Pals’ belief in beer brand could bring a brewery back to Grimsby after 50 ‘dry’ years
1st November 2017
GRIMSBY could soon have its own brewery as the team behind the popular Cleethorpes Pale Ale look to convert a former town church to cater for demand drummed up.
Five years after launching, Axholme Brewing Co has outgrown its rural northern Lincolnshire base, with the flagship ale flourishing after three friends jumped on board the once-struggling husband and wife venture.
Space is desperately required to unleash further business growth, and with pride in the town up there with the passion for the produce, the Grimsby-based trio want to tap into the wider regeneration proposals.
Permission is being sought to change the use of what was St Barnabas Church on King Edward Street, bringing the capacity to quadruple current output.
More than 100 trade customers have been added since Will Douglas, Charles Lumley and Shahram Shadan joined Mike and Jules Richards in Crowle. Mr Lumley was an early customer with his Cleethorpes craft beer shop Message in a Bottle, and rallied round when he heard it was being scaled down.
Now the entrepreneurial pals are fully immersed, and looking to take it on to a new level.
Mr Douglas, grandson of town clerk Frederick Ward, has bought the building, which had been used by a storage company for decades, having been deconsecrated after the last service back in 1954. He said: “We got involved with Axholme because the beer is great. Mike and Jules had come up with the recipe for Cleethorpes Pale Ale, and that had been going since 2015. I had bought lots of it, I loved it, but Charles said in June last year that the brewery was struggling.
“We knew it couldn’t be the beer, so we asked if we could have a look and see if there was anything we could fix. It was just the two of them and it became very obvious they couldn’t do everything. They had a baby, they were brewing, delivering and doing all the administration and marketing. It was a big, big job, and they hadn’t had the take up locally they had wanted.”
Fortunes now transformed with a strong focus on securing permanent pumps and bottle stockists, “Cleethorpes Pale Ale has been a resounding success locally,” Mr Douglas said. “That has been the catalyst, with the size of the increased customer base we have been able to build allowing us to look at other things.
“If we can be here it would be fantastic to be regenerating a building so close to the what is happening with the Greater Grimsby Project in the town and on the docks. The building was in the centre of what used to be the poorer housing for the dockers of the area. That went, but this would have been an important place. It would be really exciting for it to be part of an area where regeneration is going on.
“We are throttled by the space in the tanks we have in Crowle. We are so constrained by the amount of beer we can make.”
Currently turning out 4,320 pints a week, firm orders from independent pubs as well as a recent win with The Lincolnshire Co-operative, has led to the application. The plan is to convert the ground floor into a brewery, with newer brewing technology to have a capacity of at least 19,400 pints, while making it a new headquarters, employing a handful of staff.
The building offers huge potential with a first floor added previously, still enjoying the open arched roof with exposed beams and other original features – but the immediate focus is brewing capacity.
Mr Shadan, who has a background in property, said: “A brewery has traditionally been a cornerstone of all major towns and cities. Grimsby has a name for independents, we have a strong independent cinema, yet we have no brewery.
“The building was a key part of the area when Grimsby was great, and now we feel we are on the verge of it being great again. Most people look for square meterage, we bypassed all that. It would have been easy to find a modern place with all the drainage there, but we have moved with our hearts and found something really true to the area.
“With some hard work and elbow grease it really could be something.”
April will mark 50 years since Hewitts last brewed in Grimsby, and a decision is anticipated before Christmas, with funding streams now being explored.
The plan is to retain the original brewery, at Seven Lakes, for small brewing runs and new product development.
News Courtesy: www.humberbusiness.com