Small it may be, but Alpha Delta certainly is growing.
Saturday 28 August 2021
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Ones to Watch
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In our view, any brewery putting ‘Alpha’ in its name had better be dishing up some pretty hefty hop action, and I’m pleased to confirm that Newcastle’s Alpha Delta does not disappoint.
A 10-year industry veteran, founder Ross Holland cut his teeth at Anarchy Brewery and Box Social, before making a break to “do something a little different” for himself. Going into partnership with his dad, Ross launched Alpha Delta in 2019, and immediately made a huge impact with two very limited IPAs; both big, strong and punchy, and both receiving a rapturous critical reception.
“Those were some heavy-hitting beers, they really made people sit up,” recalls Alpha Delta sales manager David. “So they sold out pretty much straight away; if you didn’t get one, you’d missed your chance. The message was very much ‘if you want them, you’ll have to get them quick next time’. That's been the philosophy – we were confident the beers were great, but we also wanted to cultivate that buzz, that chat.”
In this day and age, it’s unusual to hear a brewery openly talking about courting hype, but David takes a very pragmatic view of what it takes for a new brewery to really break out.
“Newcastle has some absolutely first class breweries, and they’re our friends, but we’re never going to replicate their success just by being a mini version of them. Because in the northeast, a lot of people will just go out and drink Full Circle, because it's Full Circle. Or Wylam, because it's Wylam. So it’s hard to dig your way in there and get your name known.
“Price is always an issue if you set yourself up to compete head-to-head, because as a small brewery we don’t have the same economies of scale. We want to have the highest quality beer out there, and it's hard to compete with the giants who produce on such a bigger scale and can afford to lower their prices a bit.”
Small it may be, but Alpha Delta certainly is growing. At the tail end of 2019, the small team undertook a significant expansion, bringing in extra tanks and double brewing for can and keg. Until, as David puts it, “the world ended”.
“That hit us hard,” he admits. “The way we’d worked up to that point had relied quite heavily on distribution, with 60-65% of our stuff going abroad. So we had to sort of rethink our business model a bit, start selling a bit more direct, even released a core range. We also used the first lockdown to invest in another expansion of our capacity. Now though we're starting to get back into the swing of things, so all that work is really starting to pay off."
If we like a beer, then at least some other people will too
Now that the next phase of the brewery’s evolution can start in earnest, there seems to be no limit to its ambitions. If boisterous IPAs are its calling card, there is plenty of other sensational, adventurous beer waiting for anyone answering that call.
David says: “Ross is an incredibly creative brewer, and I know everyone says this, but he really does just brew what interests him. We have a lot of mixed fermentation stuff going on at the moment, some of which has been released and the rest is still maturing. We have three 800 litre Grundy tanks sitting at the back of the brewery, where some of our mixed ferm stuff has been waiting more than a year.
“The driving idea really is a belief that if we like a beer, then at least some other people will too. So yeah, there are certain styles of beer that you'll never see from us, even if they are in fashion, because we wouldn't be interested. And the same goes for every element of the beer – right down to the design of the can. If we think something is cool we’ll just do it. Especially in a crowded market like this, you don’t make a splash by paying too much attention to what other people are up to.”
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