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Taking Ossett Brewery To The Next Level: 2018 The Year Of Expansion

There is a famous John Lennon quote that goes “life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans”. It is perhaps a line that we could attribute to the growth of Ossett Brewery over the last few years. The organisation has expanded and diversified beyond recognition, but our humble headquarters in the market town of Ossett have remained more or less the same. While the capacity of the brewery has increased as demand for our core beers has grown, particularly in the last five years of the Real Ale Revolution, there comes a time when you have to look around and make a key decision on the future.

Ossett Brewery is currently in the middle of a major expansion programme that will take up to 18 months to complete. This is not the result of a sudden realisation that the brewery had outgrown itself, but is a considered, structured plan that has been waiting for the right time. In truth, there never is one, in an organisation and an industry like this one, and facing the production demands that we do, it was a case of biting the bullet and saying ‘let’s do it now’.

So what are we doing? The word ‘expansion’ is a broad term that covers various areas of the business. We are modernising the existing brewery and increasing its capacity, improving the warehousing capability and logistics, creating new office facilities for our team and introducing new and improved customer facilities.

These are all designed to take the organisation to the next level, and in terms of the brewery itself, it is the first major structural expansion since Bob Lawson took his brewing kit out of the backroom of the Brewer’s Pride round the corner nearly twenty years ago. Given how the demand, product range and quality has developed over that time, it has been quite a feat to keep production located at the Kings Yard brewery site all these years, but the key to that is what explains the main ethos behind Ossett Brewery; being part of the community and staying close to your roots. And this was also a major driver in making sure the expansion plans were designed in a certain way; we had to stay where we are, in the heart of our community.

Progress so far has gone to plan, but has not been without its challenges. Quite apart from ceiling work, flooring work and walls being removed from the existing brewery, new equipment has been delivered and stored on site, while production carries on around it. Structural work on the building itself started in July 2017 and so far the main work on the Brewhouse and warehousing has been completed. This has involved four new 40BBL fermentation vessels (FVs) being installed and the eight existing FVs being repositioned in a new area.

Building work on the new warehouse facility was started in August and was completed in November ready for the warehouse to play a part in keeping people dry for our Family Fun Day. The new building sits on the site of our old car park and is an 8500 sqft space that offers us increased storage capability but also is a temperature controlled cold store facility.

The major structural improvements to the production facility have now been completed, with the FVs now in use, increasing weekly brewing capacity to 360 brewer’s barrels, 59,000 litres and 104,000 pints. However, work is still being undertaken to improve the production process and streamline the logistics within it. This involves installing new malt silos at the beginning of the process, a new boiler to cope with the demands of increased capacity and more hot water and also the transfer of the cask washing and filling facilities to the new building. It is anticipated that this will all be complete by the end of April.

So whilst walls and ceilings have been demolished, new walls built, vessels moved around and floors dug up and re-laid, head brewer Paul Spencer and his team have had to continue ‘as normal’ while working at maximum capacity. In addition to the simple health and safety requirements this involves and the clinical standards of cleanliness that need to be maintained, the team have also had the challenge of maintaining our robust quality standards and ensuring every procedural step has still been followed in the process. Fortunately, the design of our process and the skills and experience of our team have ensured that everything has run smoothly and none of our customers have missed a barrel or a crate of what they love and it all tastes as good as ever.

Of course the core range of beers that we provide has remained unchanged for a number of years, with Silver King, Excelsior, Big Red and Yorkshire Blonde continuing to flow through our system and straight out into pubs and retailers right across the region. Our seasonal beers and special brews still keep us busy and our increased capacity will certainly spark some fresh ideas to make you lip your lips. The final phase of our expansion is to increase our bottling facility and also to think of other forms of packaging, so the ideas are still flowing and the Ossett Brewery evolution will never truly stop.

The remainder of 2018 will also see the new office complex and customer facilities being constructed, all adding value to the organisation but also making sure our customers get the best service possible. We will be constructing a new bar at the site, which, although it will not be open to the public – after all we have just acquired the famous Brewer’s Pride pub a few yards around the corner for this purpose - will be used to stage brewery tours, tastings, presentations and private functions. There will also be a small retail shop included in this complex.

Bearing in mind the modest beginnings in 1997 and the manner in which the current site has managed to absorb our astonishing growth in business, it goes without saying that everyone at Ossett Brewery is incredibly excited about this next stage in the organisation’s development. In many ways, this expansion is not just a reflection of where the business is now. While that is exciting in its own right, it is also an indication to our loyal customer base that we will be around for a long time yet, and that this is a platform to move onto greater achievements in the years to come. And all from the bottom of a long, steep hill in Ossett, where everybody thinks they’ve taken a wrong turning. There is certainly no loss of direction here.    

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