To Stewartstown from Manchester Picadilly

Shiny stainless FVs
This weekend I've had the pleasure of drinking my favourite UK beer this year (so far) and one of the best I've ever had. It was a special edition Double IPA to mark 1 year of having a brewing premises (most people will know of which brewery I'm talking about now) which we were lucky to be able to secure some bottles of for the local market via Prohibition. The Winerack sold out of their allocation in less than a day. Of the other beers that were delivered, three were amongst the favourites in the tasting session  at mine on Friday night. How does a brewery reach such stellar heights in less than a year? Read on to learn more about Cloudwater.

Paul Jones in front of their brewhouse.
The first point in their favour is of course the team they have. Down to earth, normal people, talented people. The brewery is as much about the team of people as the beers they produce, each brings their own life experiences to contribute to how the brewery moves forward. Take co-owner Paul Jones for example (an interesting interview with him here), he's fascinated by skill and craft wherever it may be found, documenting every stage of the brewhouse kit out on social media. "when the floor was finished I went to the far corner and turned on the tap and just giggled as it ran off perfectly down the building and in to the drain". The team has doubled in size in this past year. Their long history in the business has enable them to build up a network of contacts to ensure they have a ready audience for their beers around the UK, with a buzz about them before even the first beer had left the premises. Luckily the quality of the beers has generally lived up to the hype and we've been benefitted in the UK as a whole by an addition of a brewery at the top of their game to the mix.

High-tech steam heating plant
But in addition to that they certainly have plenty of money behind them. A bunch of us writer types were invited to have a look around the brewery (see also Rich and Andy's takes), the set-up is above and beyond anything I've ever seen for a new start-up brewery and the team are very fortunate to have such a flexible kit to work with. (Those gadgets though, the brewery sound system can be controlled from a phone!) They also have space for additional tanks as required as demand for their beers continues to grow. They were also able to secure a room for themselves at the recent Indyman festival, pouring a slew of their seasonal range and a slew of barrel aged specials. 

What's that in FV7?!
That's an interesting point about their beer range: it changes every season based on what ingredients are available and what takes the brewers' fancy. This pleases the ticker mentality because there's always something new to be going at. I asked if there were any beers they'd like to rebrew - no plans at the moment but of course they'd rebrew something if there was sufficient demand. The idea of really honing a recipe and making it a best in class example does appeal, but the lure of the new is even more powerful.

The brewery already short of space!
"Is there anything else you'd like to try your hand at brewing?" I enquired of the Paul. "I'd like to try making some proper aged saisons and truly wild beers" Of course these are a la mode in 2015; but when done well can be amongst the best beers in the world. Luckily for Cloudwater and for us they have already located a premises in which to mess around with wild beasties (to prevent them causing havoc in the main brewery) a railway arch nearby in which they hops to showcase all things wild fermentation, pickles, cheeses, yoghurts and of course natural wines and beers. Sounds like a fantastic concept.

Even the best equipped
 breweries have wishlists!
Of course its not all been plain sailing. Their original location choice fell through due to impending network rail improvement works resulting in road closure which would have necessitated hand transport of everything in an out for 9 months! Their current premises is ideal, but overly conservative landlords restrict pretty much all attempts at connecting with the local community, no large brewery tour groups, no on site brewery tap and no music sessions. Being located in the red light district the unfounded fear is that the brewery will become part of a one stop shop, get boozed up there then avail of other "services" nearby...

The vienna lager spooled up for labelling
But despite these set backs the brewery is there, its producing fantastic beers and will continue to and we're going to benefit. Their beers are mostly destined for keg and bottle, the latter having striking white labels replete with all the necessary beer geek info (you can see that most brews are double-brews for e.g. and the different yeasts they employ). Take those beers I mentioned at the start of the post for example, a lager, a porter a hopfenweisse and a double IPA all top-class examples of their styles. The vienna lager is biscuity, clean and fruity easy drinking and moreish. The porter is rich, chocolaty and smooth a great dessert beer. The hopfenweisse showcases new season antipodean hops in all their tropical glory, full bodied and spicy and that winning DIPA, a clean malt bill, well hidden alcohol and a fresh burst of juicy fresh hoppiness, moderately bitter but overall fun and enjoyable to drink. That beer still in FV7 when we visited the brewery a month ago, bottled a week ago and in glasses up and down the country this weekend is a triumph. We need more beers like these in the UK.

A few beers from the Autumn range
Thankyou to Paul for giving up his Saturday morning on a busy weekend to show us all around and deal with our incessant questions. As always I love visiting breweries as there is always something new to learn about brewing alongside learning what makes the team tick. As I mentioned cloudwater is now available in my local off-licence Wine Rack in Stewartstown and various other locations in and around the Belfast area. Please do try them if you come across them; you won't be disappointed.

Cloudwater Brew Co

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