The East of the M60 Interview: Tweed Brewing Co., Newton

A quick half with Sam and Dave Ward, and Anthony Lewis, founders of Tameside’s newest microbrewery

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Image Is Everything: the slick graphics of the Tweed Brewing Company, fast becoming a familiar sight throughout the North West.

Just off the 346 route, in part of what used to be Weston Hyde’s base is a microbrewery that is making waves. Its upmarket approach has wowed drinkers young and old. Ultimately, they wish to experiment with new flavours and court younger drinkers aged 18 – 35 – the biggest growth area for cask conditioned ale. Before and after the interview, we had a look around the brewery itself, and I sampled half a pint of Black Shire Stout (4.5%), their latest addition.

On Friday [09 January 2015], yours truly spoke to Sam Ward, the founder of Tweed Brewing Co. Also his father and cofounder Dave Ward (a former firefighter who has made the transition from one pump to another), head brewer Anthony Lewis.

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Tweed Brewing Company, Newton, Hyde, 09 January 2015:

East of the M60: Your first question: your arrival on the real ale scene got off to an excellent start with the launch of ‘Winter Tweed’, plus three more ales. How has local reception been?

Sam Ward: Erm, local reception has been really positive, to the point where we’ve actually started to amend some of tasting notes based on the customer feedback. The help with us having Winter Tweed on Tameside Christmas Markets was a big help because a lot of people have been asking where they could try it. We was directing them to the markets and we was constantly getting feedback saying ‘they tried it on the markets, we really like it, can we stock it in our pub or bar?’. And with Tameside Markets only taking our beer, it was really good outlet to get some feedback off customers.

Dave Ward: …and it was also Tameside Markets gave us a big customer base, then to put our second beer out which was “Sixpoints”, to see how well received that was and they were both equally well received. So, Tameside Christmas Markets for us were a good shop window, a good starting point for us.

EotM60: Which also brings us on to my second question because it says here you’ve done the Tameside Christmas Markets as you’ve obviously stated here and, sold your wares in Central Manchester and other local pubs The Fleece Inn in Mossley. Do you have any plans to promote your wares in the beer festivals?

S. W.: Well, it’s funny you should say that because we have actually got Winter Tweed entered into the Manchester Beer Festival in the next coming weeks down at the Velodrome. So Winter Tweed would be on at some point during the festival, I don’t know what specific day, but we are also trying to push for our new Black Shire Stout to be involved in the winter ales festival as well, so fingers crossed we’ll be seeing that there as well.

EotM60: Good stuff.

D. W.: I quite agree with what Sam was saying there. We have had lots of contact as we’ve also noted that there is the… is it the Northern Quarter Beer Festival follows the Winter Ales Festival straight after that, so we’ll make an active pursuit across towards the… Green Quarter.

EotM60: So you’ve also got, in about a couple or so months from now the beer festivals in Oldham, that’s always well supported, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall…

D. W.: That’s correct, yeah yeah…

EotM60: …and April there’s also the CAMRA North East Cheshire and High Peak beer festival down at New Mills which is known as “Hills and Mills”.

D. W.: Right, that’s interesting. Sam does keep us pretty aware with the social media side and everything like that of what coming up and the, erm… targets certain venues to get in to. We are aware that also April you’ve got April, running in to May you’ve got the Mild Magic haven’t you. So we’re looking to see if we can do something to get into there as well, so we’re actively promoting ourselves, through all the festivals where possible.

EotM60: Good stuff. And though you’ve had favourable reaction locally and in the public houses, how has recent press coverage helped, following recent interviews in the Manchester Evening News, Tameside Reporter and other websites such as Quays News?

S. W.: Obviously, any media coverage for a start-up business is crucial, I think to get yourselves in faster than you would do otherwise. I think in terms of the media coverage, it’s sort of gone hand-in-hand with our own advertisement on social media, you know ’cause we’re constantly active and constantly trying to video certain aspects of the brewing process, take pictures of certain aspects and put them on Twitter and Facebook. So I think in with us constantly engaging with the customer for our own methods and for growing organically like that, once the customer or people who weren’t aware have seen us in articles like the M.E.N., and then the [Tameside] Reporter, they then researched us and seen our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram pages, and then it’s sort of spiralled from there really, because we’ve been active on this and active in the media at the moment. They’ve just sort of interlinked really.

D. W.: I think… Yeah I was going to say the local press and the media coverage has just reinforced what we’ve been putting out on our social media because obviously anybody could put anything out on social media, but once you’ve started getting the press to back you up and reinforce the statements you’re saying, it just serves as a good platform to move on from there and everything like that and the feedback we’ve had from people who have found us through that has been excellent.

EotM60: Excellent. And I’ve noticed that you’re using the social media platform, to… well I suppose you could say the… say, explain the process of brewing real ale as well as promoting the wares which is a good thing…

D. W.: Yeah.

EotM60: …for many people with the real ale process. From visits I’ve made to many pubs myself, there’s still a lot of people to convince them about the joys of real ale…

S. W.: Yeah, see that’s what we’re trying to do at Tweed. At Tweed Brewing Company we have trying to reinvent the pint and bring a lot younger audience to drinking real ale. Or Craft Beer as they like to call it now. And I think, when start seeing the processes that are involved and the ingredients and the simplicity of the actual product, I think that’s when they’ll start to understand what they’re drinking. They’ll be a bit more interested in real ale/craft beer altogether, and that could then result in sales and winning people over, and then us reinventing the pint then bringing a younger customer, then…

D. W.: Because we’re quite open to feedback through our social media sites, as to what people would like to see, or try, or taste within their ale, you know what I mean, so we’re into people posting and saying “is there any chance you can does this, or have you thought of doing that?”, because like Sam says, at one time, there was a mass spring up of microbreweries and everything like that, and we’re hoping to take it back to the craft ale side and brew it with quality products. That’s one of the ethoses [sic] that we’ve used here, we’re only using top quality products. Yes, I’m sorry the customer might pay a little bit more, for the pennies more for the pint, but we feel at the end of the day, that will return and pay dividends to everybody right across the board by using quality products.

S. W.: You can taste them in the beer as well. You can be sure you’ve noticed already.

EotM60: This is probably a rather topical question, this month, we have seen ‘Dry January’ and ‘Tryanuary’. What are your opinions on the two campaigns?

S. W.: Erm, yeah, I’ve seen a lot of trending on Twitter to Tryanuary, not really clued up on what that represents. Dry January obviously, could, could, work against us in terms of trying to get ourselves out there, being a start-up business in January, but at the moment… (touch wood), we’ve not really seen a drop in sales as we’ve not seen anyone… we’ve not rang anyone up and said “we’re quiet at the moment”, so at the minute we’re doing all right and it has not really bothered us.

D. W.: Yeah. I was going to say, I think the upside to us, is coming to the market at the time we did, bringing Tweed Brewing Company to the fore, and we did. People who have now used their usual suppliers, over the Christmas period are now hearing about us, so publicans are taking us on board to say to their regulars “we’ve got something new for you to try in January”, so we’ve seen a bit of an upturn in our sales into January now, because people are wanting to try something new to keep the customers interested in January although… how do you pronounce it?

S. W.: Dry… Dryanuary?

D. W.: Dryanuary.

EotM60: Tryanuary.

S. W.: And what’s Tryanuary?

EotM60: There’s “Dry January” which is promoted by Alcohol Concern… 

D. W.: That’s right. Although Dry January is a good thing for people and things like that. I think publicans are using us to get out there and…

EotM60: …of course “Tryanuary”, only a change of words, but probably easy to get mixed up. It involves raising awareness of independent breweries. In other words, say, instead of drinking that pint of some Megacorp Blandster Extra Smooth…

D. W.: Yeah.

EotM60: …go for something like Winter Tweed.

S. W.: Yep, all right. Didn’t know that’s what Tryanuary stood for, just seen it trending a few times.

EotM60: It also includes bottled beers and also suggests, well, instead of abstaining completely, say skip one or two pints and give what you save to your favourite charity.

D. W.: Yeah.

EotM60: And, support an independent brewery, such as Tweed Brewing Co. for instance.

D. W.: Yeah.

EotM60: How did you gain an interest in real ale in the first place?

S. W.: I think for myself and Dave, the interest came about when we first met Anthony and realised he was a brewer and we started seeing different, different side of the real ale scene rather than Robinsons “Unicorn” for example. So then we started entering these brews which then made us think ‘well why don’t we try whatever’s on tap at the local pub’ and then it slowly started coming about like that and we started trying stuff like porters by Anchor Brewing Company from California, and Blue Moon, brewed by Coors and stuff like that. Then it sort of got us interested in the craft beers scene and what was going on to the point where we was going out and wasn’t really touching lagers or generic stuff, and we was actively looking for something new and different, and that’s how it definitely started for myself anyway.

D. W.: And then from my point of view, with me being in the Fire Service in Central Manchester, we were just adjacent to the Marble Arch. So we finished work some nights and go for a quick pint after there, so you were introduced to a vast range of beers within the Marble Arch, and so it just went from there, and then Sam used to meet me some nights after work, and because we have a penchant for darker ales, you know that’s what we’d go and actually seek out.

S. W.: We have just got the Marble Arch on Rochdale Road have just taken two barrels, so we are in the Marble Arch in Manchester.

EotM60: Excellent news, and I’ve had the joy of visiting the Marble Arch once myself. The Chocolate Marble for instance.

D. W.: Yeah, I’m a big fan of the Ginger Marble actually.

S. W.: Yeah, you need to try the IPA with Earl Grey I think they’ve put in it, and that’s a real winner that.

EotM60: That’s an interesting one that.

S. W.: Very nice. It’s quite a strong one, but very nice.

EotM60: And of course, I see the image has also transferred to the graphic design of your pump clips and of course, the usage of social media being most innovative. Who is the graphical genius behind the pump clips?

D. W.: I think the credit’s got to go to Sam for that. Although he did graphic design at college, his ideas and his interpretation of what the product and what we’re trying to achieve with it and everything like that is… we’re trying to be unique and different and take the pump clip as well as the real ale to another level. So yes, I think Sam’s the inspiration behind it, he’s got to take the credit for that although we do have a good graphic designer who does the artwork after Sam, but Sam does approve everything like that. It goes through him. And when we first had the pump clips done, the people who make the pump clips for us cut off our social media of the bottom, because they thought it was just an additional thing, and the guy commented that in all of twenty years he has been making pump clips, it’s the first time he has ever been asked to put social media on a pump clip. So we’d like to think we’re the first in that as well.

EotM60: How did the name “Tweed” come about?

S. W.: Interesting story.

D. W.: Erm, it was one of those, because of the social circles Sam moves in, with his girlfriend being into the horse scene and show jumping and everything like that, and being out in the countryside, and myself being into shooting, and Anthony the brewer has horses and things like that. It was the inspiration was drawn from there, (to Sam) wasn’t it?

S. W.: Yeah. When we first decided we was going to open a brewery, we all set out what we wanted the brewery to stand for, and for we didn’t just want to be the generic brewery that’s got on the bandwagon and started producing its own ales. We wanted the brand to stand for something and really hit home with the customers at the end of the day. Obviously as you know, Harris Tweed is a very high quality product. It’s worn by, you know, the likes of the Royals and so on. So, we see that as an instant interpretation of high quality. Regardless of the customer’s knowledge or background, they instantly know ‘Tweed’, ‘they must have money’, or ‘he must be successful’ or ‘it’s a quality product’.

So we went with that to reflect what we are about, the ingredients going into our beer. Everything. The meticulous processes that Anthony goes through to make sure that his beer is always spot on. He prides himself Ant; he’s got over 600 brews to his name, and he has never lost one brew, and he prides himself on that. Then, that the Tweed Brewing Company you see on the wall, that is the top and everything underneath, right down to the work we do in the office, it all boils down to the meticulous.

D. W.: Originally, we were going to call it the “Green Tweed Brewery”, but we decided that was too big because, obviously, it just wouldn’t fit on the clip and it wasn’t feasible. So that’s why our logo’s in green, so we’re incorporating the green, and we’ve got the British Racing Green barrels which are quite stand-out and everything like that. So we’ve kept the green and we’ve gone with the name, just shortened it to “Tweed” for simplicity, but like Sam says, at the end of the day, it reflects what we’ve got here, and hopefully, people will appreciate that it’s a quality product, just the same as Tweed is.

EotM60: I agree, and on the fact that Tweed Brewing Co. has a name that scans better than ‘Green Tweed Brewing Co’. Not only that, about a few miles away from where we are, we’ve also got the Green Mill Brewery in Broadbottom, which some people may get a little confused with.

D. W.: Possibility, yes.

EotM60: So I’m glad to see you’re experimenting with different flavours whilst retaining a quintessentially traditional yet upmarket look. How has that won you new friends whilst accommodating who are perceived as ‘typical real ale drinkers’?

D. W.: I think, what that’s done for us, we’ve got the ‘typical ale drinkers’ who are enjoying the product, it’s something new, it’s something fresh. We’ve tried to amend the idea and the basic recipes for brewing your beer, and try to keep them a bit more, open, to all people out there to come back and give us feedback and say “we’ve got this” and “we like that, we like this” and we try to vary the flavours so we attract a wider audience from your students who able to drink at eighteen right through to your older end and we try to marry all these bits together within the brews, so obviously we have got brews that stick with your typical ale drinker, but a target audience we might do a target brew for the younger end, or the ladies who aren’t there, who like real ale, who might like something sweeter rather than too bitter or something like that.

S. W.: Yeah, I think what Dave said hit the nail on the head really. When we set up Tweed, obviously we… to reflect the brand, we had to do a few steps in order for us to firstly, build up a solid customer base then get on the good side of CAMRA. So, coming in to mid-January, by mid-January, I would like to think we have accomplished that. We have built up a good solid customer base in terms of your generic real ale drinkers, and that, as of next week, we’ll be starting our first experimental brew. We’ll call it in terms, of it’s influence really from the craft beer scene in America at the moment, so we’ll be producing something (we haven’t come up with a name for it), but next week we’ll being doing our brew with its influences coming directly from the craft beer scene in America.

D. W.: I was going to say that. I think the other thing that also helps us there is right at an early stage, we work closely with CAMRA, with…

S. W.: John Taylor… and, John Clark (sorry) and Steve Taylor and CAMRA.

D. W.: …So we took their advice on board as well, and liaised with them right from the start, just to see, to make sure we’ve got things right. That we did accommodate, were aware of people out there that like their ale to be traditional as well.

EotM60: With Tameside having another five microbreweries, including the Green Mill we mentioned earlier, how has the competition reacted and how has Tweed Brewing Co. met the challenge?

S. W.: I don’t think. When we first started, I don’t think there was a challenge out there for us at the moment. I think we’ve come in to the industry from a completely different angle, and our main objective and down the line where we want to be is completely different from, I’d say, most of the breweries within the North West have said “we’ve got our own game plan”, we’re not too fussed about. We keep our eye on the competition like any other business would, and we… we’re familiar with Hornbeam obviously, familiar with Tickety Brew and their products, so we know what they’re doing, but I don’t think there’s a challenge with having five breweries within Tameside.

D. W.: I was going to say I think the marketplace is big enough to accommodate all of us because at the end of the day, if we’re all being innovative, and we’re all producing something different, we go round on a rotational basis. And the sooner you bring something new out, the publicans want it for their customers and everything, and the customers are asking the publicans to get it in. So I think the market is vast enough round there for all of us to benefit.

(Anthony Lewis, head brewer enters the room) Here’s Ant, our brewer coming back.

Are you coming in here, mate? 

EotM60: Of the four beers you have launched, which type of dishes best complement any of the quartet?

D. W.: That’s a question for Anthony. Anthony’ll be able to put you on that straight away.

S. W.: Anthony’s experimented with stuff like that.

D. W.: Ant: the question is, ‘Of the beers we have produced at the moment, which food dishes or which beers do they complement the best. So, what would you have with what?’. Say, what did you do with your stout that time?.

Anthony Lewis: With the stout, that’ll be good for doing an ale, a steak and ale pie or summat like that, you know…

S. W.: You know, you’ve done that yourself.

A. L.: I’ve done that, yeah. Works really well. It’s great cooking, you get the meat cooking with it and it takes up the flavour of the stout, it’s beautiful.

D. W.: I was going to say, I think Winter Tweed comes across as one of those that can go generically across the board, can’t it. It’s quite a nice flavour and a nice ending to it, caramelised end in to it that would lend itself to most roast dishes and bits and pieces like that…

A. L.: Yeah, yeah…

D. W.: And the T.P.A. [Tweed Pale Ale], I think you could quite easily get away with the T.P.A. with having a curry couldn’t you, ’cause it’s quite refreshing. Something like that, so long as it’s not over-spicy, but you’ll get the nice green, citrus pine flavours coming through from the T.P.A.

S. W.: I think in terms of a good quality dinner, you’d go with a stout, wouldn’t you?

A. L.: Mmm, yeah…

S. W.: Put it in casseroles or pies or anything…

D. W.: Go with a nice Sunday lunch that…

A. L.: Or even a pint with it.

D. W.: Yeah, that’s I’m… a pint with your Sunday dinner. Pint of stout…   

EotM60: Finally, more light-hearted question here, what would your ideal pub be like and whereabouts would it be?

D. W.: I think we’d like to take on a tradit… keep some sort of traditional style pub, but bearing in mind our branding and where we are and where we like to be. We’d also like to see something a little bit more upmarket…

S. W.: Port Street Beer House is a good idea, is a good foundation of what we’d like to build on I suppose, or the Crown and Kettle for example there, and something we’d like to get involved with. Erm…

D. W.: As for location…

S. W.: I think it would have to be a major city.

A. L.: I don’t know, probably got to be different, you’re right. I see summat as rustic…countryside.

D. W.: I mean, it would be nice if we could find something that was similar to Hardy’s Well on the A6. Somewhere we could… or the Marble, years ago where they started. You know, somewhere where we can have a public house and the brewery on site, of a decent size, you know that would be nice, that would be a nice idea. It’s just a pity that the pub across the road that’s closed down has a large area and could accommodate a brewery, but it’s the catchment area isn’t the best. You know what I mean, there’s not a lot of people that would have the money.

EotM60: Well, that’s it, it’s the area that the pub is in that doesn’t lend itself to high footfall. It’s also a little off the track for some people to consider as a food pub, even though The Rising Moon nearby still carries on…

D. W.: Yes. That’s it. You’d be in a constant battle with them, you’d have to, like you said, have somewhere mainstream, where you could get. I mean, The Magnet’s a classic example.

A. L.: Close to a train station and all, because a lot of people travel about by train now, don’t they.

D. W.: And the real ale trails out there that people follow, that are by bus up in the Lake District or by train.

EotM60: And of course you said the high footfall. Also true in Mossley whereby from Mossley railway station you’ve got The Britannia, you’ve got The Commercial, the Best Of Brass...

D. W.: Yep.

EotM60: …but The Friendship of late has closed.

D. W.: Yeah, that’s it. What I wouldn’t like to walk from Bottom Mossley to Top Mossley for a pint in The Fleece after I’ve been in the Best Of Brass. (laughter) Up that hill!

EotM60: I think a fair few people may prefer to catch the 343 or the 350 up to Top Mossley.

D. W.: Yep. I think I’ll be in for that! (more laughter)

EotM60: Many thanks for your time... Sam Ward, Dave Ward, and Anthony Lewis.

TweedBrewingCoSquare-500px
The Three Amigos behind Tweed Brewing Company (L – R): Anthony Lewis, Head Brewer; Sam Ward, Founder and Managing Director; Dave Ward, Co-Founder and father to Sam.

 

S.V., 12 January 2015.

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