In many respects the past year has been different, in many more exactly the same as the previous one. Given that we’ve been stuck in a pandemic for the best part of two years some would say that simply by surviving we’ve done ok.

I started preparing this retrospective by looking at what I wrote 12 months ago to make sure I didn’t repeat myself and I realised that, with a couple of exceptions, it was very much a case of groundhog year.

So, let’s look at the few significant things that happened in 2021.

Our modified copper with whirlpool

It might only look like a few bits of stainless steel but having our copper converted to take pellets made a significant improvement to our pale beers. We did it because fewer varieties are available in leaf these days (partly to do with shipping volumes; a 5kg pack of leaf hops is about 2.5 times the volume of pellets hops, partly to do with the fact they stay fresher for longer) but the mechanical action of a whirlpool seems to shake a bit more flavour out of the hops at the end of the boil. The DDH Tropical Pale, Barley Wine and the West Coast Pale are all really good examples of this.

The kettle is slightly dwarfed by the mash tun, but that just means we can make stronger beers, right?

During the summer, not long after the kettle modifications took place, we got the opportunity to buy the mash tun and auger from Bexar County Brewery. Sadly, Covid had got the better of the brewery and the kit was looking for a new home.  It’s two and a half times the size of our old mash tun and means that we can make much stronger beers than we used to without resorting to double mashing. It also means that we have the opportunity to parti-gyle two beers from the same mash which meant better efficiency and getting two brews done in one, albeit slightly longer, day. None of this would have been possible with out the help of the indefatigable Primordial Dad (Paul Marshall) and Jon Butler who commissioned the kit for me.

Here’s Steve, all the way from Essex, on his and Kev’s Rising Sun UK Tour celebrating his 2500th Untappd check-in

The third piece of the jigsaw was a human one. Chad (Rob Chadwick) has been helping out in the brewery for a couple of years now, but we were finally able to offer him a full-time job when Nick and Lucy went back to their respective jobs in theatreland. Chad works mostly in the bar but, as the brewery gets busier (more on that later), the plan is for him to work more there. He’s responsible for Chad’s Sour, a beer descriptor rather than a reflection on his demeanour, DDH Tropical Pale and Mango DIPA.

DDH Tropical Pale has been a revelation and has resulted in a version of it being produced as a house beer at The Crewe Dog in the Market Hall, look out for a beer named Crewe’s Control in the New Year. The arrival of The Crewe Dog, Ebenezers and Craft Beer Oasis have been really important cogs in the wheels of the Crewe Beer Crawl, eloquently expressed by Beer Blogger Stephen Jackson in his blog, the Musing Anorak. The more independent beer venues we get in the town, the more Crewe can become a draw to beer lovers outside of the local area, as Jim from Salford Beer Festival found out earlier this year. That becomes a win for the whole town.

Our New Mighty Stout Keg Badge

This year should also be the year we finally see some of our beer reaching outside the North West in volume; the plan was for this to happen in early December but Omicron put paid to that. We try again in January.  As part of that move, we finally have clips for our core range of beers which we think are very pretty.

Great to see three years of hard work from Jacqui finally resulting in this recognition.

Because you are all awesome and you spent lots of your hard earned with us, we could afford to buy a couple of fridges for bottles and cans. We’ve got one for beers and one for ciders, which brings us nicely along to Jacqui’s greatest achievement of the year, being awarded the Cider Pub of the Year for South Chreshire CAMRA. We’re really looking forward to our cider festival which should finally be going ahead in early June this year after two postponements.

The Book Case in Rainbow Corner

We’ll be taking a few days off in between the New Year and the 13th January. We’re going to spruce up the floor in the middle unit and change the pipework in the back bar/cold room so the inside will look a bit different when we reopen. The outside looks different too, these days, as our trusty Marqueebo succumbed to Storm Arwen.

Storm Arwen did her worst but we’ll have something to replace the Marqueebo by Easter.

We’re hoping to be able to afford something more robust and, subject to funds, something should be in place by Easter.

Finally, it’s time to thank our team, Chad, Jess, Euan, Kitty, Lucy, Nick, Maxi, George and, lastly, Jen working her magic on our social media channels, and you who chose to support us this year. Whether you came in for a pint, bought a ticket to cheese night, a home delivery or a subscription box, you helped us keep going and we thank you for it.