December is always a monster month with sale and with planning our brew schedule around the inevitable holidays folks have planned and the hangovers they are suffering. So it’s always nice to get to January and take a step back, evaluate what was and plan for what will be. 2016 was a great year for us. We rose to 14th best brewery in the country on Untappd and were awarded the best new brewery in our area on Ratebeer. We had Pale crack into the Top 50 beers in the world in its style and some great responses to our small batch beers we took to events and festivals. Flanders Red was among my favourites and we’ve big plans to up our production of that beer in 2017. Black Angus (our smoked imp milk stout 9.2% that we brewed in collaboration with Independent Spirit of Bath) also went down a storm, so much so that we brewed another 2000L of it in January and have barrels on the way to age it including Bourbon, Tequila and Wine.
Our barrel ageing programme is going to be a huge part of what we develop in 2017, with our hope being we can create some beers that have a real tie into the local ecology and microflora. True Bristol based sours are the aim, though this will take some years to see how successful we can be. When we look at the beers that we drink that really excite us, it’s generally mixed and spontaneous fermentation styles that stand out. In Small Bar from day 1 we’ve tried to really showcase great wild fermented beers and it would be awesome to see some of our own, created within miles of the city centre taking centre stage.
What else does 2017 hold? Quite a lot, I hope. Quarter 1 and 2 of the year will see us developing our warehouse to turn from being a Gypsy brewery base to being capable of housing a 10bbl brewkit. Our tap room will remain as is and kicks back off Easter weekend, but we are moving things round to create a section to house the brewkit, a new cold store, and a segregated area to house our barrel store and foeder (for when they arrive!) as we can’t have our funky stuff sitting around our clean beers! Q3 should see us taking possession of our Brewhouse and install beginning, which will be great timing as our tap room will be open again so you folks will really be able to see the project taking shape. All going well we’ll be having a tap room closing party at the same time as a brewery launch party some time end of September! At that time we should have our 10bbl Brewhouse, 4 10 bbl fermenters and 4 10bbl conditioning tanks. Volume wise we are really fortunate in that we’ve grown our sales to the point where we can build our brewery without the need to build sales to fill the tanks. At sales levels now we’ll be brewing 3 times a week from week 1 and (hopefully) paying the loans back from the get go that we are having to bury ourselves under to build the damn thing! Our aspirations are not to be a huge brewery, and really we do not have plans for the future to build beyond 10bbl. We’ll certainly expand our fermenter space but we want to remain small, keep the ability to be brewing frequently and experimentally, to always get the beer out fresh and to be able to work with people we like and respect and not be forced to take sales for the sake of sales. Aspirational perhaps, but I hope we can stay true to it.
We will also have our barrel store complete where we will house our current barrels and the barrels we are purchasing over the coming months, along with our foeder (basically a very large barrel..). I hope the end of 2017 will see us getting some really great mixed fermentation beers out there and really adding some diversity to the beers we create. You’ll still get Pale, Duet, USPA and Lactose (among many others) but I hope we can add in to that some barrel aged and barrel soured beers that will really excite us, and you!