We sat down with Sam Ward, the young man at the head of one of the fastest-growing local breweries around, Tweed
Young entrepreneur Sam Ward is attempting to revolutionise the beer industry. Less than a year ago, sitting in their local Robinson’s pub with a pint, he and his now-business partners lamented the poor quality of the beer on offer.
“Most of the good ideas start over a pint,” he said. “Myself, Dave, and Anthony [were] all sat in our local just talking about how beer is bland, it’s quite boring, it always seems to have that stereotypical bitterness to it which doesn’t appeal to myself.
“And then Anthony, already being a professional brewer, working for Manchester Brewery, he said, ‘well, beer doesn’t have to be like that. You can make it sweet, you can make it dry, you can make it bitter, you don’t have to follow any rules.’
“So I said ‘why can’t you make it sweeter?’ And I compared it to Desperados—I said if beer is like Desperados I think everyone would drink it.”
And that night, in that pub, was where Tweed Brewery began. Since then, they have grown at an unprecedented rate, and don’t look like they’ll be slowing down any time soon.
Based in Hyde, the Tweed Brewing Co. describe themselves as “a Manchester-based micro-brewery on a mission to reinvent the pint.”
They use all the modern tools at their disposal, keeping a sharp eye on what’s on trend and making drinks they think will really appeal to the general public both in terms of flavour and style. It is extremely important to them to utilise social media in particular to market their products.
“I think people are buying with their eyes now, instead of just buying with the pocket. They want something that first of all looks nice and catches their eye, but second of all there’s a certain traceability to it. So it’s local, or the ingredients are organic, or it’s not been sat on a shelf or in a warehouse for two years.
“I think people like to know what they’re drinking, the background of it, they want to be able to see it on social media and see that that brand is engaging customers. People want a nice product at a reasonable price, but are prepared to pay a bit more for something that’s locally sourced.”
The name Tweed and their entire branding came from the potential to market themselves anywhere. “We wanted something quintessentially British, so whether it goes to export or wherever, we want people to know it is a British product.
“Second of all we wanted something that was going to automatically suggest a premium product. So I think tweed, being worn by royals, is definitely synonymous with premium.
“We have a core range of about five craft beers,” says Sam. “We have four of them available in bottle and cask, and then cask is our core. So we have our Hopster, our American Pale Ale; we have our New World Pale which is brewed with New World hops; Orange County IPA, which is brewed with fresh sweet oranges; we have a Black Shire Stout, which is really sweet and milky; and we also have our new Equinox, which is like Black Forest gateau in a pint.
“And a seasonal one which is our porter which has only just come out. Hopster is definitely [the most popular], 100 per cent. It’s really light, it’s brewed with fresh lime, it’s just such an easy drink.”
I ask what the start-to-finish process of brewing involves. “So Anthony will come in at about seven in the morning—all the hot water will be ready to go at around 75°. He’ll start with the mash, which is what’ll give you your sugars, which will then work with the yeast, which will turn to alcohol.
“Depending on what we’re brewing at the time, he’ll get around 150-200kg of malt into the mash tun. He’ll steep that like you do with a teabag, for about 90 minutes.
“He’ll then siphon that out into a boiler, bring that mash up to the boil, which will convert starches to sugars. And then, at various different stages throughout the boil—either 70 minutes, 20 minutes, seven minutes and zero—he’ll add hops for flavouring, aroma, or bitterness.
“After that he’ll let that stand for 20, 30 minutes, and that’ll go into the fermenting vessel, pitch the yeast, then that’ll probably be done within four to five days. Then after that, siphon it into the casks, and drop it off at the Crown & Kettle. It’s simple, but I wouldn’t like to do it—I can only just about brew a cup of tea.”
Sam admits that beer is one of the most risky and competitive businesses to enter, especially in today’s market. “I knew the market was crowded, I just didn’t realise how crowded it was,” he said. “It is a risky business to go into, but I think also what people don’t realise is that a lot of the breweries are one man bands, so the brewer is the marketer, seller, delivery driver, plus the brewer.
“Being a trio, we can attack it from three different angles. We have Dave who does all the brewery management and is the delivery driver. He can go out and spend ten or 15 minutes with each customer, see how the beers are going, and work with the customer and feed back to us.
“We’ve got Anthony who solely focuses on the stock, the brewing side of things. And then between myself and Tom [Ingham, former Mancunion Music Editor], we do all the social media, PR, press, selling, and just driving the business forward.
“Between us, that’s what’s setting Tweed apart at the moment, especially within Manchester. We’ve got a good product, we know it sells, it’s being seen by the right people, but it’s also growing.”
And growing at a serious rate too. “We sold our first cask of beer to Sand Bar round the corner on the 27th of November 2014, and since then we’re now stocked in the Hilton, the Midland, the Renaissance, Innside Manchester by Melia, Sand Bar, Crown & Kettle, Allotment, the Fonts, [and] Kros.
“We now distribute to Newcastle regularly, East Anglia, London, and we’re soon to be listed in a national supermarket on a local level.”
But the team, on the whole, feel that their local nature has helped them. “I think not being in the city centre has been a struggle, we could be a lot further on if we were a city centre brewery because of the clique within the city centre.
“But then again, I also think it’s allowed us to keep our eye on the ball and not get sucked into this fanboy clique there is, everyone brewing mad hoppy beers at ten per cent.
“I think there are pros and cons of being in Hyde, the biggest pro has been working with a local authority—Tameside council have been amazing and they’ve really bent over backwards for us. We’d move as the business needed, but for me I’d like to stay within Tameside for the time being,” said Sam.
Students who want to get their hands on a pint of one of Tweed’s beers can try Kro bar, the Lass O’Gowrie and Joshua Brooks on Charles Street, or the Crown & Kettle on the edge of the Northern Quarter where it is stocked regularly.
On the horizon, Tweed have an event coming up in Spinningfields in collaboration with the Dockyard, though a date has not yet been set: “That’s going to be a new soul and jazz sort of night, a weekly occurrence. And then we’ve got a load of stuff lined up for 2016.”