Ridgeside Brewery have been based in Leeds and brewing beer since January 2010. They originally built their reputation on producing cask ales that appealed to the local populous. Now, Ridgeside are known in Leeds and far beyond for their often innovative keg and canned beers, alongside their excellent cask offerings.
We caught up with Josh Waldock, brewery manager, for a chat about all things Ridgeside!
When you joined the team in 2016 did you always envisage this increased move towards more diverse styles?
At the point that I joined Ridgeside, they had just started dipping their toes into more interesting styles of beer, as well as putting out some initial can and keg packaged beer. These advances showed me that Ridgeside were willing to adapt and grow in the craft beer scene. The owners’ open minds to new ideas have given me the freedom to push Ridgeside even further in the last year and a half – and hopefully beyond!
What gives you the inspiration for a new brew?
I actually have a ‘beer ideas’ whiteboard in my office! I find that writing down any new idea allows me to absorb it further. Sometimes I will walk into my office the next day and wipe yesterday’s idea off the board straight away. Other times, it will seem like an even better idea over time.
Inspiration can come from within; from trying other beers that spark an idea; or even from new food combinations.
We recently tried Through the Looking Glass, the first Brut IPA to be released in the UK, could you tell us more about how that came to be?
The story actually began late last year when my wife and I went on our honeymoon to California for three weeks: this is where I first tried a Brut IPA. I had previously stated that I believed there would be a shift towards more refined, balanced beers over the coming months – and so was very interested to replicate this style in the UK as soon as we were confident that we could achieve it.
Through the Looking Glass was made to be as dry, effervescent, and crisp as possible, whilst still retaining its modern hop aromas and flavours. We use amylase enzymes to ferment out as much of the sugar from the beer as possible, dropping the gravity down as low as we can get it.
The final product is a beer with an almost champagne-like carbonation and dryness; almost the other end of the spectrum in comparison to the sweet, sometimes cloying New England IPAs that are currently extremely popular.
We’ve really enjoyed your artwork of late – I believe you’ve been working with Samuel Farrer recently?
I’ve known Sam since before I worked for Ridgeside. He works at Brewdog Leeds, but his artistic side project ‘Farrer Art’ always impressed me. When we were asked to brew Fubarb and then Muffin Compares 2 U for Brewdog Leeds, it gave him the opportunity to design the keg badge and can respectively.
We were so impressed with his designs, that when we started producing regular 440ml cans, we asked him to do all of them from then on!
In terms of scale, what is the current brewing capacity at Ridgeside?
Ridgeside is currently an 8bbl brewery (1312 litres), with four FVs (although we have just purchased a fifth and are currently awaiting its arrival).
The brew kit has always been 8bbl, but since my arrival we have increased our weekly output considerably, as well as upgrading some parts of the kit, and purchasing a canning line so that we can do all of our packaging ourselves, in house. This way, we have as much control on the final product as possible.
Do you have a settled core range at present?
We have two core range cask beers: Cascadia (4.1% pale) and Black Night (5.0% oatmeal stout). We also have Plato, which is an ever-changing single hop pale at 3.8% on cask.
Baja (5.5% west coast pale) has just become our first core range keg beer, and we are hoping to make it our first core range can beer before long. As we have quite a few FVs and a small brewkit, we are able to be quite flexible with the variety of beer we put out.
You’ve just released a new cask only beer, Crack the Skye, a 6% Rye IPA. Do you feel it’s important to keep up the tradition of cask ales?
We feel that it is important to continue to make cask beer, partly because of our history. Ridgeside began as a cask-only brewery, and we still have a lot of customers who predominantly sell cask beer. Since my arrival at Ridgeside, we have ceased trade with Wetherspoons, SIBA, and some other companies where we could not guarantee that our cask was being looked after to an acceptable standard.
Another reason for our desire to make cask beer is that, as individuals, we enjoy cask beer, too! On a personal level, I regularly find beers that I prefer on cask; and I think that some styles – especially dark beers – are better suited to that method of dispense.
We spotted on your social media that you were in Barcelona recently – what’s the craft beer scene like there?
It was my first time in Barcelona, and it is a wonderful city. The craft beer scene exceeded my expectations: there weren’t many breweries, but the standard of production and the quality of the beer were very impressive.
Off the top of my head, I would recommend Mikkeller Barcelona, Garage Beer Co, Cocovail Beer Hall, Napar BCN, and Biercab, but there are many more excellent places on top of those few examples. I made contact with some wholesalers whilst out there, so you never know, but we might begin selling internationally sooner rather than later!
We're turning three and these lucky sods are at @RidgesideBrewer brewing our Birthday Beer AS WE SPEAK.
Come and try it out on July 31st from 6pm.
Oh, and there will be cake…#brewday #collaboration #birthdaypresent #ThereWillBeCake pic.twitter.com/9EXLtqPMna
— BrewDog North Street (@BrewDogLeedsNS) July 18, 2018
You’ve got lots of events coming up in the UK soon. Can you tell us more about the new Brewdog North Street birthday beer and also what prompted the rebrew of last year’s excellent Fubarb?
Thank you for your kind words! We were very happy when Fubarb came second out of thirty four during Brewdog’s #collabfest2017 event last year. We’ve had many requests to rebrew it, and so now – finally – we have! It made sense to re-launch it just before this year’s #collabfest2018, so that people can be reminded of one of the more successful beers from last year’s event.
We try and say yes to as many events as possible, but it isn’t always easy with our small amount of staff. We are good friends with both Brewdog bars in Leeds, and so when Brewdog North Street asked us to make their 3rd birthday beer – we of course said yes.
Threenager is a twist on a classic hefeweizen. It was brewed with our largest wheat percentage to date and some typical German wheat beer yeast. We then added large quantities of apricot juice and vanilla pods into the beer. It will be available in keg and in 440ml can.
If you’re near Leeds, Ridgeside will be involved in numerous events during Leeds Beer Week (17th-26th August 2018) – check out the website for details!