From a twisted wheel to a great beer
Saturday 28 August 2021
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Ones to Watch
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Twisted Wheel’s Mark Dearman is at the start of his second ever shift at the Brew//LDN festival, and it sounds like it’s going to be a long weekend for him. He and colleagues Laura and Avi were the only team members the tiny brewery could spare, so it’s all hands on deck for three 15-hour days of grueling fun. “We need to take some breaks today, because yesterday was... it was a bit intense,” says Mark.
I refrain from observing that this should all be grist to the mill for a brewery named after a Manchester nightclub famed as much for its legendary all-nighters as for being one of the birthplaces of the Northern Soul phenomenon. Instead, I ask more vaguely about how the 70s musical movement has inspired him and his brewing.
“Our inspiration comes from that whole retro vibe really, from the 60s and 70s, even into the 80s.
The Manchester Northern Soul connection in the brewery name was a theme that ran through the early days of the brewery and through a lot of our beer’s names. It kind of has another meaning for us though; our first home, at the start of 2020, was in a little town called Standish, in an old converted stately home. It was the most lovely place to brew beer, but we had to drive down a long bumpy path to get to the brewery, so in the first week there we’d had a flat tyre, knackered our suspension and even had a cracked windscreen. So it’s a bit of an in-joke, but the name is also a reference to that.”
The Standish base didn’t last long though, and after only around eight months Twisted Wheel was forced to find a new home in Warrington, which isn’t quite as romantic but is still a great base for a young business, and Twisted Wheel had to start very much from scratch.
“We’re not a brewery, a startup, which was has the luxury of a big budget to get everything absolutely how we’d want it from the start, in terms of premises and kit. And it still feels brand new. We started brewing literally in February 2020, so we’ve been in various states of lockdown our entire existence. It’s literally been locked down. It was not the plan. But like many businesses we just had to throw our plans out the window and say ‘okay, what are we going to do now?
“It’s been really, really hard work, but we’ve not stopped trading through lockdown. Being a startup, we haven’t had the government support, which was lacking for breweries anyway, but for us was particularly lacking. So we’ve had to trade for our life, growing a business under the toughest conditions. But it’s paid off. We were named Greater Manchester’s new brewery of the year last year by Ratebeer and our reputation has really grown. I’m proud of our resilience.”
Nobody ever expects starting a new business to be completely plain sailing, but keeping Twisted Wheel alive and kicking has clearly been a labour of love, so I’m curious to hear how Mark came to this in the first place.
“At the end of 2019, my wife and I were looking to start afresh,” he says. “We had some experience, not in actually brewing, but I had experience in selling traditional cask beer to the free trade, and discovered this little plant in Standish that was for sale. So after not very much soul searching, we funded the purchase and set up Twisted Wheel brewery, which was just to be a tiny little craft brewery, continuing to do what we were already doing.
After not very much soul searching, we funded the purchase and set up Twisted Wheel brewery
“We had no experience in the sort of craftier side of it, so we’ve had to learn as we’ve gone along. we’ve got a great team in production, including a new assistant brewer who starts with us this weekend. He’s incredibly passionate about the craft industry, very knowledgeable. He’s excited to pitch in and help us broaden out into different style beers.”
There’s clearly a lot of buzz around Twisted Wheel, and I’ve certainly seen many breweries at this stage struggle with the weight of expectation. Mark is humble to a fault though, and is happy to admit that the brewery is still a work in progress. I ask if there is any particular style or approach that he sees developing into Twisted Wheel’s signature.
“Honestly, no, and I’m okay with that,” he answers with a shrug. “I still think we’re searching for our signature I guess. There are a couple that we do where I taste it and think ‘yeah, that’s 100% what I want us to be’ though. Sunday Session, which is our session IPA at 3.8% is definitely one of them, and Speed Wobble would be another. They’re good, strong core beers. In terms of the other stuff we’ve done, our sour I’m pretty confident will remain. “But otherwise it’s partly such a good time at the moment because we can keep changing things up and really playing. It’s been a lot of hard work and uncertainty, but I don’t regret it for a second. I’m so glad I’m no longer doing my old job, and I really love what we do.”
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