by David Morgan
Mobberley Brewhouse is caught between two worlds. Founder and head brewer James Roberts grew up in rural Cheshire where traditional cask ale prevails. But on the 26-year-old’s doorstep is Manchester’s Cloudwater, one of the biggest players in the craft scene who have influenced beer producers all over the globe.
After falling in love with the new wave of American craft beer and being inspired by the way BrewDog shook up the industry, Cloudwater’s bold ideas were the final push James needed to turn his brewery into a hub for progressive beer styles.
Speaking from the brewery situated in the idyllic village of Mobberley, James states:
“For me, I drank cask beer in pubs around here before craft became a big thing. As we started to see more American beer coming here, I remember drinking things like Founders All Day IPA, all the Firestone Walker stuff and Sierra Nevada. It was so different to the things that we were drinking in Cheshire and Manchester and I thought… ‘These guys are onto something. It was then that I started researching how you make those sorts of beers and started playing around with dry hopping and lots of heavy hop usage.”
James went straight into the business from university. Using a kit from Wincle Beer Co, he taught himself how to brew from scratch in tiny premises in 2011. After three years the brewery moved and expanded and James got a new kit for hop-forward beers in March 2017.
“We very quickly worked out there was a limit to it on our old kit. Because they didn’t have conical bottoms we blocked the tanks up with the amount of hops we used. I wanted to make very hop-forward modern beer styles but we had to be patient and wait until we had a purpose built kit. I was spurred on even further when I saw what other British brewers were doing. In the early days it was Brewdog – they had a huge influence on me. If any progressive brewer tells you Brewdog didn’t have an effect on them they’re probably lying. Then you had other guys coming to the fore like Magic Rock, Buxton, Thornbridge and then the new wave like Cloudwater. I said: ‘When we get this kit we are going to make sure we’re making some of the best beer that people can buy’.”
The new approach has led to Mobberley Brewhouse being rated among the top 50 British brewers for can and keg on Untappd. Since then the brewery has launched its first double IPAs, Beast Mode and Pipe Dream – one of the most heavily hopped beers in the UK. And James, who has collaborated with the likes of Salopian Brewery and Shindigger, has come to specialise in New England-style IPAs with Unnamed being his most popular canned beer.
Cask and bottled beer still represents 60 per cent of Mobberley Brewhouse’s sales, but that is all set to change now James has invested in a £100,000 canning line – the same one recently installed at Verdant Brewing Co. This will give the team the capacity to produce up to two million cans a year as well as giving them more control over the quality. James is also introducing a ‘white label’ range for ‘barrel-aged beers and weird and wonderful’ stuff to keep pioneering new styles.
It will sit alongside the rotating core range from tropical pale ales to full bodied stouts and the first white label beer – a 10% ABV imperial IPA to mark the business’s 1000th brew – is expected at the end of April. James reckons that will help the brewery crack into the craft scene’s ‘inner circle’ occupied by the likes of Cloudwater, Northern Monk and Verdant.
“People are realising it wasn’t just ‘that one’ or ‘those two beers’ that were good but that we’re consistently making excellent beer.”
Discover the range of Mobberley beers currently available in the online bottleshop.
David Morgan is the editor of Weekend, an entertainment, leisure and food and drink guide for Guardian Series Newspapers in Warrington and Cheshire. A pale ale fanatic, David lives in Knutsford just down the road from Mobberley Brewhouse and within tempting reach of Cloudwater and Track’s taprooms in Manchester. You can find him on Instagram here.