He’s lived off more tins of tuna than he cares to remember and at one point he worried he was about to become homeless but Brian Dickson’s brewing dream looks like it is finally about to pay off.
The 27-year-old from Almondbury says it was being immersed in Huddersfield’s well-established real ale scene that got him hooked on all things beer in the first place and says there is no looking back now.
His idea for his new brewery, Northern Monk, came about in 2008 when the UK beer scene was not as mature as it is now.
It would be another five long years before the brewery was set up in June 2013 on a so-called ‘cuckoo’ brewing model – brewing on spare capacity at Hambletons Brewery near Ripon.
This allowed them to launch beers on to the market without the inconvenience of buying their own fully-fledged brewery first – a costly undertaking.
And they also brewed a number of collaborative beers with friends in the industry including Saltaire, Weird Beard, (London) and Atom, (Hull).
Although cuckoo brewing has its benefits in allowing them to build their brand and reputation within the craft beer market, what Brian ultimately craved was complete control over every stage of the process.
So a more permanent home was required. Brian, who joined the company on a part-time basis in September last year when the previous brewer dropped out, and who went full-time in March, began plotting the course, along with managing director Russell Bissett to getting their own brewery up and running.
A local businessman provided investment so they could buy their own brew kit, the cost of installing it and preparing a home for it all.
Eventually they settled on a Grade II listed old flax store at Marshall Mills, Leeds, and just 10 minutes walk from Leeds Railway Station.
It was stripped back to its original Yorkshire stone flags, red brick walls, iron columns and arched ceilings. The building is packed with character and has the space to allow them to open a brewery tap room, The Refectory, which it is intended to have up and running by mid-October.
On August 28 the brewery was relaunched in North Bar, central Leeds with four beers: True North, a 3.7% session pale ale, Monacus NZ, a 4.5% pale ale, Chennai, a 5.4% India Export Porter and New World, the brewery’s flagship 6.2% India pale ale.
Brian said: “The turnout was incredible and humbling and the beers went down well – we had to go back to the brewery for more stock. Once the Refrectory tap room is open we’ll be offering brewery tours and open brew days where people can come down, muck in and learn all about brewing.”
And he is looking forward to a Meet the Brewer session pencilled in for some time next month at his old haunt The Grove, Springwood, Huddersfield, where he spent more than six happy years. He said: “We’ve got permanent lines going in at numerous bars in Leeds” and their beers have been sampled as far afield as Manchester, York and Shropshire.
Best of all, Brian, says he no longer has to feast on just tuna sandwiches.