Brewing beer using crops from your home farm sounds like a pleasant hobby – but Matthew Hodgson has turned his passion for beer into a fully fledged business.
Great Newsome Brewery in East Yorkshire uses the farm’s very own malting barley to produce a wide range of bottled and cask ales, employing seven people to keep up with demand.
In 10 years it has grown from a small farm diversification enterprise set up with the help of Rural Development Programme funding to a nationwide business selling into five supermarket chains and overseas as far away as the Falkland Islands.
Farmers Weekly caught up with Matthew to find out his advice for setting up a business, and what being a brewer is really like.
Name: Matthew Hodgson
Job title: Brewery director
Company: Great Newsome Brewery
Sum up your job: I oversee the general running of the brewery.
What does this involve day to day? It involves a bit of everything, from staff management, to sales and business development – and of course regular tasting of the product.
What do you enjoy the most? When people tell you they have enjoyed your beer. A customer recently had a barrel to help celebrate his birthday and made a point of contacting us to say thanks. You also get to meet a lot of interesting people.
What’s the downside? There’s a lot of paperwork when you’re dealing with supermarkets, government, and the like, but if you want to step up, that’s the nature of the beast. Some days in summer I would rather be out in the field on a tractor.
What percentage of your job is office-based? About 80%. The rest of the time I’m brewing or on the road meeting customers.
What essential skills and qualifications are needed? To avoid costly mistakes you should take a brewing course, which you can gain a qualification in.
You have to have a taste for good beer, as regular tasting of the product is required at all stages of the process – including after it has been brewed and is being tested for its ability to age well.
Beyond that – single-mindedness and determination.
What experience did you have before you started? My parents had always had a keen interest in beer and would make sure to taste all the different varieties around the country when we were on holiday. They also brewed in a small way at home.
What advice would you give to someone wanting a similar role?
- Do your homework and be prepared to learn from your mistakes.
- Don’t let people tell you can’t do something, but don’t let your passion override your business acumen – make sure you have a market.
- Don’t think your unique selling point will be amazing – everything has been done.
- With my farming background, I found marketing to be the hardest part – so get someone to help you out, but be prepared to sell the product yourself.
- Find good people to work for you. Treating people with respect is the key to leadership.
Give us an idea of salaries or earnings: We will never be wealthy, but we can’t complain.