A great day for Grimsby: The first brew is underway at Docks Beers

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 17 Aug 2018

GRIMSBY’S first commercial beer brew in 50 years is underway.

Axholme Brewing Co’s flagship Cleethorpes Pale Ale is the drink of choice to test the new Docks Beers set up, created in a former church on King Edward Street. 

The initial run of 4,000 bottles got underway this morning with a mash of 375kg of malted barley to set the process off.

For Mike Richards, founder and director of the business, it is a return to the size of kit he first learnt his craft on, with Abbeydale Brewery in Sheffield.

Four times the size of the operation in Crowle, where Axholme was born, it will provide the capacity to fuel the expansion as envisaged by fellow directors Will Douglas, Charles Lumley and Shahram Shadan, who came on board after getting a taste for the resort tipple in 2016.

Mr Richards said: “It is very much the start of a new era, a new scale of operation. 

“It is great, it is working really well, all as specified, and should make some great beer. We’ve started with Cleethorpes Pale Ale, so I don’t have to learn a new recipe at the same time!”

“When I started out I always thought it would be a little family concern, my wife and I, but now we’ve got the equipment, we’re really growing and taking people on. We can deliver a lot of beer now. I’ve worked on a similar sized brewery before, so it is good to get back to it.”

Launched in 2012, Cleethorpes Pale Ale emerged in 2015, but with a new baby and an overwhelming work-load, there was a chance Axholme could be scaled down by Mr Richards and wife Jules. The Grimsby trio brought fresh impetus, major investment – aided by a Humber Local Enterprise Partnership grant – and commercial nous, and added more than 100 trade customers early on, as well as securing shelf space in Lincolnshire Co-op.

It all means Mr Richards now gets to concentrate on the beer, with the Crowle site to be retained for development and small runs. “There is a lot of demand from supermarkets and shops for packaged beer, and we couldn’t fulfil that at Crowle,” he said. “It was good for the current cask customers, but we couldn’t grow. It is great to have the ability now, then ultimately the tap room.”

As reported, that was given planning permission earlier this month. Subject to licensing approval, customers will be able to enjoy the craft behind the graft which will be in plain sight from the bar area of what was St Barnabas, deconsecrated back in 1954, when Hewitt's was still brewing in Grimsby. The last barrels rolled out of there in 1968. It is hoped by the end of September, fans will be able to carry out purchases too.

Watch as head brewer Mike Richards talks us through the process: 

Whether the holy water still flows in King Edward Street is open to debate, but plenty of Anglian’s best is required to combine with the 375kg of malted barley to make the initial mash, or “really big porridge” which kick-starts the process. Mixed together, it sits in the first vessel for the initial 75 minutes, before a boil of the liquid with hops – sterilising and stabilising it – takes place for a further hour. Transferring again to a third vessel, at a shade under room temperature, over the course of a week yeast ferments the sugars into the alcohol, maturing for a further fortnight before it is put into containers, be it casks, kegs, bottles or cans. 

There is capacity to complete two brews a day, with 8,000 litres of fermenting space.

New beers are being brought forward under the Docks Beers brand, created to resonate further afield than the Axholme name, carrying the ethos of hard work and just reward, with a firm nod to the neighbouring industry on which Grimsby was founded.

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