the top of our "Beers" page. Once you’ve completed the transaction on there, which covers your first month’s subscription, we’ll then be in touch to get you all set up moving forwards… and that’s it! A delicious box of beer delivered to your door each and every month, without you having to lift a finger.

We reckon it’s a great way to treat yourself, or the gift that just keeps on giving for the Abbeydale Brewery megafan in your life!


We’ve tried to cover all the basics above, but if you have any questions we’ve popped our Ts&Cs here. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, as always do feel free to get in touch – email [email protected] or give us a call on 0114 2812712.

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A Short History of Sunfest

A Short History of Sunfest

This weekend should have seen us hosting Sunfest up at our very own pub, The Rising Sun. With lockdown restrictions having been in place over the past 16 months, and the pub closed for much of this time, sadly for the second year in a row it hasn’t been possible to run an event which delivers what we want it to, and what you’ve come to expect from our annual beer festival – but we thought we’d spend some time reminiscing over Sunfests gone by, and start to look forward to those still to come!

This past couple of months would have been an absolute hive of festival fuelled activity, with hours and hours of work going in behind the scenes. Picking the beers of course is one of most time consuming but most rewarding jobs – we’ve always had an emphasis on seeking out new beers and often even new breweries! As you will see below, the beer selection has grown over the life of the festival, but we started as we meant to go on with over 60 beers on for the very first event back in 2007. Once the beers are picked, the next big project has to start – the programme! Our festival bible and a real labour of love. As the festival gets closer, the whole Abbeydale team from the brewery and the pub pitch in to get everything ready, culminating in set up day at the start of the festival week. We learn a new lesson every year (and then desperately try to remember what it was by the time the next year comes around). A mammoth task fuelled by a round of bacon butties and the occasional shower in a lively beer!

And finally, it’s time for that first half pint in a festival tankard – personally, I always kick off my Sunfest with the annual charity beer. Supporting local charities is something we’ve always done, creating a special beer raising funds as well as partnering with charities over the festival weekend (the festival and associated charity beers combined have raised over £20,000 for local charities over the years) – we’ve tried to include links to charities below so please support them if you are able. Edale Mountain Rescue was the first of these in 2007, and we brewed the original version of Salvation for them. A far cry from the stouts that feature under this series today, this was a 4.3% hoppy pale ale. It was the first beer to sell out in the beer tent, very much setting a trend for the charity beer over the years. A total of 63 beers were featured at the first Sunfest, including 12 of our own beers – the very first time this many Abbeydale beers had featured together! (And 2007 seems a bit longer ago when you consider that at the time the beer prices ranged from £1.00 to £1.50 per half!) It was a rainy weekend (the year of the Sheffield floods), but the start of something very special.

The very first Sunfest ready to serve pint number one!

The second Sunfest saw us support Sheffield Hospitals Charitable Trust, at the suggestion of Rising Sun regular Roger, who subsequently became a voluntary salesman for us, telling pubs around Derbyshire about his beer “Pain in the Arch”. The beer list was notable for a high number of beers from the Cotswolds, thanks to our driver Dave taking a busman’s holiday to source and collect them… it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!

2009 is the only year I can’t find a programme for, but I’m reliably informed that we supported the Shepherd Wheel Restoration Fund this year as we’ve got a mention on their plaque!  

By year four the beer selection had reached 100 and we were treated to a particularly sunny weekend. We worked alongside Rain Rescue this year (who have kept us all entertained with their annual dog show ever since) to come up with one of my favourite beer names for our charity beer, “Waggin’ t’Ale”.

Another long standing relationship was solidified in 2011 as Whirlow Hall Farm Trust helped us create Dr Morton’s Cow Polish, as well as keeping our bellies full with their amazing BBQ and hog roast, which is always a treat at the festival each year. Our Dan missed the hectic week before the festival despite having sourced the beers due to a pre-booked family holiday… we let him off once we found out that on this holiday he proposed to his now wife, Lucy!

A revolutionary moment occurred in 2012, as for the first time we had keg beer on offer!  The programme here begins: “It is over six years since Pat said to Rob [then GM of the Rising Sun] at the bar one Friday evening “I think we should have our own beer festival.” “Yes,” agreed Rob complacently, “we could easily put twenty beers on”. “Actually,” said Pat, “I had something rather bigger in mind…”

By 2013 we’d upped the keg offering to 6 lines, including an Abbeydale one for the very first time! The beer in question was Ascension, 6.0%, a one-off which was specially dry-hopped for the occasion and came with the disclaimer in the programme, “no, we are not doing keg!” – how times do change, as by 2014’s festival we were onto a beer made for keg ON PURPOSE (just the one, mind you), the beer in question this time being Pale Ale #3. The hardcore Abbeydale fans amongst you may be aware that these this series is what led onto the development of Heathen, our first “core” keg beer, originally known as Pale Ale #7.

2015’s Sunfest was our first opportunity to show off the newly (nearly) refurbished Rising Sun – you might remember there being lots of signs of workmen being busy, as work recommenced on the Monday morning following the festival, meaning getting takedown done efficiently was more important than ever before! We partnered with the James Brownhill Memorial Fund this year (and again in 2019). Ethna from the sales team curated the beer list this year, which meant that we had plenty of her favourite stouts on (including a keg of our very own Midnight Special Porter) – and very delicious they were too!

And just like that, the festival was 10, as we hosted Sunfest X in 2016. This coincided with the brewery’s 20th birthday, so a double cause for celebration. “Not Just Jam” with Seven Hills Women’s Institute was our charity beer this year, raising funds for Light Sheffield. We included plenty of beers brewed by women this year too! The keg list had by this point increased to 20 – including the first outing of Heathen as one of our official core beers, at the forefront of our Brewers Emporium range.

2017 was my third Sunfest as part of Team Abbeydale and I was put in charge of curating the beer list. I decided we needed to show off a bit more, it is our festival after all! So this was the first time we filled an entire bay of racking with our own beers, including a number of event exclusives brewed especially for the festival. Our charity partners this year were Cavendish Cancer Care who we’ve worked with many times over the years (in fact, a few of us are running Sheffield Half Marathon for them this September, so this seems like a good opportunity to give our fundraising page a cheeky mention!). Landlord Garry joined the pub team in time for the 2018 festival (at which we supported local children’s hospice Bluebell Wood), and by 2019 we had our very own lager, with Sunfest giving us the perfect opportunity for a big Heresy launch party! The festival exclusive pilot recipes continued over these most recent years, with everything from table beers to DIPAs to dandelion and burdock doppelbocks being trialled, helping to inspire full scale brews along the way (or not, as the case may have been…!). And although the balance shifted a little, dropping the cask a little to a choice of 72, we upped the keg accordingly meaning that over 100 beers have continued to be on offer each year – one of the largest selections in the city.

And that little whistlestop tour through the years brings us to 2020 and 2021, where Sunfest has taken a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. All that’s left to say is a huge thank you to everyone who’s been involved over the years (particularly, a shout out to Rotherham CAMRA who take over the bar for us on the Saturday!), and please be assured that we’ll be back as soon as we can. We reckon Sunfest 2022 will be the very best yet.

Please share your memories in the comments below!



  • 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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