The last brew of the year is safely in tank and it’s time to reflect on this past year. 2016 has been bigger, better and more crazy than any of us at Harbour could have imagined!

It all started in January when we ripped out our old 10bbl brewhouse, we loved that kit and have the old dear to thank for so much. I’m pleased to say it has gone to a great home with a great future, Theo at Deya Brewing in Cheltenham has her up and running and is turning out some great beers. Anyway, throughout January and for most of February we were installing and commissioning our new 30bbl, 4 vessel ABE brewhouse. The upscaling also meant we needed to upgrade the incoming electricity, gas, and water, plus install a new chiller and steam boiler. Oh, and get new drains and floors laid. So, basically, we built a brewery in four and a half weeks. It was a lot more difficult than setting up the brewery in the first place as this time we had customers and staff to keep happy and any major delays would have put the business at serious risk. So, January and February were something of a stressful blur but we got through that and set about getting to grips with our new toy.

As the start of 2016 was supposed to be fairly easy going we had also arranged to be audited, not only as a brewer but also as a packager for Marks and Spencer’s. And let me assure you those guys have some pretty high standards when it come to auditing! So after mountains of work reviewing what we do and getting things in place, every process and procedure throughout our entire business was poked and prodded. And I must say our team did an amazing job, and four years after we brewed our first beer we passed an audit many long established breweries would struggle to pass. That experience has meant we had to ‘grow up’ a little bit, and become a brewer that can assure the quality and constancy of our beers through ensuring our processes are top notch. We have invested a substantial amount of money in our lab this year and now monitor things I didn’t know even exisited when we started.

With the installation of the new brewhouse we thought the increased capacity would give us a couple of years of growth, and give us loads of capacity to brew seasonal and one off beers but by July we were pretty much at capacity brewing nothing but our core range and had no tank space at all for anything else. Some people would see that a great position to be in, but part of why we brew beer is to experiment and innovate and because of sales increasing quicker than anticipated we simply haven’t been able to throughout much of 2016.

Cans are part of why we got our projections so wrong. In 2015 we sold around 15k cans per month, a lot less than we sold in bottle. We knew sales would increase in 2016 but we didn’t expect things to change so much so quickly. Throughout 2016 our bottle sales have increased as we expected but cans have gone crazy, we now regularly produce over 100k cans per month and our little Lincat ABE canning machine is doing a sterling job keeping up with things.

So, we had to make a decision in August; expand again? or scale back on the volume to give ourselves some space in the schedule to brew more varieties? So a quick trip to the bank, and the expansion plans started!

First thing was to recruit someone to drive the quality forward, as there was no point in making more beer if we couldn’t make amazing beer. So we recruited Stuart Howe. He is doing an awesome job so far and he is undoubtedly one of the most technical, knowledgable, and talented brewers in the UK and I’m excited to see what he has in store in 2017.  We are in the process of making more space for equipment and to facilitate that we have acquired an 8000 sq ft storage unit where we will move all our finished stock for distribution. In the space we create, we will add more tanks, a separator, hopgun, inline carbonation, lots more lab equipment and a new canning line. The investment in staff and equipment will allow us to not only make more beer, but also more varieties of beer, and that beer will be better and more constant than ever.

In an attempt to reduce our carbon footprint and also save money we’ll be installing an aerobic water treatment plant. All our water comes from a spring next to the brewery, but all our waste water is transported away in a waste tanker as we don’t have mains drains. We will aim to treat our waste water to the point that we can discharge it back to the stream in front of our brewery. That will be better for our pockets but also for the environment too.

Finally, we are having a bit of a branding evolution. It won’t be miles away from what we have now but after nearly 5 years its time for a bit of a tidy up. And as for the beers, we are ditching most of our current core range and launching some new beers throughout the first half of 2017. The first of which, our new Helles, is already in tank and will be ready and launched at some point in February. We also have our EXP Editions, but that can wait until the new year…

So, we are just left just to say, thank you for making 2016 an amazing and epic year!