ONLINE SHOP UPDATE

As of today we will temporarily be without an online shop. The lovely guys at EeBria who have hosted our online shop for the past 4 years are taking a different approach with their business and will no longer be hosting any brewery’s shop.

We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to source tough shipping boxes to protect our beer on its journey to you, source a courier who will safely deliver the beer and make the online shop look lovely and shiny.

We’re not quite ready to go live as of yet but keep your eyes peeled for the big launch. In the meantime there are a few online beer shops stocking our cans or you can email us at sales@wildhorsebrewing.co.uk to place an order. Iechyd da!

KEEPING IT FRESH

Since we started out in 2015, the UK craft beer industry has changed massively – and it’s been exciting to be a small part of it all.  One of our original, somewhat lofty, goals was to help improve the quality of the beer available in North Wales, and it is a buzz to see how much things have changed in our local area in the last four years. We now have a dozen micropubs, a nanobrewery/taproom and whole lot more craft beer available. When we first started out, we wouldn’t have been sure where you would find an unfiltered, hop-forward pale ale or IPA on keg in North Wales. Fast-forward to today and Nokota, our hazy, fruity and thoroughly modern Session IPA is close to becoming our best-seller, on the verge of surpassing Buckskin – an unapologetically easy-drinking, entry-level craft beer – based almost entirely on support from the trade across the region.

The special release beers we have put out this year, beginning in March, have reflected both this growth in craft beer and our growth and development as a brewery. Our December expansion meant we had additional tank-space to experiment, and were able to put into practice new ideas in terms of beer styles, branding and the 440ml can packaging format that we had been working towards in-house for a long-time prior to that first release. These ideas are a marked change to what we had done in the past. The response we had to both the beers and can artwork was beyond what we could ever have expected, and ever since the launch, we’ve not been able to meet the demand for these beers.

Over the last few months, we’ve been reflecting on these changes as well as the direction we are going in as brewery. This has lead us to the difficult decision to drop three beers from our range – Dark Bay, Skewbald and Pressure Box. Once existing stocks are depleted our new core range will consist of Buckskin, Nokota and Palomino. We intend to ramp-up production of our special release and one-off beers to fill the gap left open by the three retired beers.

So far we have purposely limited the production of the special release beers rather than produce more and risk the quality of the beer we are putting out. The freshness of our beer is something we take very seriously – last year, we invested £20k in building a large 3°C cold store at the brewery. And we aim for each batch of beer to leave the brewery doors within a month of packaging so the beer you are drinking is a fresh as possible.

Behind the scenes there have been lots of challenges with this change in direction. Production schedules can be very complex when you factor in managing two yeast strains, pre-booked canning runs on specific dates and keeping all five core/seasonal beers in stock. We now feel ready to commit fully to this new path!

This was a big decision for us, and one that we suspect will be met with disappointment by some of you. However, we believe it is the right decision and we are excited about what is to come. More on that in an upcoming post.

3 PEAKS CHALLENGE COLLABORATION 2019

You may have seen on our social media feeds that our friends from Brick Brewery in London were in town a few weeks ago, and that we brewed some beer and walked up a hill together. Well, as you may have guessed, there was far more going on behind the scenes!

Back in January, Brick got in touch about this exciting project and we jumped at the chance to get involved. After months of planning, training and hours in the brewhouse, the 3 Peaks Challenge, and collaboration beer release, is almost here.

This Saturday 13th July, before most of us will have poured milk on our cornflakes, Wild Horses Ryan H and Emma will join team members from Brick Brewery (London), Fallen Brewing (Stirling) and Hawkshead Brewery (Lake District) in an attempt to climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours.

Brick have collaborated with each of the breweries, located within close proximity to the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales, and brewed three special collaboration beers inspired by the challenge. The artwork for the beers was produced by artists local to each brewery and a proportion of the sales proceeds will be donated to charities chosen by the breweries.

The beer representing Fallen and Ben Nevis is a 3.8% Session Helles called Starting on Heaven while the beer brewed at Hawkshead in the Lake District was a 10.0% Imperial Stout called Scroggin’. Check out www.brickbrewery.co.uk/3-peaks-challenge-collaboration-2019 for more info on these beers.

With Snowdon being the last ascent of the challenge, we decided to brew a celebratory beer in the only way we knew how – a celebration of hops. The beer is a 6.7% East Coast IPA called Summit Fever brewed with Motueka, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, El Dorado hops. This beer has already broken a few records for us – the first double batch IPA we have ever brewed, the most hops we have ever put into tank and also our biggest canning run to date.

While we were busy creating the beer, Lee Owen (@drcubis) was busy translating our Summit Fever concept into artform. The name is also a nice homage to our chosen local charity, Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation, who are a volunteer-led mountain organisation assisting those in difficulty in the area surrounding the Ogwen Valley, Snowdonia. They promote good preparation, safety and responsibility over the compulsion to reach the summit of a mountain at all costs. A donation of 50p per can, 50p per pint sold at Brick/Wild Horse’s taprooms and £5 per keg will be donated to this life saving team.

In addition to the proceeds Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation, we’d also like to fundraise for the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team (based around Snowdon) for anyone who would like to sponsor us:

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wildhorse

Launch Events

We’re very excited to be launching this beer at the brewery at 11am on Saturday 13th July, at which time the 3 Peaks Challenge team should have already summited Ben Nevis in Scotland. Brick will also be launching this beer at their taproom on Saturday from 12pm.

After the team finish at Snowdon on Sunday morning they will be heading to Jack in the Box at Mackie Mayor, Manchester for a well-deserved few beers and Tap Takeover. Brick, Wild Horse, Hawkshead and Fallen will be taking over their keg and cask lines and the line-up will include a keg of each of the collaboration beers. We will be there from 2pm so please come along, chat to the brewers and share a drink with us as we celebrate our achievement!

FIX UP LOOK SHARP

Ahead of our April taproom event we’d like to introduce the newest member of the Wild Horse team. Ryan Sharples joined us last month to fill the taproom supervisor/delivery driver role, so you may have already met him at the brewery or seen him out and about in the van. Ryan is a Llandudno local and has followed a path from cask ale through to craft beer, including an eye-opening job at The Bootlegger, a speciality beer pub in High Wycombe. Ryan will be covering a few bases, lending a hand with the trade sales calls, and spending two days a week delivering and two running the shop and bar. He is making his taproom debut this weekend for the Pressure Box re-launch, so come on down and make him feel welcome.

NEW YEAR, NEW YEAST, NEW NOKOTA

It has been said that “brewers make wort and yeast make beer”.  While this perhaps over simplifies our involvement as craft brewers in the beer making process, it certainly is true.  We regularly refer to our miraculous microscopic friends as “the most important workers at the brewery” and there is good reason for that.  The happiness of yeast during fermentation can make the difference between world class beer and undrinkable beer, and the diversity of flavours that different yeast strains can produce is astonishing.

In the world of craft beer, it’s so often hops that tend to be the talking point.  But, for even the hoppiest of beers, the majority of the beer’s flavour is delivered by the yeast through fermentation.  As a brewery we go to great lengths to keep our yeast happy and healthy so they can go on to produce consistently great beer.

When it all started at Wild Horse back in 2015, we made the decision early on to manage a liquid yeast* and selected a ‘house‘ strain that we felt would work great for the three core beers we launched with – Buckskin, Palomino and Dark Bay.  San Diego Super Yeast (WLP090) was tested and selected due to its clean, crisp almost lager-like fermentation profile.  Over the last 3 or 4 years we’ve experimented with quite a few other yeasts (both liquid and dried) for many of our one-off brews as well as our newest core beer, Nokota.

Ever since we launched Nokota back in August, it has been fermented with a dried yeast strain called LalBrew New England.  This yeast was selected for it’s fruitier ‘East Coast’ ester profile, taking our core range in a slightly different direction.  We’ve been extremely happy with Nokota and how well it has been received – we’ve struggled to keep it in stock and were unable to fulfil many orders last year.  As with all of our beers, we are constantly critiquing them and making tweaks to recipes and processes.  Nokota has been no different and we have made small changes to each batch to make it even better than the previous.  The one area of the Nokota recipe we’d always planned to revisit was yeast – whilst LalBrew was giving us a great flavour profile, we had always suspected that some of the liquid yeast strains available could lift the beer to new levels.

The doubling of our fermentation capacity (which took place in December) allowed us to start thinking about adding a second house yeast strain.  We knew that for our second strain we wanted a yeast that delivered more fruitiness and softness than San Diego and after some trials on our pilot system (the Black Cloak collaboration Tornado and Galaxy IPA) we made the decision to add London Ale III (1318) as our second house yeast.

In January we pitched our new house strain into Gyle 230 (the ninth batch of Nokota we have brewed).  It was packaged this week and we’re absolutely over the moon with the results.  The fruity ester profile of the new yeast has lifted the tropical hoppy notes as well as softening the whole beer to give it more balance and flavour.  Cases and kegs have been heading out to our trade stockists this week, we have fresh bottles in the fridge and we have tapped a fresh keg at the brewery today.  If you are interested in the flavour differences between the two yeasts, we’ll keep a keg of the previous version on tap for a while so you can taste the two yeasts side-by-side.

As you may suspect, a new house yeast strain coupled with more fermentation capacity can only mean one thing – more new beers!  We have lots planned on that front and will be revealing all very soon.  Watch this space.


*Brewers can buy yeast two formats – liquid and dried.  Because of the high cost of liquid yeast, it is only usually commercially viable to use liquid yeast when it is used to ferment several different beers (yeast is harvested from one beer and then used to ferment another in a relatively short space of time).  Often brewers will manage liquid yeast as a ‘house’ strain and use it to brew many of their beers.  Dried yeast can be as low as a tenth of the price, so it is commercially viable to brew with these yeasts just once and then discard them.  The main problem with dried yeast is the limited availability of strains – there are so many more liquid strains available.

2018 EXPANSION

You may recently have seen on social media and in the local press about our expansion, but until now we haven’t got around to writing a blog about what’s been happening over at Unit 4 Cae Bach in 2018.

The planning all started about 18 months back – in mid-2017 we were very short of cold storage space (we store all our beer cold to keep it fresh) and we took a quick decision to move our office into a temporary portable cabin outside the brewery and expand our old 8⁰C cold room into the previous office space. At the same time, we were thinking about increasing our brewing capacity in 2018 and began hatching a plan to allow this to happen. We also had the problem of our office now being in a portable cabin with no space for any of our growing team to eat their lunch! To add to that, we quickly realised that our double-sized cold room still wasn’t big enough to support an expansion so we needed to look at expanding that again. Oh, and of course we had to finance the whole project too!

To allow all this to begin, the company directors injected some funds and in November 2017 we began work to start renovating the old mezzanine turning it into an office, laboratory and staff room – amazingly Dave’s dad did all of this work almost single handedly over a 5-month period. In late 2017 and early 2018 we were also working with the Welsh Government Food Division to obtain a grant as well as the Development Bank of Wales to secure a loan to allow us to double our fermentation capacity, replace our old, inefficient liquor tanks, expand the brewing floor and build a new larger and colder cold room.

Work began down in the brewery a year ago when the sloped resin floor was extended to accommodate new tanks followed by the installation of a new 600 square foot refrigerated 3⁰C cold room – this saw us knocking through into unit 3, which we now share with our neighbours, North Wales Jaguar Centre. The new cold room was complete by February and was a very exciting addition for us as a brewery – it means we can now store our beer and our hops colder than we could previously ensuring that hops are kept fresh and that our beer is super fresh when it leaves the brewery. The new cold room also includes a ‘direct draw’ cellar system for our tasting room / brewery shop which means beer comes straight from the keg to the tap, without the need for a flash chiller – as far as we know this is one of only two systems like this in North Wales (the other is at Stori Beers in Bala).

In May, our grant approval was received and with a loan from the Development Bank of Wales already in place as well as additional director investment, we put an order in for two 1600L fermentation tanks, two 3200L fermentation tanks and two new 5500L liquor tanks. This equipment was manufactured in Europe and was supplied and installed by ABUK – these guys also supplied and installed our existing brewery. The tank installation took place during the first week of December and took our capital spend in the brewery to around £134,000.

After the many months of planning, we’re incredibly excited to see this expansion complete. We’ve struggled to keep all of our core and seasonal beers available over the last four or five months so the additional capacity is very welcome. We’re also looking forward to the return of special releases in the new year, which we’ve not had capacity to brew since May.

After what seems to be a busy start to Christmas Eve for craft beer and produce shoppers on Cae Bach, we’re now looking forward to some well-earned time with our families over the Christmas period. We’ll be back later in the week to open our brewery shop and are very excited about what 2019 has in store.

Check out our time-lapse video with soundtrack from The Storyville Mob:

Photos:

 

CLOSING TIME

After 20 releases over a two-year period we have brought the 10 Barrel Series to an end. Given we haven’t released a 10 Barrel Series beer since DDH Saison back in May, it may seem like stating the obvious. But we felt we couldn’t officially close the series down without a proper explanation.

The 10 Barrel Series was conceived as a way to explore different recipes and ingredients beyond our core offering, without making a long-term commitment to a particular beer. It allowed us to expand our beer offering alongside our core beers, within the constraints of our limited tank capacity. Our commitment to only brew each recipe once allowed us to celebrate beer in a lot of different forms, from single hop pale ales to dark lagers and re-imagined British classics. We learnt a huge amount about different ingredients, brewing techniques and beer styles.

But as we produced more and more beers, we found that the limits we had set ourselves – to only brew 10 barrels of each release – became limiting. Some beers we could have sold 20 barrels of, if we had re-brewed them; beers like our New England IPA and both versions of Session Pale Ale. Some beer styles we chose to brew were a little obscure and took a while to gain traction.

Perhaps most importantly, we found that by using the same bottle label design, changing only the name of the beer, each release looked just like the last, even if what was in the bottle was very different. It was never our intention to release so many 10 Barrel Series beers, but early successes gave us confidence to run with it. We learnt a huge amount about the branding side of things and will take what we’ve learnt into the future.

The 10 Barrel Series gave us two seasonal beers – Pressure Box (formerly Dry Hopped American Wheat) and Skewbald (formerly Red Rye IPA) – and set the foundation for our session IPA Nokota, so we are a little sad to close it down. But as the brewery develops and grows, it feels like the right time to try something new. It was actually the decision to launch Nokota as a core offering that sounded the death knell for the 10 Barrel Series. Keeping five beers in stock using four fermenters meant there was no scope for one-off beers, for a time at least.

We have been working away behind the scenes, including releasing a number of Experimental Series beers recently, with a view to limited releases making a return in early 2019. There’s more to come on that front in the coming weeks, so watch this space.

RIVER RUNS DARK

Tuesday 23rd October 2018 will be remembered as a dark day in the history of Wild Horse. Quite literally. We took the decision to dump an entire 16-hectolitre (1600 litres) brew of our Dark Bay porter as it didn’t meet our high standards and we weren’t happy releasing it. It was an easy decision to make but a tough one to take.

The irony is, the beer tasted fantastic. The problem lay in the presentation of the beer; it was incredibly murky, almost muddy. We determined that the cause was protein in suspension. Porters are a traditional British style of beer that are usually clear of suspended protein and yeast due to the use of finings. A certain amount of protein will drop out of beer during the normal brewing and fermentation process but finings help to clarify the beer by binding to the protein and dropping out. We use a kettle fining called Compac CG, a vegan friendly semi-refined form of seaweed (home brewers will know this as Irish Moss).

We’re always refining our recipes and making little tweaks here and there in order to make our beer the absolute best it can be. We were hoping to be able to brew all our beers without the use of finings and we’d had good results releasing other beers that were unfined.  Unfortunately, we didn’t fully understand the consequences – darker malts are more protein rich and it appears that without the use of finings, we can’t get the result we want. A more serious side effect to this extra protein is that it affects the beer’s stability and therefore it’s shelf life. Too much protein in beer can cause it to oxidise and create off-flavours quicker than would usually be expected.

It came to bottling day and during the usual preliminary checks we saw that the beer was super murky. We had to ask ourselves “Would we be happy being served this beer?”. The answer was no so the beer had to go. This is the first batch of beer we’ve ever had to ditch and we’re incredibly gutted about it. But worry not Dark Bay fans, we’ve re-brewed it again today (with finings this time) and a new batch will be ready mid-November.

 

CONWY FEAST CRAFT BEER BAR 2018

We’re very excited to be collaborating with Gwledd Conwy Feast to create a brand new Craft Beer Bar on the Quayside at this year’s festival which runs from 26th to 28th October.  The new Craft Beer Bar will be located on the quayside (near the jetty) which will also showcase craft beers from Geipel, Heavy Industry and Loka Polly.  We have put together a very exciting and varied range of beers, which we’re sure is going to go down well with everyone.  The tent will also offer a locally produced still cider from Jaspel’s and two gins from North Star Distillery.

On the Saturday lunchtime, we’re also trying something new called The Brewer Sessions.  This will be in the form of a panel with the producers talking about a range of subjects relating to craft beer.  There will be three different topics and the sessions will run between 12pm and 2pm, followed by an opportunity to meet the brewers.

Craft Beer Tent opening hours
Saturday 11am to 9pm
Sunday 11am to 5pm

The Brewer Sessions – Saturday 12pm to 2pm
12pm – Why do we do what we do?
12:45pm – What is good beer?
1:30pm – Challenges of operating a small craft brewery in North Wales.

POST-SHAKEDOWN SHAKE-UP

BREWERY SHOP OPENING HOURS AND MONTHLY TAPROOM

Well that was fun! And after seven weeks of good times and good vibes at our Summer Shakedown events we want to keep things rolling. From October through until the end of the year we will be hosting a monthly brewery taproom on the first Saturday of each month. The opening hours will be the same as during the Shakedown (11am to 8pm) and there will be a street food offering every month.

But that’s not all! We are also tweaking our shop opening hours and from next month onwards will be open later on Fridays (midday to 6pm) and later in the day on Saturdays (11am to 4pm). This does mean the end of our Thursday shop hours, however, which have been up and down in terms of demand over the summer and especially quiet during the Shakedown weeks. Our feeling is that being open later on a Friday and on Saturday afternoon, rather than the morning as we have been, is a better fit for a lot of people, and we have had some feedback to support this idea.

On top of that, in recent months we have found it increasingly difficult to properly set-up the shop in time for Thursday openings. We have been running at close to capacity for a few months now and committing staff to two afternoons in the shop during the working week, as well as the time it takes to stock the fridge, clean the lines and clear the shop space, has become tricky to manage. We want to offer a quality experience to anyone who makes the trip to see us on Cae Bach and the new hours will help us to achieve that aim.

All our brewery events to date have been a way of gauging interest in a possible taproom offering at some point down the line, and the response to the Shakedown was more than we could have hoped for, especially given we stretched the events out over seven successive weekends. There is a way to go before we could realistically run a weekly taproom from the brewery, not least in terms of the space, but we have been invigorated, and exhausted, by the Shakedown and are determined to run with the concept in this new form. Thanks to everyone who came down to support us over the summer, and we’ll see you in October. Keep and eye on the usual channels for details soon.

Brewery Shop Opening Hours (from October 1)

Sunday to Thursday – CLOSED

Friday – 12pm to 6pm

Saturday – 11am to 4pm