Small batch brewing and fresh ideas: in the Liverpool craft beer industry

It was at a charity carnival where Dom Hope-Smith met his business partner and first considered the idea of ​​turning his house beer into a professional business.

The director of Carnival Brewing Company told ECHO his wife was tired of having her home brew kit blocking their kitchen, so she was looking for a place to continue what was just a pass -time for him at the time.

Dom, 42, explains that he was complaining about not being allowed to brew at home when his future business partner suggested they come and brew beer in his empty garage.

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After purchasing a larger brewing kit, Dom’s product quickly gained interest and he was quick to see the potential to join an industry he had never been a part of except as an enthusiast. voluntary.

The company became legal in 2017 under the name “Carnival”, paying homage to the setting in which the original idea first manifested itself.

Carnival quickly supplied a number of pubs in Liverpool and moved to a larger site in the King Edward Rise industrial estate, where they have remained ever since.

The story of Dom and Carnival perfectly sums up the nature of craft beer brewing. What started out as a hobby has evolved from a DIY approach into a full-fledged business that continues to thrive as demand for and interest in craft beer has skyrocketed.

Dom told ECHO: “We really want to focus on modern beer – the beer that we really love to drink, but bringing our own twist to things. Cool ideas like sour, cask aged beers and that sort of thing. things.

“We had our share of challenges – working during the pandemic was difficult because we closed because of it. But we had a lot of stock left and we basically had a little slicing machine and the team started taking the web orders.

“We basically started an online business because of it, going back to the old school, brewing small batches to keep things fresh and trying out new recipes.”

Carnival has gone from a craft brewery to a fully-fledged professional setup based in the King Edward Rise industrial area

Data from the Campaign for Real Ale showed that the number of UK breweries declined in 2020 for the first time in 18 years, after more than doubling in size in the previous decade to reach 1,823.

But Dom believes there is still an element of mystery that continues to draw people to the industry.

He continued, “What could be better than being able to make a delicious keg of beer that people can enjoy? There is the artisan factor but also the pleasure.

“I think that’s one of the biggest factors, but the craft beer industry just seems to be growing all the time. People are always on the lookout for new and interesting styles of beer.

“I remember when I first tried what would now be called a craft beer and it blew me away with the flavors I was getting.

“It makes you want to try more and that newness and that excitement is something that attracts people.”

The appeal is clear to see, too. In Liverpool alone, the number of brewers, pubs and bars specializing in craft beer continues to grow.

Besides Carnival, Liverpool Brewing Co, Black Lodge, Love Lane, Big Bog, AD HOP and Neptune are just a few of the brewers who are bringing bold and innovative flavors to the region.

Perhaps most important of all for the development of novice beer drinkers into craft virtuosos is the Dead Crafty Beer Company on Dale Street.

The Specialty Craft Beer Bar and Bottle Shop won the award for SIBA UK’s Best Independent Craft Beer Bar and, since opening in 2016, has helped bring craft beers from around the world to Liverpool city center. .

The idea behind the bar first came after Gareth Morgan and his wife Vicky returned from vacationing in the States where they sampled the incredible craft options there.

Dead Crafty Beer Company has opened a bar on Dale Street Liverpool.
Dead Crafty Beer Co brought handcrafted flavors from around the world to downtown

Gareth, the bar’s co-owner, told ECHO: “We thought this was something Liverpool needed. More and more people are getting into craft beer.

“People want choice. Instead of just walking into the generic pub where there are four taps that everyone knows, we come up with something different.

“People are also willing to pay a premium, because craft beer is essentially a premium product.

“95% of what we have at the bar is from very small independent breweries that make a batch here and a box there. It’s a precious commodity and we love to show off all the skills involved in making these amazing beers. “

Gareth explains that while the pandemic certainly hasn’t helped the craft beer industry, more people have turned to it as supermarkets have started to carry a much wider selection.

Gareth adds that while independent businesses like his cannot compete with the might of supermarkets, the surge in interest in craft beer can only be a good thing.

He said: “I think the elephant in the room for a lot of people in the craft beer industry is the supermarkets that obviously in the last couple of years with the lockdown have really stepped up their pace. beer game.

“There’s no way for independents to compete with supermarkets, but it has opened up a bigger market for a lot of people.

“People are happier to try new beers. We had a couple on Saturday afternoon who told us they didn’t know what they liked, so we told them to stay with us for a few drinks. and we had a great afternoon introducing three or four different styles that they would never have tried before.

“I think it just opens everyone’s taste buds. People’s lifestyles are changing and they want the next best thing.

“People want new beer. They want new things – and craft beer is constantly evolving.”

However, it’s not just in bars and bars that people want to taste a craft beer. The increase in demand has caused people to want flavor profiles to match the food they eat in restaurants.

Tom White is one of the co-owners of Maray and The One O’clock Gun. Originally from the cocktail scene, Tom explains the importance of having craft beer available as a restaurant.

He said: “If you are a place, I think you must have craft beer because more and more people are asking for it.

“Especially if it’s local too. Local things are really important, especially for a city like Liverpool because it’s so hyperlocal.

“Liverpool are fiercely independent and if you can deliver something a little different that has been done literally on the road people will see that as a really cool thing.

“People always come and ask what local beer we have. People are looking for more unique experiences with their meals.

“There has been a great movement for people to move away from chains and large-scale reception areas. People tend to favor independents.

“They want to spend their money with smaller companies that do cool things and share their values.

“People want to eat in interesting places, but also to eat and drink interesting things.”

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The team behind Maray and The One O’clock Gun – Tom White pictured on the right

This emphasis on supporting local independents is perhaps best seen in Tom and the team’s more recent venture. The One O’clock Gun, open since the summer, is a traditional pub that puts a unique twist on a pie and a pint with a unique draft beer.

Their One O’clock pale, made in collaboration with Dom and the Carnival team, is an easy-drinking lager that can be enjoyed at one in the morning or in the afternoon.

Tom explains how they saw the opening of the pub as a fantastic opportunity to work together on something creative with a local brewery.

He said: “Dom and Carnival told us about themselves and what they were doing and there was a real connection. You can tell they really cared about the product and what they were doing. There were values ​​shared between us.

“We got a bit of a lightning-quick education with all the gear and were able to choose the flavors and aroma profiles we wanted.

“We have a really nice tropical flavor on the beer which has a nice mist. It has a very nice texture and the mist makes it look like juice.

“It became our biggest seller and it’s a bar signature. It was such a cool introduction to the beer-making process because it’s art, it’s amazing.

“You would be wrong because of its niche, it’s a gated community. They were so welcoming and open and made it really accessible.”

Opening up the community is something that everyone involved will escape. Despite the openness and the continued rise in the number of craft beer drinkers, Dom at Carnival says the city still has a long way to go compared to a number of others.

He said: “We’re a lot slower than other cities. If you look at Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham, Liverpool have some catching up to do.

“But we expect more and more places to start becoming independent, which will help make Liverpool a place for artisan tourism.

“We obviously have Dead Crafty and other places like the Handyman which also has a small brewery and Black Cat on Smithdown.

“There are a lot of places and more and more really passionate people, but there is definitely more work to be done.”

Gareth from Dead Crafty added, “It’s a small community, but it’s evolving. Fortunately, the community is growing day by day and there is an incredible camaraderie between the breweries and the bars.

“We would just like to see more in the future.”

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