Friday, January 03, 2014

Interview with a brewer: Nick Briggs

Nick Briggs with Star landlady Sam Watt
As a 'ticker' there is nothing finer than coming across a new beer that no one else has ever drunk before.
I achieved just that in Huddersfield last Saturday in The Star with many other people at the launch of Briggs Signature Ales.
While supping its debut beer, Northern Soul, I managed to snatch a few words with Nick Briggs to compliment him on his very quaffable creation.
I also had a fair few 'what next' questions to ask him, but he was a man in demand and had a pub full of people to meet and greet.
However, Nick kindly agreed to do an email interview to tell us more about his plans for his new brewery.
We'll employ the usual Q&A format, which worked well when author and blogger Leigh Linley was last in the interview hot seat.
But before that, a thank you to photographer Steve Goodwill for supplying all the pictures and to Holme Valley correspondent raisathedog for arranging it.
Nick pulls a pint under expert supervision 
Ale Ambler (AA): First of all, Nick, congratulations on a memorable launch night at The Star at Folly Hall. You seemed to be getting plenty of positive feedback on your beer. Which hops were used in Northern Soul?

Nick Briggs (NB): Cascade and Centennial, I wanted to use some of my favourites for my first beer.

AA: I note from your twitter account, @BriggsSigAles, that we should, 'Look out for Northern Soul in pubs across West Yorkshire!'
Have you had many enquiries from pubs about your beer since Saturday night or even beforehand?

NB: Yes, I have been approached by several good pubs in Huddersfield and beyond. The beer should be coming on bars soon.
A man and his beer
AA: I gather that having your own brewery has been a long-held dream of yours. How you did you get into brewing, was it the traditional homebrew route?

NB: I did a bit of home brewing, but it wasn’t very good. In fact if my homebrew was anything to go by I wouldn’t have carried on. It was a passion for beer that made me pursue a career in brewing rather than my early skill.

AA: Please tell us a bit about your career in beer.

NB: I started my career at Elland Brewery as trainee assistant brewer and general brewery hand. I was very quickly made a full time brewer at Elland and later co-Head Brewer. 
I enjoyed three good years at the brewery - in which time my beer improved from the original homebrew, I hope! It received National recognition from CAMRA and SIBA. 
In the summer of 2013 a position became available at Mallinsons Brewing Company, whose beer I had long held in high regard. I applied for the position and was lucky enough to be successful.

AA: Star landlady Sam made it clear in her launch night speech that you will continue to work for Mallinsons as well as brewing your own ales there. How will that arrangement work, please? Will you brew on set days?

NB: It is a business arrangement that involves me renting Mallinsons spare capacity as and when it is available. I brew the beers and do other work involved with Briggs Signature Ales in my own time. That way the two companies are completely separate and I can focus on my work for Mallisons wholly.

AA: How have Tara and Elaine from Mallinsons helped with your own venture? Is a collaborative brew with them on the cards or would that be too much like the day job?

NB: Tara and Elaine have helped me enormously, allowing me to use their plant for my own venture is more than I could have expected. They have given me advice on many aspects of the industry that I had little experience in. I would certainly be up for collaboration in the future.

AA: Do you have a favourite beer in their portfolio?

NB: It’s impossible to single one out. Their range of single hopped beers are some of the best I’ve ever tasted, that’s one of the reasons I was so keen to work at Mallinsons.

AA: When you brewed Northern Soul at Mallinsons in Lockwood, was it at the back of your mind to make it significantly different from their pale and hoppy beers, which we know and love?

NB: I was very wary not to brew a Mallinsons by any other name, I would have been doing my employers an injustice to do so. I made sure the malt bill was very different and the overall feel of the beer was quite separate from a Mallinsons beer.
Briggs Signature Ales Northern Soul
AA: The Northern Soul pump clip was quite striking. How did that artwork come about, please?

NB: I wanted to produce, as you say, striking pump clips that would catch the eye and intrigue. So with the help of my wife Emily we created a range of character based pump clips, starting with Northern Soul. The next instalments will be revealed with future beers. The fantastic artwork was produced by the Huddersfield based artist and illustrator Martin Simpson:

AA: As usual, the ticker in me is thinking what is coming next from Briggs Signature Ales? 

NB: There will be more beer from Briggs Signature Ales available the early part of the year. I can’t tell you what it will be called because I haven’t decided yet.

AA: Can I expect a dark beer in your range?

NB: I have every intention of producing dark beers, I’m not ruling anything/style out for the future.

AA: Finally, I'll thank you and leave you with that cheesy job interviewer's question: 'Where do you see yourself in five years from now?'

NB: Thank you for the opportunity for the interview, I look forward to reading the finished article on the fantastic blog. In five years time I hope to still be brewing good beer in Huddersfield. I am planning a small bottle range.

Brewery Contact information:
Briggs Signature Ales,


soulupnorth said...

an interesting interview.. tasted the beer too... more please!!

Ale Ambler said...

Thank you for your comment. I'm looking forward to trying some more of Nick's beer too.