Moving On

The jungle drums are beating loudly round Crewe, so let’s talk about the future.

21st May 2003 I moved to Scotland with my partner and took over Failford Inn, later adding Windie Goat Brewery – winner of numerous beer awards and we made the final 4 of CAMRA National Pub Of The Year.  I love brewing and I love running a busy bar, but on selling vowed I wouldn’t be self employed again; too much stress and the toll on my heath with Type 1 diabetes was huge.

A few weeks (!) later having moved to Cheshire I was introduced to John at the Borough Arms in Crewe and it seemed a great idea to brew there – pay rent with some brews for the pub and then start Offbeat (which had been registered a good year or so before).  I have to confess I didn’t get on well with that brewery kit, the lack of Hot Liquor Tank and no constant supply of hot water was so different to how I’d been brewing previously so it made sense with a growing customer base to scale up Offbeat Brewery and put a bigger kit in the unit I was renting down the road for storage space.

Within a couple of months I had my first award for Offbeat Brewery with a silver certificate for Way Out Wheat at Stockport Beer Festival and I’ve gone on to pick up numerous certificates in CAMRA, SIBA and independent beer festivals.

September 2012 was the first ever #FirstyFriday, about 40 people came to see Burts Gone Buskin, all we had was soft drinks and cask beers.  As those of you who’ve been coming for a while know it’s grown and grown.  Getting a permanent premises license gave us the flexibility to do more events and open for parties etc.

At the end of 2015 things came to a head, I was frustrated by cash flow issues with some pubs and distributors who weren’t paying the bills while I had staff to pay and all the bills for this place.  It seemed a good time to change and sold off two of the big fermenters separately and then got offered a swap for a smaller brewery kit.  Such a great idea, scale back, smaller brew lengths, bit less work and open the bar up more.  The lovely husband built me some shelving to accommodate kegs, glasses, merchandise and make a neat bar space with the plan for the brewery to sit on a plinth along the back.  I crunched the numbers over and over again, if I brewed twice a week and the bar was ticking over then that was the bills all paid.  It’s never been about money for me, making good beer was the priority so this place has been constantly reinvested in – the glass doors and the ‘carpet’ in the bar unit made a huge difference.

The biggest calamity has been the plinth that the brewery tanks sit on.  The contractor (who really deserves public naming and shaming but its not my style, although he’s still not been back to have a look at the problems he’s caused) failed to make it water tight leading to all kinds of problems and incredibly expensive repairs which many people supported through the crowdfunding scheme (thank you so much!).   We still have a bit of a water leak in the middle unit and are bypassing the drainage channel to try not to add to the problem but we’re hopeful of it drying out and in the mean time we’ve a very abused aqua vac!

So anyway, after all that, let’s get to the point.  I’ve listed the brewery and taproom for sale as a going concern.  I’m hopeful that someone will love it and want to keep it going while adding their own touch and their brews but if not I’ve someone interested across the country who’s interested in the brewery kit separately.  If you’ve booked us to do a mobile bar or wedding beers every booking will be honoured, please don’t panic!  It’s business as usual and I don’t anticipate being out of here quickly at all (anyone who deals with the Council will understand this!).  Berries, Beans & Beer will happen in 2018.  If Offbeat Brewery doesn’t sell as a going concern then I’m looking at being out of here at the end of September/beginning of October, big leaving party date to be confirmed!

Why you might ask – we had our busiest December on record and things are on the up.  I can’t tell you how tired I am, how many hours I work because I don’t switch off, every evening I’m still working on the computer planning events, dealing with stuff and factor in the exhaustion that comes with the wobbly diabetes and fluctuating blood sugar levels, I often feel like I’m pulling myself through treacle!    I’ve been self employed for a bit of my 20s, all my 30s and the first part of my 40s, it’s time for a change.   There’s no business partner in Offbeat Brewery, no big backer, all just me and now Bex helping out.

Where I go next or what I do is an unknown; getting the time and energy back to be able to go out with husband or friends, take up a photography course, Spanish lessons, travel, see family etc.  You get the idea; when you’re running a very small business that becomes your lifestyle.  My biggest flaw is I can’t walk out the door and switch off from it for the night so its time to hand that responsibility over to someone else.

I love doing marketing and events work but it’ll probably mean stepping away from the brewing industry to find a career in that field as not much on the horizon in the local vicinity where most breweries are pretty small setups like this and commuting in and out to London is not an option!  I’ll be sad to leave the brewing industry behind, 99% of people involved that I’ve met are so amazing and lovely, down to earth people with a passion for great beer.   Cooperation, support and great friendships are the name of the game.

In the mean time it’s business as usual, we’d love to keep seeing you, we’d love to keep supplying pubs with beer and we will be sticking to our packed schedule of events until D Day.  It would be a terrible shame to lose Offbeat Brewery & Taproom so fingers crossed for someone who loves it like I do and wants to keep it going.  And in the mean time I’d like to think we’ve left our little, chick shaped stamp on this corner of Crewe!

If you want the sales details, they’re here.

Best wishes, Michelle x





2 Comments Add yours

  1. Switching off from your business is probably the most difficult thing to do when self employed. Well, that and having no chuffing money and finding it hard to take holidays.

    I don’t blame you for one minute for wanting to move on. I have a long admiration for what you have done and wish you could have seen a way to make it work better for you. However, you heath and sanity are very important.

    Look after yourself, have fun and we at Hardknott wish you all the best for the future.

  2. Graham Banks says:

    Will be sorry to see you go ‘chelle, great beers over the years – part of the Crewe beer trail, won’t be the same. Best wishes in your next venture.
    Synchronized Formation Drinking Team

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