Interview: Harrogate Brewing Co Set for Expansion

Anton Stark began his brewing journey ‘cuckoo brewing’ (using other people’s kit) to make sure he could actually create something drinkable.

His first beer was sold at The Old Bell Tavern, Harrogate in July 2013 and he soon decided cuckoo brewing wasn’t for him, bought his own kit and set up in his home town. Harrogate Brewing Company was born and now Anton and his wife Sarah are braced for expansion.

I caught up with Anton to find out more.

Anton and Sarah Stark

When and why did you decide to set up Harrogate Brewing Co?

It’s something that had been at the back of my mind for years, and I had an epiphany after several beers in The Old Bell Tavern late 2012. Chatting with friends about why nobody yet had set up a Harrogate Brewery, I thought ‘I love beer and I’d love to do that’, so I did!

What does the brewery look like today?

The brewery is very small indeed (even by micro brewery standards) and is currently in a cramped 400 sq ft business unit at Claro Road.

I hear you’re on the move. Tell us more?

We decided to keep the brewery small to start with, to make sure we could actually make a business out of it. I’d only ever home brewed before and was conscious that I needed time to develop recipes and make sure the beer was good enough.

The boom in micro breweries over recent years has increased competition and also in my view beer quality, so it’s only now I’m confident enough to move to bigger premises.

We’re relocating to a 1600 sq ft unit off Hookstone Chase in December, where we’ll have more fermenters enabling us to double our production, and we’ll open a Brewery Tap once a month where the beer can be sampled in the brewery.

How will the move support your medium to longer-term plans?

A larger space means we can brew more beer and sell further afield into York and Leeds, which we need to do if the business is to organically grow. And it also allows us to experiment trying out different beer styles.

We’ll be able to brew a lager for example, and I’d love to try a Berliner Weisse and Dunkel beer. We’ll also have room for a Brewery Tap which is something I’ve wanted to do ever since we started.

What do you think about the local beer and pub scene?

We’re very lucky in Harrogate to have such a variety of pubs – from traditional ale houses to cool indie bars, and I love them all! Although there are still too many ‘tied’ pubs in my opinion, where landlords are forced to buy their beer from a list supplied by a head office miles away, stifling consumer choice. So no surprise that I’m a big fan of ‘free house’ bars.

And with Roosters Brewery in Knaresborough (who’s kindly given me loads of advice), Daleside Brewery in Starbeck, and now us; local beer drinkers have three award winning breweries to choose from, which is brilliant. You lucky people!

What’s your favourite beer right now?

There are so many great beers it’s almost impossible to say. I had a cracking ‘Axe Edge’ the other day, but when the nights are dark and cold, a pint of ‘Old Peculier’ from the wood is hard to beat.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone thinking of starting to brew?

If it’s home brewing – then go for it. It’s fun to do and very rewarding if you create a good beer in your own home (or shed). Just make sure everything is very, very clean.

If it’s starting a commercial brewery, then double your cost estimates and get testing your recipes before anything else. It can take many months to hone a beer recipe.

Tell us something about you we might not know?

I was in a band in the early 90’s which had a minor hit in the Czech Republic.

Describe your job in three words?

Clean, brew, clean.

Keep an eye on the Harrogate Brewing Co Twitter feed for updates on the move. Anton and Sarah will also be partnering with Women On Tap for the 2018 beer festival – keep eyes peeled for details!

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