What a weekend that was! our journey started in Edinburgh at 6am on a scattered friday morning, we were heading down to the infamous “Not So Tiny Rebel Beer Festival” with a stop off to see the new boys in town, Red Star Brewery in Formby Liverpool. We wanted to find out what kind of storm Glen, Ian and Dave are brewing up and what they are going to add to an already saturated market.
THC: Tell us a little about Red Star? What do you do and when did you launch?
RSB: We are a small microbrewery making cask ales and located in Formby which is between Liverpool city centre and Southport, just on the edge of where Liverpool meets the countryside. We launched at the beginning of May 2015.
THC: What is your current capacity?
RSB: Our current capacity is 10 barrel so we can knock out 40 casks per brew.
THC: What were your backgrounds prior to launching Red Star?
RSB: Ian was in I.T. Dave worked offshore and both were semi retired, I worked with a homeless organisation in Liverpool.
THC: What drove you to decide to open a brewery?
RSB: Classic mid-life crisis stuff, I didn’t want a young bird or a sports car (not that I could afford either) so a brewery just made perfect sense. All 3 of us are ale bores who are blessed with a local pub that has 14 different casks on offer and they all change from week to week. Being in that sort of environment it just becomes the norm to discuss the merits of the various ales on any given day. This then led to the obvious next step of “d’ya think we could do this ?”.
Dave set up a 100 litre system in the garage about 18 months ago and we set about having a bash ourselves. The first couple of attempts ended up in the soil out the back so we were forever asking peoples advice on what we were doing wrong. It still amazes me how everybody is so helpful, and we try be exactly the same ourselves. Once we started to get a grip on what we were doing the feedback was great but more importantly we really started to enjoy the beers ourselves. Light bulbs and thought bubbles then started to appear in our heads and inquiries into brewing systems were made. Dave and I then followed things up with a 5 day brewing course.
THC: What were the biggest challenges you faced? / continue to face?
RSB: Finding a premises was our single biggest problem as we wanted one close to where we all live plus the fact that there are no other breweries here. It took us about 9 months but in the end we got lucky and found pretty much what we were looking for.
THC: How have you seen the industry change in the past 5 years?
RSB: I think the industry has changed dramatically for the better and if that wasn’t the case then I wouldn’t be making the move. It’s not just within the industry either, plenty of the under 35’s have made the leap of faith from the world of lager now that ales no longer look or taste like a pint of Stones bitter. They have found a massive choice in terms of taste, colour, strength and price as well as cask or keg. The development of the keg market has been even more interesting than cask and the massive fan base that certain breweries can attract is there for all to see. The easing of tied houses as well as pubco’s being more accessible has also made life that bit easier for the microbreweries
THC: Do you believe the resurgence in brewing in the UK is a craft beer fad? Or is it here to stay?
RSB: I think and hope, that it’s definitely here to stay and it’s great from our point of view that we have so many people that want to drink a local product. There are so many breweries trying really strange combinations which is good fun at the moment but if anything is going to be the victim of a fad then that may be it as simple commercial sense says that you need some basic products that punters can trust and buy on a regular basis. I know myself that if I’m out for a drink, I may try a glass of something off the wall but for the majority of the night I’ll be looking for my old favorites or something new that fits a similar profile. I’ve hit 50 now so my drinking habits are dominated by session ales but like I said that doesn’t mean I don’t try out new and exciting flavour and strength combo’s too. I can’t afford to simply write off the next day because I took a liking to a 7.5% beer.
THC: Take us through a life in the day of a brewer at Red Star?
RSB: Well today started with me losing my wedding ring in the malt when I was making up the grist, so that was a bit of a ball ache to say the least but outside of actually brewing ales there is always something to fill your day. As anybody will tell you, cleaning is paramount and takes up a lot of time. Outside of that, sales over the phone has be done and even when you have a bad day you have to keep trying more places. As we are still a new brewery I haven’t fallen in to an exact pattern yet as its all hands to the pump when brewing, delivering, selling, collecting empty casks, ordering ingredients, designing labels & pump clips and seeing to the never ending line of visitors that are all intrigued that a new brewery has opened in the area. There is also keeping on top of your bills and accounts particularly duty payable to HMRC; easy street it ain’t, but a least when you wake up in the morning you know you’ll be doing something you love and the alchemy of making beer is beautifully addictive.
THC: Do you have any advice for budding home brewers looking to do it professionally?
RSB: Yes do your sums again and again to see if you can make it pay, some places you think will take your products in large quantities may not turn out to be so keen when it comes paying you and that needs to be factored in On the flip side of course there are others that you were worried about selling to that may turn out to be great for repeat orders and love to sell your beer. One thing for sure is that this aint no easy way to make money, you almost have to treat it like a full time hobby and hope that things from strength to strength. You are never going to understand the reality unless you dip your toe in the water but you need to gather as much info as possible prior to that.
THC: What is your current core range of beers? Is there any new beers lined up for release?
RSB: We have 2 session ales a Blonde called Sandinista at 3.9 and a pale called Revolution at 4.0. Locally they are sold as Formby Blonde and Formby IPA as pubs seem to like to push the local thing. Our third is called Partisan which is a dark 5.4 and made up of 6 different malts, it had it’s first outing at the recent Liverpool Craft Beer Expo and we were delighted with the response. Our fourth beer will be getting brewed next week and will be golden and fruity 4.4 -4.8 %
THC: What’s the story behind the name and logo?
RSB: We wanted something easy to remember and easy to logo up as well as something left of centre so it was quite difficult to arrive at something we could all agree on. In the end Red Star won the day after getting it down to 3 or 4 names but it was a decision we are all happy with.
THC: What do you believe makes Red Star stand out against the backdrop of so many new and exciting breweries in the UK?
RSB: It’s really difficult but also a tough question as we a still trying to make our mark, It maybe easier to answer that if you pop down to see us again next year, but initially it comes down to hoping people want to drink local ale as that is where we see our bread and butter.
THC: Do you have any future collaboration in the pipeline/planned?
RSB: Not yet as were still trying to walk before we can run.
THC: What do you hope the next 5 years holds for Red Star?
RSB: We would love to establish ourselves as a player in the North West region, if we can make enough profit to survive then that is the goal, anything more is a bonus.
THC: Top 5 beers at the moment?
RSB: Off the top of my head and In no particular order.
Haxan from Wylam Brewery
Outa space apple beer from Drygate
Toast from Liverpool Craft Beer Co.
White monk from Phonex
Bloody ‘ell from Beavertown
“This is what I’m loving this week but in a couple of weeks time they will of course all change”
Well there you have it folks, We would just like to give out special thanks to Glen, Ian and Dave for taking their time out to let us have a look about and discuss not only beer but also in depth discussions about Liverpool and Everton football club . Make sure to keep an eye out for them and to give them a shout out on Facebook or Twitter when passing by!