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!
Photo: Mark Newton Photography