Destination: Rivington

Robyn Gilmour chats with the tiny team of Rivington Brewery


All breweries are good breweries, whether in a shed, industrial estate, or railway arch. But in my experience, the complete trifecta of unique location, exceptional beer and utterly fantastic people is very hard to come by. For all that Rivington Brewing Co is renowned, industry-wide, for the award-winning beer its tiny team squeezes out of a 250-year-old farm building turned brewery, on a working cattle farm in Chorley, discussion of its success always comes back to its locality and community. 

I catch Rivington’s brewer, Jack Smith, and graphic designer and content creator, Jack Balme, at Northern Monk’s Sydenham Road brewery for their Hike the Pike Hazy IPA collab. In spite of braving barley wine hangovers, they’re both thoughtful and liberal with their praise of the local area, in particular the generosity and hospitality of breweries across the UK’s central belt. “Everyone's just so collaborative, it feels like we all work together, never against each other,” says Jack Smith. “I’ve been to parts where you find rival breweries within the same town, or that just don’t connect and support each other, and that couldn’t be further from the case here. In our view, the more breweries people can visit in the same trip, the better.”

Despite being remote, albeit well connected to Manchester by train, the brewery isn’t short of features that attract visitors all year round, but particularly in the summer. It owns an adjacent motorhome park, operates a running and cycling club for locals, and Jack Balme says that in summer “you could have 300 people in the bar, and you just can’t fill the beer garden, with there being so much space around us, it just keeps going on and on”. 

PHOTO: Rivington team with Brian from Northern Monk

With demand from the on-site taproom — about 30% of Rivington’s total output — keeping the team of ten on its toes, Jack Smith says the temptation to grow and expand is one the team constantly has to fend off. “We don’t want to be massive, and I guess we’ve followed in the footsteps of the American model, which is all about getting beer through your taproom and serving it fresh. We export a small bit and a further 30% or so goes to Manchester and the North East.”

With space in the brewery now coming at a premium, growth for Rivington is currently taking the form of a growing barrel-ageing project. While this currently only deals with ‘clean' beers, the team hopes to move into wild fermented beers in the future. Rivington has also recently opened a pop-up bar in Preston, which sounds characteristically breathtaking. “Now, it’s just temporary,” Jack Balme warns, “but the space is based in this ancient pub that’s had a hidden bar bricked up in its cellar. The owner knocked through and found this whole other room with a well that drops forty feet into the ground. It’s tiny, you can fit maybe 15 to 20 people in there, so you don’t really make any money from operating in the space, but it looks lovely.” 

If the brewery itself isn’t enough of an excuse to visit the town of Rivington, its website is a rich directory of businesses and activities in the area, which will appeal to a range of ages, interests and outdoor abilities. With this emphasis not only on locality and community, but inclusivity and hospitality, I dare say that Rivington Brew Co is the ultimate example of a craft beer brand that champions its surroundings.

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