With a dramatic and sweeping landscape of hills and moorland, the southern tip of the Pennines is now the country’s most prominent ‘hop spot’, and per square mile has more small breweries than anywhere else in the UK. This part of the Pennines, which straddles West Yorkshire and Lancashire, has 38 micro breweries, which is 1 for every 10 miles of its rugged terrain.
In a wave of beery entrepreneurship, micro-breweries have opened in former cotton mills, a chicken and pig farm, old stable buildings, a portacabin and a nude art gallery. One brewery, based in an old pie factory in Bradford, has just taken an order from the House of Commons bar for one of its award-winning beers.
To celebrate the phenomenon, Pennine Prospects, the region’s rural regeneration company, has set up a new website, www.hereforthebeer.co.uk , documenting the plethora of breweries in the region, the pubs they supply and the passionate people behind the pumps.
Thriving breweries featured on the new information website include:
Barearts Brewery in Todmorden, which sells its beer from a nude art shop next door to the brewery. Owners Trevor and Kathy hand-tie labels to the beer bottles to make them easier to wash. Recycling is encouraged, and since 2009, William, the brewer’s son, has washed more than 110,000 bottles for reuse.
The Salamander Brewing Company based in an old pie factory in Bradford. Established in 1999 by Daniel Gent and Christopher Bee, the pair’s citrusy and hoppy Golden Salamander is to go on tap at the famous ‘Strangers Bar’ at the House of Commons, where the nation’s leaders unwind after a hard day of political cut and thrust.
Empire Brewing, located in the boilerhouse of a Slaithwaite Mill on the towpath of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The brewery is a popular destination for barge owners, who moor up alongside to pick up a few bottles to help them on their journey.
Goose Eye Brewery, named after the Oakworth hamlet of the same name, Brewer Dave passes on the malt mash to a local farmer who uses it to feed his pigs, resulting in distinctively beery sausages.
Halifax Steam Brewery, run by Big Dave and Little Dave from a portacabin claimed to be the former changing rooms for workers on the Channel Tunnel.
Haworth Steam Brewery, a highly successful brewery owned by Andy Gascoine. His beer names are inspired by the golden age of steam. Just don’t mention ‘On Your Tod’ – a multi-award winning beer for which Andy has lost the recipe, having originally written it on the back of a cigarette packet. He has been trying to remember it ever since.
The South Pennines is a distinctive landscape of high moorlands and deep-cut valleys, sitting between the major city regions of Leeds and Manchester (to the east and west respectively) and the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District National Parks (to the north and south).
Rebecca Yorke, who co-ordinates Pennine Prospects’ ‘local distinctiveness’ project to encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more in the region, visited all the breweries featured on www.hereforthebeer.co.uk as part of her research for the website.
She said: “You can tell a lot about a place by its beer. If you call into a pub in the South Pennines, the chances are you’ll find a highly distinctive local brew, produced just down the road and supported by a landlord who’s passionate and knowledgeable about the product. It’s one of the region’s big success stories.
“Breweries have been cropping up in the most unlikely places, often set up by enthusiasts who decided to turn a passion to a profession. We’ve got former school teachers and office workers who are now making beers which consistently triumph in UK competitions, and pouring real passion and imagination into every pint.
“Our new website www.hereforthebeer.co.uk has been a labour of love to document these breweries and brewers, the pubs that support them, and the stories and folklore that go along with the beers. We’re hoping it will become a well-used resource for visitors and locals alike.”
According to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) the number of breweries in the UK has risen to its highest level for more than 70 years – topping the 1,000 mark.
Jon Howard from CAMRA said : “West Yorkshire has 52 local breweries, which is a staggering number, and shows how important the area is to the British beer industry as a whole.
“The recent increase in microbreweries is a very exciting trend for beer drinkers, ensuring greater variety and choice in the nation’s pubs. A knowledgeable customer base, combined with personable advertising and use of social media, is helping these brewers to thrive despite difficult trading conditions.”