Turning that frown upside down
Catching up with Turning Point after two years
Wednesday 05 May 2021
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Last time we met Turning Point, it was in 2019’s Raise The Bar issue, in which we worked with some of the UK’s hottest new up-and-coming breweries on one of the year’s most highly rated boxes. It was a great interview, but weird, so I’m braced.
“We really covered your origin story back in 2019, so there’s probably no need to go over that again,” I say at the start of our call.
“Yeah, let’s skip that,” agrees the brewery’s Cameron McQueen. “If this were a superhero franchise, I’d like us to maybe skip over the rubbish second film and straight onto the third. The third one’s always good. Sorry - I just watched all the Marvel films for the first time, in chronological order, so I’ve created a bit of a problem for myself.”
It’s nice to see some things don’t change too much.
That said, it’s certainly been a busy 18 months for the Turning Point gang, growing rapidly, getting all the love for their great beers and moving into the former Knaresborough home of Roosters (which is also in this month’s box). The move has even allowed Turning Point to build its own taproom, and meet its new local crowd up close.
Cameron says: “We opened every day we could, from 4 July to 31 October. Ah the glory days of 2020 eh?… So that’s pretty much our focus when things reopen, getting the tap room to be a valuable part of what we do. Moving from the deep countryside to Harrogate way, we’ve gone from having zero customers within 26 miles, to having all these people in Knaresborough, Harrogate, York, who are ready to engage with us. And you know, there are quite a few great breweries round here.”
Obviously the last thing a brewery needs when it’s just invested in a big move is for its main sources of revenue to be suddenly snatched away. Ever-positive though, Cameron sees the good in the situation.
“Lockdown’s been good, in a way, because for the first time in our history we’ve had time and capacity at our disposal,” he continues. “Previously we’ve always been like, ‘oh crap, we have space for the beer we need to brew today, but that’s it, so let’s not get carried away with stuff that’s going to be sat in barrels for a year, or lagers that tie up tanks for weeks on end.
“But when you’re just selling cans through the web shop, one brew goes a long way. So we made our first proper pilsner last year, and we absolutely adore it; it’s two of the six brews in tank here. We’ve built up a good stock of bourbon casks too, with lots of exciting stamps on them, so there will be a bunch of barrel-aged beers coming out probably towards the end of this year.”
Another exciting lockdown project that’s been keeping Turning Point busy is a collaboration programme called New Frontiers. It was originally scheduled for February 2020, and intended as a celebration of moving into the new brewery, which would see Turning Point work with some of the breweries that had helped and inspired it along the way.
“We made a list of breweries that we wanted to work with, like best case scenario, and emailed to say ‘we love you, here’s what we’re doing, do you want to get involved?’. To our amazement, they all said yes, so we’ve suddenly got this collaboration project with Thornbridge, Siren, Five Points and Roosters, with a programme of 21 events in different venues.”
By the time this all came to fruition, of course, coronavirus had reached these shores, and Turning Point - not wanting to cancel - began looking for a Plan B. This was in the very early days of lockdown though, back when everyone was obsessed with sourdough and not touching their faces, and nobody had given much thought to how these things should work in practice.
“We weren’t even sure what online platform to use for our online taste-along. We used Google Meets at work, but then there was this new Zoom thing that everyone was crazy about. In the end, we managed a really great online party, with about 350 people, the guy from Roosters was playing this ridiculous music and everyone was drunk. That was almost as good as doing those 21 events I think, because we realised this was a thing that we can keep doing forever if we had to.”
And sure enough, this event kickstarted regular online meet-ups, sometimes actually scheduled, other times just turning up on Zoom to chat and drink beer. “We’d be delivering beer in the day, and then logging on in the evening to see the same faces drinking the beer we’d dropped off. It was a great feeling.” There’s also a fourth birthday collaboration project on its way this year, which will hopefully see a return to in-person events.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
Hickory Clan Caviar Maple and Pecan Danish
Cameron says: “We wanted to brew a pastry stout, but not an imperial strength, so getting as much of that impy stout flavour into a 6% beer as we possibly could. I’m so, so chuffed about how it’s come out. It’s not got too much of a burnt finish, or
dark chocolate; it’s soft like a cinnamon bun or some fancy Danish pastry.
“The name came from a dream that one of the team had. It was about these people that live in the trees, called the Hickory Clan, who go around at night trying to find trees that contain pecans; they call it their caviar and it is the food of their people. Almost exactly like in the Willy Wonka remake, where the Oompa-Loompas are harvesting the cocoa beans from the trees. But instead of cocoa beans, it’s the Hickory Clan harvesting their ‘caviar’. And now that’s just another thing that we have to try and explain to people on the phone.”
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