When you think of craft breweries, you might picture a railway arch or an industrial estate, which makes the idea of the flavour of its region seem a bit unappealing. In Duration’s case, it’s very different, with their rural, idyllic location playing a huge role in the delicious beers that they create
Duration is a modern farmhouse brewery nestled in West Norfolk, founded by the dynamic duo of Bates and Miranda. Their impressive brewhouse conversion is spectacular, blending the history and heritage of the surrounding agricultural landscape, with state-of-the-art equipment for high-quality modern beers. With decades of brewing experience in both the US and the UK, Bates is a notable figure in the craft scene and Duration sees enthusiasm for naturally-inspired experimentation and boundary-pushing beer, combined with Miranda’s focus on experience and identity. Their interwoven specialisms have helped create a brewery that, despite only releasing their first beers in 2019, already feels like an established and integral part of UK beer culture.
As HonestBrew’s brewery of the month for May, we caught up with Miranda to discuss the origins of the brewery, their approach and the delicious beers that we currently have in stock.
Can you tell us about what first inspired you and Bates to start Duration?
“We set up Duration to take beer somewhere new. Our byline is ‘Beers That Belong’, so we produce beers with a farmhouse connection to reflect their origins in time and place — our home in Norfolk where much of the world’s best barley grows. We want to expand the craft beer bubble, taking modern beer outside its city confines to invite all drinkers to appreciate beer’s important connection to agriculture. That, and we wanted a lifelong project to put our heart and soul into!”
How did you make that inspiration into reality?
“We found a historic site that was screaming out for renovation. Bates has been brewing commercially all his career — 20 years — so we designed our brewhouse with a Bavarian manufacturer to deliver a breadth of styles like Pilsners and hoppy Pale Ales, as well as for consistent wort production. We then worked with 6ix Fabdec and Foeder Crafters to design our barrel store for wild ales.”
“It was great to learn from skilled coopers, brewhouse engineers and Bates who draws a lot on the whole table offering. My background was in architecture and production so I focused on the pragmatic aspects of time and budget while Bates took the more aspirational approach. For the ‘where’ we decided on proximity to London, but still in the sticks. Between us, we covered the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. The ‘when’ finally kicked into place and we opened for business in December 2019 with no idea what the year ahead would hold!”
Before building the brewery, you took a road trip visiting a number of US breweries. Which ones were on your itinerary and how did the trip influence Duration as a brewery?
“Bates hung out with Fonta Flora, the guys from Scratch and others that were doing some cool experimental brews. I think it really compounded his desire to deviate beer through creativity. For me, the eye-opener was how the taprooms were run and the experience as a consumer, plus tasting some of those Saisons and New England IPAs in places like Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist, dining at Edmund’s Oast; and visiting the Funkatorium. It showed me how craft beer could stretch beyond the Bermondsey Beer Mile and to think outside of railway arches and industrial estates for our dream for Duration.”
Hazy IPA or New England IPA is probably the most popular craft beer style these days but we see you brew very few of these. Is this a conscious effort or coincidence, and how do you decide what styles to brew?
“It’s very conscious. Bates cut his teeth on more OG IPAs and Pilsners. To us, they present more longevity and are far more pint-able thanks to their crisp finish. It does grate slightly that the whole craft movement was meant to save us from a monopolised homogeneity in beer and when you focus on too much of a good thing (as with hazy IPAs), you run the risk of forgetting that. So, as well as Lagers and West Coast Pale Ales you’ll also see Duration release seasonal Saisons and Wheat Beers. Hops are great but malt-driven or yeast-driven beers are wonderful too.”
With your rural Norfolk location a key part of the brewery’s identity, how has the response been locally since you’ve started operating?
“We’ve been gentle locally, where there is a passion for real ale. We like to let people discover us rather than shout about ourselves. This has meant self-selection to a handful of local publicans that dig what we are doing.
Lockdown was tough — our distribution and roadmap went out the window, but in that time we built a small, loyal following on our doorstep and we got each other through it. Small, weekly purchases of take-home beers led to friendships made on our doorstep!”
Do you see a difference in the customers you attract in terms of their tastes to what you might see in a city, and has the pandemic helped you build bridges with a new audience?
“One thing I see is a lot of new craft customers drinking without the influence of the scene skewing them towards hazy beers. It’s great to see all our beers get good airtime. Norfolk people are proud of where they are from — Norfolk-n-Good — as they say! So, we hope that translates into Duration being championed by a loyal local following. Lockdown and the focus on locality helped hugely. Some people seem miffed that we upped sticks and moved to Norfolk because it’s out on a limb — but we love all it has to offer, and once folk realise we’ve come to embrace rural life they dig our ethos.”
We’re very excited about the latest arrivals to HonestBrew. Could you tell us about the beers, and who you think might enjoy them?
“Dropped Limb is a true experimental collaboration. When we were invited over to Verdant’s brewery in Cornwall before, we brewed a DIPA using grape must, as Bates had tried Trillium’s take on it previously. This time around we were influenced by Scratch who forage and include bark in the boil. It’s a Rustic Saison that included logs cut from fallen tree limbs in the coolship that give it an aged oak depth. It’s tart and dry, leading to a ripe umami flavour and citrus pithiness, with a slight barnyard funk. I think if you enjoy Pét-Nat wine or cider you’ll dig this one.”
“Anyone that knows Sam (Head Brewer at BOXCAR) knows that he loves thinking about beer and life from his out-there stance, and he and Bates really click. They loop around the table and come at a beer concept differently. It’s a ‘what if you made a beer to reflect the colour blue’ sort of thing. Ways of Being is an exploration in a New England style. As well as a richer malt bill, we focused on the hop and yeast interplay with a soft water profile. All of this really accentuates yeast esters, which give the beer its fruity peach flavour. Dry hopping with Citra Cryo in active fermentation adds a bit of mango and it’s backed up Motueka and El Dorado to bring more citrus and tropical notes.”
“Gracefully Face Down is (in my opinion) a Pliny The Elder Clone. Full-on assertive bitterness but total tropicality on the nose. When Duration brewed one of our first few collabs with North we did a West Coast DIPA. Back then, they were a lot harder to find over here. When North visited again, we wanted to do another and really not hold back. It’s our first DIPA too. The beer name is a reference to Norwegian Death Diving. An artistic sport where high divers turn acrobatic tricks in the air before piling feet and hands first into the water. This DIPA kind of does the same, moving from the zesty fruity nose, onto the rich mouthfeel and through to a crisp and lingering bitter finish with just a hint of alcohol warmth. I reckon if you enjoy New England DIPA, it’s time to try one of these.”
If you’d like to explore Duration’s beers, to celebrate them being HonestBrew’s brewery of the month, we’ve put together a special mixed case including two new releases and two staple offerings, with a free pack of merch included for a limited time. Make sure not to miss out!