The Origins of Moonshine

The Origins of Moonshine Image

With cans of Moonshine coming very soon (we should have a date for you by next week!) we thought we'd cast back our memories right back to the early days of Abbeydale Brewery, to tell you more about the beer that has become our beloved flagship, our biggest seller (it's over half of everything we make here!), and Sheffield's most iconic brew.

Moonshine was the first recipe our brewery owner Patrick Morton worked on when setting up Abbeydale Brewery back in 1996. Absolution was the first beer we actually brewed here, but Moonshine was already much more than just a gleam in Pat's eye by this point. It was carefully thought out, though the level of its success was beyond anyone's wildest expectations. Following the success of Pale Rider, Pat's first commercial recipe whilst he was at Kelham Island Brewery, and inspired by the likes of Brendan Dobbin (still a friend) at West Coast Brewing and Sean Franklin at Roosters Brewery, he wanted to reproduce that pale, hoppy, American hop flavour in a more acceptable (at the time) ABV of 4.3%. 

Patrick (and even more so his wife Sue) dislike the flavours given by crystal malts so prevalent in brown beers. Sheffield was a little unusual in having a taste for paler beers than the standard brown bitters enjoyed by the rest of the country, thanks to Stones bitter which was produced (and very popular) locally. So put together Sheffield's acceptance of pale beers, Patrick's and Sue's dislike of crystal malts, love of American hops and drinkable more-ish beers and Moonshine was born.

Moonshine is also light on bitterness, and the emphasis has always been on late-added hops for flavour rather than hops added to the boil (which extracts maximum bitterness, something which can be off-putting to many people's palates). Originally 100% Willamette hops, the recipe for Moonshine has changed ever so slightly 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.

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 then 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, but not too bitter beers. From there, many have moved, with us, on to more adventurous styles, including developing a taste for bitterness, high ABVs (remember Last Rites at 11% is essentially a very strong version of Moonshine), completely over the top hoppiness and even sour beers! Many others have loyally stuck with their first love… pale, now gently hoppy, not too bitter, more-ish Moonshine."

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, Moonshine has 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. It's come a long way since that very first pint was sold on 2nd September 1996.

Today at Abbeydale Brewery we're really proud that we can continue to produce such a consistent and popular beer as Moonshine, alongside the other pale ales we're renowned for but also the more weird and wonderful styles that we love to play around with too. And we are very proud indeed to have been an early part of the uprising that has led to such a massive variety of beer being available in the UK today. And so, as we gear up for the next stage of the revolution and get ready to launch our flagship cask product in can, we hope you'll continue to follow our progress. We're SO excited to see where this takes us next...

Last Updated: 24th April 2020
Author: Laura Rangeley

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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.

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

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