Well, I guess it is that time of year again and therefore time to reflect on the year we have had at Pig and Porter.
There have been a number of changes as the company has evolved; the team has grown and we’re an appreciably different business to the one we were when I sat down to write a similar blog this time last year. I can sit back and be justifiably proud of the success Team Pig and Porter has achieved over the last 12 months.
So, what did last year look like?
It began with the appointment of Rich, our London Sales Beard. A more engaging and enthusiastic chap you could not wish to meet and he soon made an impact. At the end of 2016 we were selling about 80% cask and 20% keg and smallpack. An indication of how cask dominated we were was that we simply categorised sales as “cask” or “not cask”. Fast forward a year and we’re now around 58% cask, 35% keg and 7% smallpack. That’s quite a shift in 12 months. It’s not a particularly conscious decision on our part, we’re just brewing what sells.
We got into canning in, for us, a fairly big way. The boys from Them That Can came down to can four of our beers (not all at once, that would have been silly). We’re really pleased with the results and will be working with them again in 2018.
By about Easter, it had become apparent that we needed more hands in the brewery. Until now most of the deliveries had been handled by Robin, myself and, after he joined, Rich. As production increased, George and I were more or less wedded to the Brewhouse which meant that Rich and Robin were doing two days a week delivering taking two days a week out of each of their main roles. We quickly realised we needed a delivery driver and a brewery assistant. So we advertised for two part time roles.
In the middle of this recruitment process George announced he was moving to London to work with Them That Can. It’s always a shame when a member of your team moves on but we completely understood the reasons behind his desire to move to London and it’s something many regional small businesses have to contend with, so why should we be any different.
Ironically, during this time we were producing some of the most innovative beery offerings we had hitherto brewed. I am of course talking about the Cocktail Series of beers. Inspired by my wife, Jacqui, and I getting quietly sozzled on gin one Sunday afternoon in The Twelve Taps where we thought about what a cocktail inspired beer might be. The first was Mango Daiquiri IPA, a West Coast Style IPA with Mosaic and EXP431; it smelled of mango before we put Mango anywhere near it. It was later followed by a Cosmopolitan Saison and a Pina Colada Pale ale. I’m happy to report that there are other cocktail series beers under development for 2018.
Our team went up to five in June when Jonny joined us as a drayman and brewery assistant and, one slight misdemeanour with a cask mallet aside, he’s had a very good six months with us. Around the same time Jonny joined us we made the decision to stop using the process agent, isinglass, in our cask beer.
Pretty much since we started brewing we would get the odd message asking if our beers were vegan friendly. The reply was never simple as, although our keg and bottled beer has never been fined, we had used isinglass, a fish based fining agent, in our non-dark cask beer since our inception. We felt that the time had come to remove isinglass from the entire range. It took us a few weeks to absolutely nail the process but we got there in the end and the beer is all the better for it.
Amid the chaos of June, we managed to appoint a replacement for George and also brew a beer for Primordial Radio, a rock and metal station owned by its fans. Mark Armitage joined us in July. Despite having no brewing background, we felt a PhD in organic chemistry and 30 years’ experience as a process chemist was an ample runners up prize. It proved the right decision and Mark settled in instantly.
Primordial Süp, a session IPA brewed to raise money for Primordial Radio was very much fun indeed and it also got us into some pubs that we wouldn’t otherwise have sold beer to. Süp became the tipple of choice for PRFam (Primordial Radio Family) meet ups around the country and, at a time when many pubs are struggling, the income generated by 30 or 40 thirsty metalheads having a get together is not to be underestimated.
We brewed our 300th gyle in August and, keen to brew something different to mark the event, I decided to brew our first lager. For those who are obsessed with beer style it’s a Helles style, or at least it was until I dry hopped it with EXP431. It was great fun to brew and we’ve already brewed second gyle as we have a number of permanent lines to fulfil.
That more or less brought us to the end of our financial year and I’m pleased to be able to tell you that we grew more than 60% on last year.
We’ve got plans for continued but measured growth in 2018 but I’ll let Robin talk to you about that. However, we expect to produce between 2500 and 3000 HL in 2017/18 depending on when FV6 arrives at the brewery.
Thank you to all those who bought, stocked and drank Pig and Porter in 2017. To you all I wish a happy and delicious 2018.