Katie Mather speaks to Rick Dean, Beer Ambassador at Mobberley Brewhouse
Saturday 06 June 2020
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Summer of love
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Speaking to Rick Dean, Beer Ambassador at Mobberley Brewhouse one thing is clear: this is a man who loves beer. On top of his brewery’s beers and taprooms and plans for the (somewhat uncertain) future, we chat about how proud he is to have such a close-knit team of beer-loving individuals (“we’ve only ever said goodbye to two members of staff in nine years — and they only left because they were relocating” he says). But what stands out most is how often our conversation takes itself off to the pub.
We talk about country pubs and post-walk pints, town centre pubs and after work beers, the first beers we ever drank, who does the best West Coast IPAs in the UK, the genius of Pierre Tilquin, the best places for a pint of Landlord, and how much he — and James Roberts, owner and co-founder of the brewery — care about cask.
“It’s funny,” he says, “in all the years we’ve been making beer, we’ve seen fellow breweries fall out of love with cask, and then get back into it again. I’m glad it’s become important to people again, but we’re also quite proud that we never stopped making it, or believing in it.”
Local Beer, Found Everywhere
Mobberley Brewery is a local brewery that really manages to get around. Their beers — which you’ve almost definitely seen, even if you think you haven’t tried them before, by the way — are in bottle shop fridges and pub cellars from Conwy to Craster, Berwick to Bude. In fact, you might even find them on holiday too, since they’ve been distributing their cans to craft beer loving parts of Spain, France and Belgium.
Known now for their bold, juicy IPAs and imperial stouts, Mobberley Brewhouse began (like most good ideas) as a father and son pints session in the pub.
“The story as I know it goes something like this,” says Rick. “Nine years ago, James and his dad Phil were in their local bemoaning the lack of standout sessionable cask beer. Everything was insipid, uninspiring and pretty dull to drink.”
“Well after a bit, the landlord said rather than moan about it, here’s something. Wincle’s are selling a small kit. Why don’t you do it yourself?”
After a bit, the landlord said rather than moan about it, why don’t you do it yourself?
Wincle Beer Co. up in a particularly gorgeous part of the Peak District were indeed expanding at the time, and looking for someone to take their smaller kit off their hands. The temptation was too much for the pair, and despite not knowing much about brewing at the time, they bought it, learning how to brew once they had their new kit in situ. (Don’t you feel a bit better about your lockdown impulse buys now, eh?)
The new brewers got to work developing recipes for the sort of cask beer they had wanted to drink at the pub, and soon they had their own range of beers they could be proud of, and a newfound respect for the art of brewing.
Then, James decided he wanted to add a little something extra to their classic beers.
“After he finished university, James went travelling and just fell in love with the whole American craft brewing scene,” Rick explains. “When he came back, he brought those flavours and different beer styles to the brewery.”
And so the brewery continued to brew bolder, juicier beers, a far cry from the pints James and Phil had been complaining about all those years ago.
By 2017, Mobberley Brewhouse had a brand new tap room and shop, with a 20bbl kit installed to meet demand for their craft-beer-inspired cask and a can and keg range ready to launch. By August of that year, Boom Juice, Route 97, Juice Machine and UnNamed joined the brewery’s line-up, creating a new range of American style IPAs, DIPAs, NEIPAs and pale ales.
“UnNamed came about because we couldn’t think of a name for the beer we’d created,” says Rick. “Then the designer came back to us with ‘UnNamed’ as place-setting text and we thought it looked and sounded great. So we kept it!”
Their 5.8% UnNamed NEIPA became the first in a trilogy of Un-beers, with UnChained, a more crushable session version of UnNamed following and their ferocious 9% UnTamed DIPA completing the triad.
“Will we make it a quadrilogy one day? Maybe. We’ll have to wait and see. We’d have to think of a name first!”
Changing It Up
Something they like to do at Mobberley is keep their drinkers on their toes.
“Our cask concept range is an exciting development at the brewery. This is the range where our brewers can use their imaginations and buy in whatever ingredients they’d like to use to make beer that’s really exciting.”
Last year some of the standout concept cask beers from Mobberley were their Toffee Apple red ale and Dark Winter toffee and chocolate stout, but they aren’t always quirky seasonal experimentations in fruit and flavour.
“Sometimes the brewers just want to make a fantastic DIPA with hops and yeast they can’t normally get hold of,” Rick explains. “Maybe what they really want is to brew a NEIPA with Galaxy. That’s what the concept range is for.”
On top of concept cask, Mobberley Brewhouse has developed over the past couple of years a selection of seasonal IPAs. These four beers look and taste similar, but actually change to suit the season.
“Of course, there are beers for all seasons,” says Rick, “But sometimes in the spring you want something a little lighter, in winter you fancy something with a bit more of a malty backbone. We tweak the hop and malt profile of this one beer, modifying the recipe slightly, so that it matches up with the time of year.”
Mobberley cans you might have seen on your bottleshop’s shelves are their white label special editions. These labels are created especially for the range by talented local designer Emily Courdelle to stand out totally separately from the brewery’s core and seasonal ranges.
“Our white label releases happen around six to eight times a year, and these beers are one-off, special editions,” says Rick.
Our white label releases happen around six to eight times a year, and these beers are one-off, special editions
These never-to-be-seen-again, get-em-while-they’re-hot beers range from styles like tropical IPA “Trouble In Paradise” to their “Duvet Day” chocolate peanut imperial stout. Release dates are shared on the brewery’s social media channels, and can be pre-ordered via the brewery’s website or from your friendly local bottle shop when they’re close to release.
Of course, the world being the way it is at the moment, it’s hard to say what the future will bring. Mobberley Brewhouse have spent just shy of a decade building a brewery exactly the way they wanted to, and expanded the business to include two busy taprooms in Stockport and Knutsford over the past few years. These Project 53 taprooms champion local beer as well as pouring a full selection of their own beers and serving up freshly made pizzas, and they’re so popular they’d like to open more of them in different locations. Maybe. Someday.
Whatever happens though, they’re planning to continue putting good beer first.
“We’re proud of where we are and what we’ve built,” says Rick. “We just want to keep making great beer.”
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