Something in the Water: Introducing Cloudwater Brew Co

One of the founding members of Manchester's Cloudwater Brew Co, Paul Jones talks seasonality, fermentation and one impressive brewing kit

Feature by Jamie Faulkner | 05 Mar 2015

Whether it's plotting to do things with Burgundy barrels and Ardberg casks or posting Vines of their beer-making process, Cloudwater Brew Co are already adding a sense of novelty to the disparate Manchester brewing scene. And no one's even tried their beer yet.

The Piccadilly-based brewery brings together some formidable vision and industry know-how: there's enigmatic entrepreneur Paul Jones; James Campbell, former head brewer at Marble; Will France, who's crafted beer for Summer Wine Brewery; and Al Wall, who's done his time in Mancunian institutions from Sandbar to Port Street. Newest recruit, Emma Cole – most recently BrewDog area manager – will be heading up their much-anticipated brewery tap, The Barrel Store. Yep, those are some mighty fine credentials.

The Skinny: There are quite a few breweries, new and old, jostling for space in Manchester. Where does Cloudwater fit in?

Paul Jones: The brewing scene in Manchester might never have been as vibrant as it is now, so it's very exciting to join in alongside traditional and modern-leaning breweries. When we were conceptualising Cloudwater we did talk at some length about what other people’s concerns are, and what their aims might be, but other people are not us. So instead of figuring out how to stand out, we spend our time working out how to more fully be ourselves. We focus on what motivates, inspires, and delights us the most.

There's a quotation on the brewery blog from Shunryu Suzukio: 'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.' Do you feel less constrained, being a new brewery? 

Most definitely. Though we place a weight of expectation upon ourselves, and have between us an incredible amount of experience in the industry, our newness gives us the chance to try some progressive ideas that might not be so easy to integrate into an older business. Most of our work is based on how to do things very well, and then even better, but also how to keep things open, so we're free to experiment.

The team has some of Manchester's best brewing alumni on board. The combined experience must be helpful? Have you guys found working together easy? 

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a team effort. Each person’s strengths and experiences have got us to where we are today: well set up and brewing. No project like this is without its stresses, but the combination of personalities works well together. We all have our weaknesses, but those weaknesses are a great opportunity for the rest of us to play to our strengths!

Seasonality is at the heart of the brewery: where will you be sourcing ingredients from? And do you think this will have its constraints?

Our malt is British, and the hops we have right now are from Germany, the UK, the USA, New Zealand, and Australia. The yeasts we will use are from all over the world, selected because of the style characteristics they offer us. Working seasonally will definitely have its constraints as we try to get the most out of what we have available to us throughout the year, but producing a static core range would be restrictive too. 

Which ingredients or season are you most looking forward to? 

Our spring range has a number of beers that we’re really excited about, but I think we’re all most looking forward to feeling thoroughly settled in and up to speed. We’ve got some great ideas for our summer and autumn ranges, but the most exciting feature of our brewery is that things are as open as they can be – each season can be as exciting as we, the wholesalers, retailers, and beer lovers that support us, like.

Your brewery tap, The Barrel Store, is going to be "devoted to the breadth of fermentation" – will we be seeing Cloudwater kimchi or Cloudwater sourdough any time soon? 

We’re just about to reach out to food producers and a few specialist retailers, who we’ll work with to provide some delicious food offerings at The Barrel Store. Long term, we’ll go with whichever option delivers the best quality, and most interesting food, whether that’s having someone in-house or developing partnerships with other businesses.

There's a lot of impressive-looking equipment on your Twitter feed. What's the most specialist/most expensive piece of kit you've invested in for brewing? 

The most specialist piece of kit is our Premier Stainless Systems brewhouse – a 20 US BBL (or 2400 litres), three-vessel brewhouse with manifold, touchscreen, and steam jackets. Everything else, from the steam boiler to the pipework, to the cellar tanks and bottling line is somewhat modular or ordered piece by piece.

So who would you most like to collaborate with? A brewer? Maybe a coffee roaster, chef, or artist?

I’d love us to maintain a very broad mind with regard to collaborations, and seek to work with anyone who makes delicious, beautiful things. Personally, I’d love to work with Junya Yamasaki (a chef from Koya in London), or Simon Rogan (another chef of L’Enclume and Fera fame) to brew beers to complement their cuisines. 

And lastly, which beers will be seeing first? 

So far we have a Pale, a Session IPA, something special for our barrel store, and a spring twist on a wheat beer in tank, fermenting and conditioning away.

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Keep up with Cloudwater's progress at @cloudwaterbrew and @cwbarrelstore