It means friendship
Meeting the crew behind Amity Brew Co
Saturday 08 May 2021
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In a beautiful old red brick mill building in the up and coming neighbourhood of Farsely, Amity Brew Co is the brand new brew pub that the whole of Yorkshire already loves, even though it’s not opened its doors for anything other than takeaway. This is partly explained by the people involved; a veritable supergroup of local industry veterans, who have come together to build out their long-standing shared vision. But it’s also very much down to the beers themselves, and the rumours of excellence that have been floating round for months now.
After a couple of hours propping up the otherwise deserted bar of Amity’s new home, I can confirm these rumours are true. And that the team is as delightful as everyone says, led by the infectiously enthusiastic Russ Clarke
“Most of what we do beer-wise is modern classics, where we love a style and just want to do our own thing with it,” says Russ. “But we do a lot of new stuff as well. So, you know, we’ve got a New England in the tank, we’ve got a single hop pale with Strata, we’ve got Mexican lager…
“Lockdown isn’t something anyone would deliberately plan for, but weirdly it’s given us this really great period, where we can have a bit of breathing room to experiment with all the things that we want to do and stand for. We’ve all been working with other great breweries for a long time, but this is a great chance for us to brew all those beers we’ve always wanted to brew.”
Russ himself started out with BrewDog, doing sales for what at the time was called ‘North of England’ (covering everything from the Scottish border to the Watford Gap, including Wales), at a time when the brewery was small and plucky. Other members of the same small sales team have also gone on to establish important projects, including Gipsy Hill and Lakes Brew Co. He later moved to Beer Hawk and then North Brewing Co. “Basically, progressing to smaller and smaller companies, then onto my own, which essentially didn’t exist. That’s my career path.”
Another BrewDog alumnus, latterly of Buxton, Amity’s brewer Greig has an excellent pedigree and an obvious flair for creativity. Russ recalls first discussing the idea of working together at the IndyMan festival a couple of years ago: "I said at IndyMan that we’d probably take the leap in the next few months. And he was like, ‘give me a call’. I was like, ‘right, we have our brewer!' This suddenly made it feel very real."
The original plan was simply to open a bottle shop in Halifax, but as soon as Russ floated the idea of a fully fledged Brewpub by Co-Founder Rich Degnan, he was immediately on board and along with designer Tom Matthews and communications expert Verity Clarke, the team set about planning the launch.
“That was back in November 2019, back when ‘Wuhan’ was just an exclamation,” continues Russ. “I was really inspired by the US brewpub model, where the beer’s fresh, it’s brewed on site and you can take some home if you want. I really can't understand why more people aren't doing it here, it gives a brewery such a close connection to its community who have kept us going although the way through the pandemic.”
Setting up in Farsley was a key part of the vision too; the Leeds suburb famous for having only one chain store (a Co-Op, so that’s okay), whose loyalty to independent local business drove away even the ubiquitous presence of Greggs. Amity’s home is part of the beautiful and historic Sunnybank Mills, owned by the same family for generations and now benefitting from a multi-million pound redevelopment as a destination for high quality, independent producers.
“Doing this in Farsley was important to us. Even pre-pandemic, I think there was a trend away from people heading en-masse into town on Friday or Saturday night; they want to stay in their little community and enjoy the great things that are happening there. There was nothing in terms of modern beer, so a brewpub seemed like a perfect fit.
“It’s just getting started really, but there’s already some great hospitality here. There’s Grumpy's on the other side of the courtyard, which I swear to you is the best pizza in Leeds. Then Mill Kitchen on the corner, which is a great independent coffee shop, deli and bakery.”
The taproom itself is pretty damn perfect; fun and modern
Looking at the brewpub itself, and on through the back door to the large terrace area outside, Russ’s vision seems to come to life before your eyes. Families enjoying the sunshine, a beer, a coffee, among these beautiful remnants of Yorkshire’s industrial past. The taproom itself, a close collaboration with local company Design Tonic, is pretty damn perfect too; fun and modern, without really seeming to try too hard, with the bar its unambiguous centrepiece and the brewhouse tucked off to one side.
With customers already coming to the serving hatch to have their milk bottles filled from the tap, the whole team is understandably excited about actually getting its brews in front of a wider crowd, so what’s on the bucket list?
“We’ve brewed a lot of them already!” laughs Russ. “I mean, Honey I Flunked the Kids was the one that we first talked about doing in 2019, and then there’s our Mexican lager which was definitely my passion project. I love Modelo, and I’m not even sorry. We’ve also worked with a local marshmallow producer on a marshmallow stout, which was really good fun. Then it’s really just a list of cool hops we want to showcase.”
To illustrate his point, we then move through to the back room, where the diminutive brewhouse and fermentation vessels sit burbling away. Greig proudly pours for me straight from the tanks, beers in various stages of readiness but all clearly destined to be delicious. There’s a strong sense that, while it’ll definitely be great to have this place full of punters, the Amity team is simply enjoying putting some great beers through for now. Something great is happening here, cosseted away by lockdown, but still gathering its own momentum in isolation. The potential is exhilarating.
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