Claire Monk, Managing Director at Welbeck Abbey, is a big fan of our British hops and is using a selection of our popular varieties in her recently redefined core beer range. She spoke to us about how the challenges of covid and lockdown presented her team with an opportunity to ring the changes at this highly respected independent brewery.
Based at the centre of the historic Welbeck Estate on the edge of Sherwood Forest Welbeck Abbey brewery has gone from strength to strength building a respected quality-focused brand with the trade and an enviable reputation for brewing distinctively different hand-crafted beers.
Welbeck had been brewing the same beers for around 11 years since Claire started the microbrewery in 2011. Brewing was generally based around an ever-expanding range of regular popular cask beers and one-off monthly specials. Such was the anticipation from a growing fanbase that these special beers would regularly sell out on the first day of introduction!
Time to refocus and refresh
As the brewery became more popular and brewing capacity grew, so too did the Welbeck Abbey core beer range. This occasionally made it difficult to juggle brewing core beers with the monthly specials and in terms of beer styles there were a few overlaps such was the volume of beers in production. In recent years it was also clear that certain styles were becoming more popular than others, and they were attracting more customers who were excited by the prospect of being able to try something new and different on a regular basis. But while the business was growing quickly there was little time to sit back and play around with this winning formula.
But then came the pandemic. Like many other breweries during lockdown, brewing activity was forced to slow down, and although this was concerning for obvious reasons, one of the positives to come from this was that it gave Claire and the Welbeck team some breathing space to take stock, reassess the business and start to think about the future.
Claire took us through the process “Our bottled beer range became an obvious area to focus on while the pubs were closed and certainly helped keep trade steady. We also realised that we should use lockdown to investigate ways to improve efficiency and productivity in the brewery so took a deep dive into sales figures, conducted research with customers to get detailed feedback, and used a wealth of anecdotal evidence from sales and the brewery teams to lay out a clear plan.”
“The result of this insight showed that it was time for the brewery to push itself out of its comfort zone and adopt a fresh new approach. Consolidating our range of popular beers was central to this change and so we knew had some quite tricky decisions to make. Consultation with customers and the wider team was again vital at this point and helped us get the right outcome for the business going forward.
“Although this was a bold move for a successful and growing brewery, we could all see that rationalising our core beers would allow us to refocus capacity and free up time for brewing the monthly specials and meet the changing expectations of customers. We’re now in a much better position to offer a steady flow of fresh new beer ideas as well as all their cask favourites. The development of a defined core range with distinctive recognisable and sessionable styles keeps regular customers happy and is equally accessible for new Welbeck customers too.”
Now the team are busier than ever, with an ever-expanding list of pubs seeing Welbeck as a trusted brand offering a fantastic core range and a steady stream of exciting special beers.
Contemporary and classic British hops
Brook House Hops currently feature in two of their core range beers. A couple of our most sought-after contemporary hops UK Chinook and Phoenix leaf are used to great effect in Hennymoor, their award-winning Golden Ale. Phoenix leaf is added at the end of the boil along with UK Chinook T90 pellets. UK Chinook is then used again as a dry hop post-fermentation. With a lingering caramel sweetness, this 3.7% mainstay of the range provides subtle hints of orange zest and herbal bitterness and is the perfect showcase for the balanced and delicate aromas that only English hops can bring.
Inspired by the emblem of the Welbeck estate, Red Feather is a robust yet extremely quaffable 3.9% auburn ale that delivers comforting walnut and caramel flavours and has a well-rounded bitterness thanks to our classic Goldings hops and premium malts.
James Gladman, Head Hrewer at Welbeck Abbey also gave us his thoughts on our hops.
“Since the very start, Brook House Hops have been a consistently top-notch company to deal with. They are a small team who all clearly care a great deal about providing superb hops to the craft beer brewer. This season’s crop are particularly stand out, and we are confident that the flavours will be preserved throughout the year as Brook House have a great cold storage facility. We love the UK Chinook, and in tandem with Phoenix we have created an unexpectedly punchy low gravity English Pale.”