Local brewers still on tap despite CAMRA snub
Tuesday 17th January 2017 @ 19:34 by Nigel P.
Business Community Denton & Audenshaw Hyde Mossley & Saddleworth News Stalybridge

Pubs once the mainstay of the drinking classes are declining at rate of 27 a week across the country

Against a background of 27 pubs closing a week across the country, it is heartening to reflect that beer brewing is still thriving in Tameside, despite ever changing fads in customer tastes and cut throat competition.

Several Micro breweries  across the borough have been recognised in the past for the high standard of their beers and ales with several of them winning prizes for their unique brands at beer festivals up and down the country.

But sadly this year none of the main five breweries in Tameside have been invited by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to submit their products into the 2017, Winter Ales and Cider Festival for consideration.

That does not phase John Hunt a partner in the Millstone Beer Company which has been trading for over 11 years,who said: “We stick to a relatively small range of beers that we know sell well and the customers like.

How did they come up with this model? “Well we did some market research before we came up with our popular sellers and found that drinkers were looking for something pale and hoppy and within a range of 3 and 5 per cent alcohol content

“We concentrated on that and ensured that the quality was high so that drinkers knew they could rely on a brand to deliver consistently.”

“We sell well into Oldham, Manchester and of course all around Tameside and there is stiff competition from both the big breweries and other small micro breweries, which is why we do not stray to much from the proven success of our popular beers. We are happy to be ticking over shifting around four and half thousand litres a week.”


Down the road in Denton the popular Hornbeam Brewery which occupies the old Moores Hat factory has changed hands and is now under new ownership and has been renamed the Epicurus Brewery Company.

Hornbeam  won several awards over the years and the new owner is more than happy to keep producing the old proven favourites like the award winning ‘Orange Blossom’ which are still selling into pubs and bars from Tameside across to Bolton.

New owner James Thompson took over last September and is currently in the process of laying down the ground work for his own distinctive brand style, he says: “I am looking for something modern that jumps about on the palate and gives the drinker more than one flavour, I like my beers to be multi flavour.”

James Thompson from begging in a cup to his cup runneth over following a change in his fortunes.

James certainly has a vision to grow his business and an absolute determination to succeed after coming into business ownership via a tough and unconventional route.

Incredulously James reveals with commendable honesty that following the loss of his job as a barman, followed by a break up with his girlfriend, he then became homeless and even slept on the streets eking a living by busking.

Then he discovered a talent for betting on the stock market through one of the many online internet trading platforms, by studying graphs and digesting every detail of global news that might affect the markets positively or adversely.

The slump in oil prices and Brexit earned him substantial sums of money which turned his life around and enabled him to purchase the Hornbeam brewery and take it forward as Epicurus.

James said: “I was very lucky but I also worked really hard at the stock market staying awake over 24 hour periods to study all the news and cover all the angles, I got enough money due to to my good fortune and put it into something tangible.

“So now I have had to turn my back on it (Gambling) and work hard at making a success of this.”

“I am not too worried about the pubs closing, all business models change over time and while the traditional working mens pub is suffering, there are new version of pubs opening all the time.

“There are micro pubs sprouting up everywhere and there are certainly more bars than there ever were.

“In a way that’s good because it means that many of these new business are not tied to the big old breweries that owned the pub building and forced the tenant to sell only their own brands, at their prices.

“This way there is more level playing field. for the owner to serve the beers and lagers they want to serve and they think will appeal to their customer.”

I can testify that the turnaround in James’s fortunes will certainly introduce some refreshing gems for imbibers to slake their summer thirsts on.

Waiting in the wings along side the Hornbeam favourites is a fantastically refreshing India Pale Ale “Cavalier” and more for the winter months a dark well bodied stout, appropriately named Hades.

The new model also allows bars and micro pubs to change their brands as they wish, giving customers an increased range of choice of brands, whilst perhaps retaining one or two best selling favourites.

Despite the excellent and pioneering work undertaken by Epicurus, Tweed, Millstone, Greenmills and Tickety Brew to name but five of the flourishing micro breweries across Tameside, none have this year been invited by that Leviathan of brewing excellence CAMRA , to join the 400 beers ales and lagers adorning the multiple bars of the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival taking place this week.

This is despite several breweries and their product being recipients of multiple awards in years past.

An insider at CAMRA tells me that this year there was a move to include many foreign brews especially from Europe in a sideways swipe at Brexit… could be just the beer talking of course…