East Yorkshire brewery toasts milestone after emerging from the coronavirus pandemic stronger than ever.
An East Yorkshire brewery is celebrating its 15th anniversary with the launch of a limited-edition version of the first beer it produced.
Great Newsome Brewery was founded in 2007 by the Hodgson family, which has farmed for four generations at South Frodingham in the Holderness countryside.
From small beginnings – brewing just 20 casks a week in its first year of operation – the business has grown significantly over 15 years and is marking the milestone by producing a special edition of its flagship Sleck Dust beer.
‘Sleck dust’ is Yorkshire farming dialect for ‘quench a thirst’ and the original beer, a light-coloured, easy drinking ale, does exactly that. The limited-edition celebratory version of the brewery’s bestselling beer is dry-hopped to showcase the flavour and aroma of the hops.
The anniversary is the latest achievement for the brewery, which has been steadily chalking up successes in the craft beer industry since its launch.
Among them are regional, national and international awards for its beers, including the top prize in the prestigious World Beer Awards in both 2013 and 2020 for its Frothingham Best bitter.
Reflecting on the brewery’s development, director Matthew Hodgson said: “We set the business up at a time when farmers were being encouraged to diversify and create new income streams to secure their future.
“We had noticed a growing interest in real ales and in locally produced food and drink, so after a lot of careful research and with the help of a small grant and a business loan, we set the brewery up with a plan to see where we could take it in five years.
“It’s been hard work, with some challenging times along the way, but we couldn’t have imagined 15 years ago that we would be where we are today, with 11 employees and production as high as 400 casks a week.”
The growth of Great Newsome Brewery’s distribution network is further proof of the quality of its beers and their popularity with real ale lovers.
Its range includes stouts and dark ales as well as golden and paler brews, which are available on tap as regular or guest ales in over 150 independent and chain pubs across the north of the UK.
They are also stocked by major retailers including Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons, as well as smaller independent retailers.
The brewery has also seen international success, with growing sales in northern Italy, where the style of traditional British beer Matthew and his team have perfected is particularly popular.
Building the business hasn’t always been plain sailing and, like many in the drinks industry, Great Newsome was initially hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic – a challenge that came immediately after it had invested heavily in a new brewery with the capacity to double production.
“In January 2020 we installed the new brewery to support our growth plans and less than two months later we were in lockdown, with pubs and restaurants shut and little idea of what the future would hold,” Matthew said.
“Our focus had always been on trade sales so when lockdown hit we had to pivot very quickly to build direct sales, both through our own website and on some of the best-known gifting websites. We also moved into the corporate gift market and made the most of the trend for Zoom get-togethers by offering online tasting sessions.
“Thanks to that shift we were able to get most of our team back into the brewery fairly quickly and we’ve come out of the pandemic stronger than we went into it.”
Other highlights for the business have included the growth of the brewery’s annual ‘Festivale’, which this year attracted 800 visitors who enjoyed live music, street food and Great Newsome beer in a field next to the brewery across two days in June.
The brewery has also been chosen to produce beers for iconic local events and brands, from Brewculture, the official beer of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, to Kit Room Craft, for rugby league giants Hull Kingston Rovers.
Since 2014, it has used home-grown barley in its beer, adapting the growing conditions on the farm to produce 150 tonnes of the crop, which is turned into malt just 40 miles up the coast at Muntons in Flamborough.
The wider Hodgson family remains very much involved in the business, with Jonathan running the farm and their parents supporting with sales and event management. Matthew’s son James oversees the brewing, while his other son Harry works on the farm. Matthew’s wife Donna manages the office, and Jonathan’s wife Catherine manages the farm’s glamping enterprise.
The success of the venture, says Matthew, comes down to the brewery’s focus on quality, customer service and maintaining strong links with the local community.
“We started brewing during a period of strong growth for the craft beer industry and some of the brands who launched around that time have flourished, while others have failed.
“There are lots of companies out there making lots of beer but people want what they’re drinking to be good quality. That’s what we provide and, along with a great team and good old-fashioned customer service, it’s been the key to our growth.
“I’m proud of all we’ve achieved, and that when our employees see our beer on a supermarket shelf or at a pub bar, they know they’ve played a part in getting it there.
“I want them to be proud of that and also to feel good about the part the brewery plays in the local community, helping to attract visitors to the region and supporting local charities through our festival and other activities.
“I’m looking forward to building on that and to brewing more great beers in the next 15 years.”
Bottles of Sleck Dust Limited Edition are available on the Great Newsome Brewery website, together with limited edition 15th anniversary stemmed pint glasses.
For more information on Great Newsome Brewery, please visit www.greatnewsomebrewery.co.uk