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The Coniston Brewing Co. Ltd
The Forge
LA21 8HL
Phone    01539 441133
Fax    01539 441177
www.conistonbrewery.com Link to Twitter page
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Started in 1995 as a 10 barrel plant behind the Black Bull in the centre of Coniston


January 2012

NEWS FLASH: Coniston No 9 Barley Wine has just won the Gold in the Barley Wines category of Champion Beer of Britain 2012


The Story:

Since Coniston's wonderful Bluebird Bitter won Champion Beer of Britain in 1998, the brewery has been pushed to keep up with demand and has gone from strength to strength, now brewing 30 barrels a week. (See history article) This 10 barrel plant, (Brewer Ian Bradley)opened in 1995, is at the back of the Black Bull pub, Coniston
Oliver's Light Ale was joint 2nd.(Silver Medal) with Barngates at the Micro Challenge at Burgundy's Wine Bar in Kendal just being pipped to first place by Yates I.P.A., so a good result for all three brewers. Booth's Supermarkets already sell bottled Bluebird and it is their best selling bottled beer; they are shortly to be stocking Coniston Old Man Ale as well.
Coniston supply Green's Bakery in Barrow with their beers now, to make his wonderful ‘steak in ale’ pies
Regular beers are Bluebird, Opium, Bluebird XB, Old Man Ale
Newest and selling well is Coniston Special Oatmeal Stout. 4.5%

Starting in 1995 as a 10 barrel plant behind his parents’ pub, the Black Bull in the centre of Coniston, Ian Bradley’s brewery won national fame only 3 years later with the award of CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain for Bluebird Bitter. The brewery was the brainchild of Ian’s father Ron, who with wife Susan has been running the Black Bull for over 25 years. Brewing was a new venture for Ian, who trained as a mechanic and worked in the pub. He followed the route taken by many new brewers and went on the Brewlab course at Sunderland University to learn the process.

Built on the site of an old pigsty and using plant fabricated at Marston Moor brewery in Yorkshire, the brewery uses water from the nearby fells. Since winning CBOB at CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival in 1998, business has boomed, and helped by business partner Rob Irwin, Ian is now producing 30 barrels a week.

The brewery is best known for Coniston Bluebird (3.6%), a pale hoppy fruity session beer made with Maris Otter malt and Challenger hops, which accounts for about 90% of the beer brewed. The bottled version is a lot stronger at 4.2%. This is partly to improve shelf life and to suit the American market, which prefers a stronger beer. Old Man Ale (4.4%), named after the mountain which dominates the village, is by contrast a full bodied malty ale with a winelike flavour. Opium (4.0%) is a blend of the two. Blacksmith’s Ale (5.0%) a strong winter ale is only available in December and January. The newest addition to the range is Bluebird XB (4.2%), a stronger but paler version of Bluebird, which also uses American Mount Hood hops and torrified wheat.

In the years immediately following the CBOB success Ian and Rob struggled to keep up with demand, and some production of Bluebird Bitter, and its bottling, was contracted out to Brakspear’s of Henley on Thames. With the sad closure of Brakspear’s last year, bottled Bluebird is now brewed by Hepworth’s of Horsham, under the supervision of Peter Scholey, Brakspear’s head brewer who has now set up Ridgeway Brewing and its offshoot Beer Counter. Now that demand has settled down a little all cask ales are again brewed in Coniston.

The brewery now employs five staff and supplies a number of regular outlets in addition to the Black Bull. The Manor Arms in Broughton in Furness (Furness CAMRA’s Pub of the Year) takes most of the range; as does the Queen’s Hotel in Troutbeck. The Watermill at Ings, the King’s Head in Hawkshead, and the Kirkstile in Loweswater all take Bluebird Bitter. Bottled beers – currently Bluebird and Old Man, but bottling of XB is just starting – are available in many off licences and supermarkets.

Roger Protz visited Coniston on his tour of Cumbrian microbreweries and was interested in the way the Bradleys are encouraging customers of the Black Bull to try beers with food: Old Man goes particularly well with black pudding or chocolate, while Bluebird is recommended with curry dishes and fish. Coniston supply Green's Bakery in Barrow with their beers now, to make his wonderful 'steak in ale' pies.
(Info What Ales 2008, Ros Berry)


Last Updated on Monday, 23 January 2012 15:51