#ISBF4 Brewday No 15 : Howard Town Brewery


It’s been a bloody marathon. Actually, probably more enjoyable than Pheidippides martially motivated footslog, but you get the point!

But here we are Brewday 15. And for this one, a long standing arrangement which – unfortunately, due to work pressures – I (Jim) was unable to attend. But with the design genius that is Andy Heggs and his mate Nick, we were certainly covered.

Again, like many breweries that I invite to St Sebastian’s, Howard Town aren’t slathered in glamour or soused with hype. What Stuart Swann does – quietly – is make full flavoured beers. Consistently. For me, the most important of beery C words. Well, apart from Citra, Centennial, Cascade….. But again, you get the picture.

Glossop may not be the centre of the beer universe – of course, we all know that that is Salford in 11 days – but there are few prettier places to go to work. To make beer. And as we drinkers all know, making beer ain’t work, right?

Take it away Mon Genius…. Oh, OK. Andy then….

“For all the huge popularity of beer nowadays, in my humble view there’s still too few breweries who focus on producing traditional, consistent, well-made session strength cask ales. Not everything has to be barrel-aged, hopped-to-hell-and-back or 9% and served in thirds (though no denying they are great too). Sometimes it’s just refreshing to enjoy a well made pale ale that floats around the 4% mark. Something you can enjoy a few pints of in one sitting.

And that’s why I love Stuart and Emma Swann’s output down at Howard Town Brewery tucked away in Old Glossop. They took over the reins down there in 2014 and focussed on reducing the original huge range of beers, refining and refreshing the recipes and nailing the consistency. Eight core beers remain, from the 3.5% Milltown through to the 6% Dark Peak alongside some seasonal specials, and all are eminently quaffable cask beers and super examples of their style.

After discussions back in July about getting together and brewing a beer for ISBF4, time went by very quickly and I had totally forgotten I’d stuck my neck out and offered to be mash monkey for the day. My memory was jolted on the first Monday in October though when I got a text from Stuart asking what time I thought I’d be arriving that Friday! Quick bit of logistics juggling with work and I’d booked myself onto the earliest train I could to that end of the line station that is Glossop.

Sadly, even that couldn’t get me there in time for mash in, so when I arrived with my regular partner in crime, Nick the Greek (also the day’s photographer), things were already well underway with the malts (lots of best ale, dark munich, caramalt, amber and crystal) doing their porridge thing.

Over bacon butties supplied by Jethro Tull loving brewery assistant Simon, we discussed what today’s brew was going to be – an American Red, coming in around the mid 4% mark. Stuart hadn’t quite decided on the hops – but had drawn up a short list of suitable candidates for our input. Cue much rubbing, sniffing and comparing combinations, alongside mouthfuls of the sweet wort to try and get a little impression of the potential results.

(obligatory cute Brewery dog shot!)

We decided on a hop bill of generous amounts of Willamette, Mosaic and Cascade which should have the beer singing at the top of its tropical, fruity voice. Once we’d decided on these and weighed them out, we earned our lunch (or worked off the bacon butties?) with some shifting of a fresh delivery of malts up into the store before descending on locally procured pork pie, cooked meats and fresh breads and talk of all things beer.

Between mouthfuls of lunch, the hops were added in at two stages during the boil and then a final generous amount through the hopback on the beers way into the FV, where Stuart got to work adding the yeast, we got to work with the malt shovel and Simon busied around with hose and brush cleaning down the rest of the equipment.

One thing is for sure, it will definitely live up to the red of American red – this beer looked amazing! Depending on the light going through it, it ranged from a malty brown hue through orange to a vibrant, brilliant red. Sure, the yeast will tame this colour a little, but this is going to be a beautifully hoppy red little number.

As always (I’ve had the privilege of brewdays down at Howard Town before) , the day went seamlessly and before we knew it it was time to say cheerio and head off. I’m really looking forward to tasting this beer – which as you’ll no doubt now know will be available exclusively first at ISBF4. So you know the drill – get clicking for a ticket! See you there.”

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