It's time to get a move on May 23 2017
A new home and exciting future
For small breweries like us the question of when to expand can be exciting, but also nerve wracking.
The risks of expanding too quickly are obvious. The economies of scale involved in brewing and brewing equipment mean it can be a dangerous game to invest in extra vessels before you’re confident you can fill them.
To put it simply, you have to be absolutely bursting at the seams and struggling to meet demand before you can even think about expanding.
At the moment we can’t move without tripping over bags of malt. The FVs are nearly bursting out of the door. Linda has to live a nocturnal existence brewing more and more beer with the same number of vessels…
All this means that it is time to move.
Shiny and new
That’s why this week we are going to vacate the kitchens at Brougham Hall to relocate to shiny, modern and - most importantly - much larger premises on Gilwilly Industrial Estate.
We’ll miss Brougham Hall. It’s been a great place for us to grow over the last few years. But the fact is that demand for our beer has increased so much that we simply cannot brew enough here.
Our new home at Gilwilly will have four times the space. And, what's more, it will all be under one roof (rather than in lots of separate smaller buildings as at present).
More beer more of the time
This will allow us to increase our total fermenting capacity to 11,200 litres, and brew 5600 litres a week on average. There’ll be more room for stock and easier access for lorry loads of bottles and malt and less manual labour for us lifting and carrying all the time. (We’ll just do press ups in our spare time to make sure we keep our fitness levels up.)
It’s an exciting time and there is a lot of work to do, but this is exactly the kind of premises we need if we’re going to carry on making more and more great beer for more and more people.
We can’t wait to move in.
(We're making the move at the end of the week, so we'll post some pics of our new home as soon as we have them.)
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Our first veggie and gluten free beer May 03 2017
When the staff at Eden were growing up in our various corners of the country - Barnsley, Appleby, Sheffield and Wisbech - ham sandwiches were a pretty uncontroversial subject.
Children ate them with the crusts chopped off at kids’ parties and in their packed lunches, adults gobbled them in their lunch breaks and then threw the leftovers to their dogs without a second thought.
But with growing numbers of people going gluten free while others are opting for a vegetarian, flexitarian or completely vegan diet, the humble ham bap - once consumed with the same lack of thought as air - is suddenly beset with issues, alongside many of its meat and wheat based brethren. Many are even turning their dogs vegan without even consulting them.
The only problem is that these diets are - in many cases - excluding people from the supreme being of all food and drink: beer.
Barley is, obviously, a key ingredient in beer and, perhaps less obviously, the vast majority of beers use isinglass - a product made from the swim bladder of a sturgeon - to extract the yeast sediment from the beer and make it clear.
As we have said before, Eden’s mission is to make great beer that everyone can drink. That’s why this year we’ve brewed Naked Gold, a 4.2%ABV ale that’s really an identical twin of our ever popular Eden Gold, except that it’s gluten and animal product free.
In the slightly longer term we are working on making all of our beer suitable for vegetarians and vegans, but we think Naked Gold is a pretty good start.
After all, no-one should have to miss out on good beer.
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Japan stories 1: Export and strawberries April 07 2017
That’s why Eden’s aim this year is to expand our markets, not just across the UK but across the world as well.
To this end Jason took some time out from the mad rush of running a brewery last month to go on an equally hectic whistle-stop tour of Japan, meeting potential distributors and collaborators, as well as fitting in a bit of skiing.
Food and drink of too many different types to describe from all around the world are on offer at the event, one of the more unusual being giant strawberries which you can purchase for the nominal fee of £48 each.
Armed with two very helpful interpreters, a load of beer and an unusually smart appearance (he even wore a tie, although rumour has it he still had his shorts on behind the bar) Jason spent two days making contacts with potential distributors in Japan, as well as from South Korea and China.
He even had a visit at the bar from the director of Hitachino Nest, one of Japan’s most successful smaller breweries whose beers make it over to the UK.
Japanese stories 2: Beer and fruit update April 07 2017
Considering it has a population of almost double the UK it’s a bit surprising that Japan is home to only 220 microbreweries compared to our 1700.
This isn’t down to a lack of appreciation of the output of smaller breweries in the country, but rather due to a bit of a chequered history when it comes to taking on the “big boys” of Japanese beer.
Until 1994 it was illegal to run a brewery producing less than two million litres, a limit which obviously pushed lots of would-be microbrewers out of the market. Although the minimum brewing volume dropped to 60,000 litres when the law changed, that was still a lot more than many could afford to produce.
The law change did lead to an increase in the amount of “jibirru” (local beer) being made, but there was still a lot of stiff competition from the larger conglomerates.
Japanese beer is also subject to beer duties (as high as £1.50 a litre depending on the malt content) that make our own exchequer look positively generous and home brewing is technically illegal, meaning there isn’t a big a pool of enthusiastic amateurs lining up to make the move to doing it for a living.
Despite the fact there are some duty exemptions for smaller brewers and it is possible to get around the limitations on production levels by making beer with a lower malt content, Japan is still some way behind our own “craft beer revolution”.
However, the thirst for good beer is still present and many of the microbrewers are producing some really fantastic stuff.
Chief amongst these is our friend Dan (pictured above) who runs Hakuba Brewery in the ski resort of the same name. You might remember that we collaborated with Dan last year on Tokyo Express - made with Japanese matcha green tea - which proved very popular.
This year we are working on another collaboration on our limited edition Yuzu Juice - a pale ale made with Yuzu, a delicious native citrus fruit of Japan filled with a really delicious flavour.
Jason caught up with Dan during his trip to plan the beer and also take the chance to try out the local ski fields. Dan will be heading to Cumbria again soon to work on the actual brew and we’ll let you know when it’s due to hit the shelves.
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Japanese stories 3: A rant about trains April 07 2017
This blog isn’t about beer. It isn’t even about brewing at all.
In fact, we’d like to take a few minutes to talk about trains. We’re not trainspotters and we’re not going to bore you with a dossier of diesel engines through the ages. But Jason came back from Japan with a bit of a bee in his bonnet about the standard of the train service in the UK.
It’s not quite clear to us exactly when and why, but at some point Britain seems to have been left behind by many countries in the world when it comes to offering a decent train service.
We don’t want to bang on about it too much, but just consider the facts. If we want to get a train from Penrith to London, the fastest time we can do it in is three hours on a train with 11 carriages travelling at 125mph. Often it’s hard to find a seat and if you’re unlucky you’ll be stuck next to the lavatories drinking in the pleasant aroma of chemical toilets and worse. And, after all this, the chance of actually arriving on time is sporting at best.
Jason became a bit obsessed with trains in Japan and took lots of pictures like this.
Compare this to getting the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. It’s a journey of almost the same distance, with the fastest train taking just over two hours and 20 minutes, travelling at a speed of 186mph. These trains are made up of five abreast seating on 16 tidy carriages (oh, and everybody faces forwards as well!). The trains arrive within 30 seconds of their schedule every time (and on the same platform).
Now, of course, we are not quite comparing apples with apples because Kyoto and Tokyo are both major cities whereas Penrith isn’t quite a megatropolis. But it still begs the question why it’s possible to offer a decent train service in one developed country while in another commuters have to play “platform ping pong” before sitting on their suitcase as the service (comparatively) limps its way halfway across the country.
That’s it, rant over. But perhaps we should take a leaf out of the Japanese book if we want people to start dumping their cars to get the train anytime soon...
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News for cask customers: New prices, new range for 2017 April 07 2017
As you may well be aware, these are getting to be expensive times for independent breweries like us with the decreasing value of the pound, a shortage of some hop varieties, more competition and increased beer duty.
Whatever your view on Brexit - we’re not even going to get into that one! - the pound has taken a bit of a whack, which means buying all the hop varieties we know and love from Europe, America and elsewhere has become more expensive. At the same time the worldwide hop crop has been hit by a bad harvest and there are more and more UK breweries who want to buy something there is not very much of.
Sadly, this all means that when we got the price list for our hops back in January the price per kilogram had risen by 70% in many cases. With the margin on selling a cask of beer already pretty tight, we don’t really have any choice but to pass some of this onto our customers.
With cask beer becoming such a tough market, we’ve also taken the chance to rationalise the range and look at what it makes sense to offer. The good news is that we’ve also added a couple of other permanent additions to the range.
From now on our cask traditional range will consist of Eden Best and Eden Gold, which will be available all the time. Also on regular release will be Eden Pale, an easy drinking 3.6%ABV blonde made with fruity Slovenian Styrian Wolf and German Bavarian Mandarina.
This will be joined by Eden Cracker. Lots of you will already know Eden Cracker, which has been brewed and released in different parts of the country under the guise of Patterdale Terrier, Cumbria Cracker and Dufton Pike Ale. This is a classic English ale brewed with English Challenger Hops and Maris Otter and Crystal malts which has proved very popular in its various different incarnations.
Eden Fuggle and Blonde Knight will be available as limited release, with the price of all our traditional cask beers rising by about £2 a cask.
In the Hop Forward range we will continue offering Atomic, Dynamite, Thunderbolt and Rocket in cask. However, as these are - as the name implies - extremely highly hopped, often with varieties from overseas, the price of a cask will increase on average by £5.
The prices will go up in May and a detailed price list will be available soon.
Of course we don’t want to put our prices up, but when the raw ingredients are getting so expensive alongside all the other increased pressures there isn’t really much choice. We have to try and make some money after all! In any case the increases are below the 70 per cent hike we are having to absorb at our end.
We hope you’ll understand and, as always, if you want to talk anything through with us then please get in touch.
What is Eden? February 17 2017
For Eden, 2017 is going to be a year of expansion.
We realise that if we're going to get bigger, sell more beer and be loved for it, we've got to put a stake in the ground about exactly what Eden is all about - what it means to us and what it means to you.
It's all too easy to disappear up your own posterior when it comes to talking about things like brand values (ie. asking the kind of absurd questions like 'If Eden were a dog, exactly what breed of dog would we be...and why?').
To avoid getting drawn down any of these particular pretentious dark alleys, we thought we would just ask ourselves what we truly were and what we wanted to be.
The answer we came back with was that, at our core, we're just people who like good beer and want there to be more good beer out there. That's it.
(As part of our work on what Eden means to us and you, we're going to be re-designing our labels, brochures and the website - you can see a sneak peak of our new labels above.)
Before we started brewing beer commercially we were home brewers, making the kind of quality, flavoursome beer we liked and which we thought there should be more of in the world.
Now that brewing is our business, our real pleasure is knowing we are not only making the kind of beer that we enjoy, but that the message is coming back loud and clear that you enjoy it as well.
And that's what's really important to us. Yes, we're selling you beer, but it's also important that we know we're selling it to a group of discerning, smart people with good taste. We know we make bad beer at our peril, because you just won't put up with it.
To us, Eden is a bit like a big version of when we used to make a cracking batch of homebrew and get our mates around to drink it. It’s that excitement, multiplied by the fact of knowing it's not just us, but thousands of other people who think our beer's great too.
We don't want to be a faceless company pumping out beer, we want to be part of a community of people who love good beer, know how special it is and know it's not just about drinking, but thinking as well. We want you to talk to us, tell us what you think and take part.
We want people to be drinking Eden beer all over the country and all over the world. We're going to be working hard on growing national distribution and international markets.
But even though the people drinking our beer may have different accents or languages, we'll all have a common desire to drink good beer and make sure there is ever better beer in the world.
Thanks for your support so far, and we look forward to working with you for a better beer culture.
Returning to Japan and the sexiest fruit in the world January 31 2017
So, as you’ll see, our plan this year is to expand and spread the Eden brand beyond the borders of Cumbria and the UK.
However, although we’re ambitious, even we know we’re unlikely to achieve world domination overnight. That’s why, in our mission to bring good beer to people around the world, we're focusing on a few countries to start off with - namely Japan, Sweden and France.
In March last year, Jason began our mission to export to Japan with a week long trip to visit distributors out there. He also visited Dan from Hakuba Brewery, who we worked with on our Japanese Matcha green tea pale ale Tokyo Express.
Jason is going to follow up with another trip to Japan in March. Eden has been chosen as one of 12 drinks producers to serve at the pop up bar at the Foodex Japan tradeshow - one of the country’s biggest food and beverage exhibitions dubbed the “Gateway to Asia”.
He’ll be there, banging the drum for Cumbria among more than 3000 other exhibitors from around the world and spreading the word for great beer. Jason will also be taking the time to meet up with some more potential distributors and vying to make Eden a truly international product for the first time.
We're also planning another collaboration with Dan and Hakuba Brewery on a new beer, possibly involving Japanese yuzu fruit, which has apparently been called the sexiest fruit in the entire world.
But we’re not really into that kind of thing, so all we hope is that it’s tasty and goes well with hops.
Bringing Cumbria to London December 20 2016
We tried lots of great food, showed people how good Cumbria beer can be and particularly impressed our local MP Rory Stewart with our Japanese Matcha green tea pale ale.
Video: The making of our Winter Ale December 19 2016
Last month we had Rob from Eat Pictures visit the brewery to make a film about our Winter Ale, which we brew especially for Tebay and Gloucester Services.
Here are Jason and Linda, looking great on camera once again!
Soothing brows in London November 16 2016
Whatever your political opinion may be, we can all surely agree that this year has been a particularly topsy turvy one in the world of Westminster.
If we look back at our blog at the turn of the year there is little hint of the historical turmoil that was to follow. Back in those pre-Brexit days when Donald Trump wasn’t even a candidate let alone president-elect, we were mainly concerned with the Chief Medical Officer’s zany advice that alcohol is bad for you (that’s ironic by the way Portman Group) or the effect of the “craft beer revolution” on British hop varieties.
These now seem like quaint concerns from a more innocent age.
In the months since there has been an orgy of blood-letting amongst our elected reps which would make a vampire wince, no-one - if they’re honest - really has much of an idea of what’s going on anymore and everyone is having to get used to saying “President Trump” (which, frankly, just sounds like a particularly powerful attack of wind).
So, we are off on a mission of mercy down to London to help smooth the furrowed brows of our weary MP’s in the only way we know how - by giving them beer.
On December 6 we are heading down to the Houses of Parliament with a load of other Cumbrian producers to take part in Cumbria Day. Our friendly local MP’s have organised Cumbria Day, which is a chance for us and other local companies to show off our products in the corridors of power.
Let’s hope we can help everyone relax a bit in the run-up to the New Year.
This week's big news story... November 10 2016
Well, it’s been another interesting week in the world and for us at Eden HQ.
We aren’t going to get dragged into talking about what’s happening in the world - other than to suggest it’s as good a time as any to have a few beers...
In case you missed it, we’ve also been asking people to suggest a new name for one of our ranges of beers after the Portman Group decided the old one could be associated with “violent and aggressive” behaviour. (This particular news story was even covered by the national press - we thought they'd have had bigger fish to fry this week if we're honest.)
We were a bit peeved by the Portman Group’s decision, but we are happy to move on and keep on brewing the great beers that were part of the range even if we have to change the branding. After all, as we’ve already said, we know our beers sell on the strength of what’s in the bottle rather than what is on it.
However, it’s been nice to get all your suggestions and comments. We’ll go through them all and have a think, but we may well be brewing some limited edition special beers with some pretty imaginative names (as long as they don’t get censored again).
But for all you fans of our now infamous ‘You know what’ range of beers we are glad to say that three of these nameless beers are now on sale in Booths and Tebay and Gloucester Services ready for Christmas. Here's what they look like...
The three are made up of:
- Our old friend Hop Rocket (on sale at Booths), with its trans-Atlantic mashup of Old and New World hops, subtle but deep flavours of citrus and fruit
- Our Eastern friend Tokyo Express (available at Gloucester and Tebay Services), made with Chinook and Amarillo and infused with the fresh flavours of Matcha Green Tea
- Our new friend Yakama Chief (also at Gloucester and Tebay Services), which is a sizzling payload of American Willamette and Amarillo, in a super-sized 750ml bottle designed to really help you take your time and savour the flavour
We hope they’ll help keep you level headed in these interesting times and perhaps inspire you with some really fantastic suggestions for new identities for our outlawed beer.
Farewell to violent and aggressive Psycho (we'll miss you) November 07 2016
So it’s official, our beer has been effectively banned or, at least, it’s name has.
That’s right. Our Psycho range has been officially censored by the Portman Group because it creates “an association with violent and aggressive behaviour”. (Obviously, now that we are aware that the name alone could cause you to punch a passing child, we’ll desist from mentioning it again.)
In case you haven’t heard of the Portman Group, it promotes responsible drinking and slaps the wrists of producers that it considers are doing the opposite.
It is funded by pillars of the responsible drinking culture such as Jagermeister and Carlsberg. It has even made decisions that go against some of its 11 corporate funders in the past. It is debatable whether this has made the people who down their cheaply priced, mass marketed products every weekend do so anymore safely or decorously. And it certainly hasn’t gone any way to improving the quality of the trash these behemoths of booze pump out to the populace.
All this aside, we are very much in favour of responsible drinking and we support the principles the Portman Group stand for. This is why we make beers - including the now officially proscribed killer drink - expressly intended for people who want to savour and enjoy their beer rather than get mindlessly smashed and have a fight outside a chip shop.
This doesn’t stop us being, frankly, a bit annoyed with the decision the group have come to relating to our own bottled Norman Bates.
The main problem we have with the Portman Group’s decision making process is that they seem beholden to make a judgment, no matter how many complaints they have received.
In the case of Psy- sorry, the aforementioned aggressive brew - the group received only one complaint.
For the record, the reason for the name in the first place was because this is a range of beers intended to expand your mind when it comes to beer. We aren’t so naive or disingenuous to pretend that we weren’t aware of the other connotations (eg. relating to Patrick Bateman or Donald Trump) but it wasn’t the main driver behind the choice.
Prior to the single complaint thousands of people had bought and enjoyed the product. However, as a small, local business, we have been put in the position of having to make expensive and time-consuming changes to our labelling because of the concerns of one person.
If you’re Heineken or SABMiller or one of the Portman Group’s other 11 financiers it is probably a bit easier to absorb the cost of changing labelling and rejigging a range. For us it is, to put it bluntly, an expensive and annoying ball ache.
Of course, the Portman Group’s decisions aren’t binding and we don’t have to take any notice of them. But, again unlike those other Portman Group funders and promoters of restraint Diageo or Heineken, we aren’t quite big enough to risk alienating our retailers with negative PR brought about by ignoring a decision made by a national trade body.
Therefore, for us, it’s easier just to drop the name entirely, get on with business and put all this silliness behind us. Frankly, we don’t have enough time to reply to the Portman Group’s emails anymore.
Luckily - again unlike most of the PG’s funders - we know that people buy our products because of what is in the bottle rather than what’s on it and that if we lose the name then the taste will remain. Lovers of our dearly departed demented drink will still be able to enjoy it.
What’s more, they’ll now be able to do so without the inherent risk of it spurring them into unbridled aggression and violence, which we’re sure is a relief to everyone.
Oh, and if anyone has got any suggestions for a new name then, as always get in touch.
VIDEO: Pigs love us October 19 2016
After we've finished brewing, that's far from the end of the story for our ingredients.
We give our spent ingredients to a few different outlets and suppliers, but one of the main ones is Tom at The Secret Garden Fine Meat Company in Edenhall.
The pigs that Tom rears on the farm love the mushy, malty goodness of our brewing grain and it even gives the sausages a special texture and depth of flavour.
Anyway, here are Tom (and his porkers) to explain.