Joseph Holt
Posted: 18th July 2017

Joseph Holt brews up stout and craft ale plans

Brewery Casks

Joseph Holt chief executive Richard Kershaw has told Insider that developing new beers every year is key to the business and revealed that the historic brewery is considering adding a stout and a premium craft ale to its range.

At any given time, the company typically produces about 20 different types of beer including its three top sellers Joseph Holt Bitter, Crystal Extra Cold Lager and Two Hoots. Its biggest brew capacity is 500 barrels, which works out at approximately 144,000 pints, while its smallest is just 20 barrels, or 5,760 pints.

Every week, the brewery produces approximately 250,000 to 300,000 pints of beer in total.

Joseph Holt also operates about 130 pubs across the North West. In recent years, several established breweries have scaled down production or stopping making beer entirely to focus on running their profitable pub estates, but Joseph Holt remains fully committed to brewing and is continuing to develop new products.

Kershaw said: "To my mind, our reason to be is we're primarily a brewer producing very special quality beer and we want that to be our unique selling point in our pubs. If we weren't brewing, then we'd lose all that focus. So in terms of the broader perspective, brewing is critical to us."

"We're very focused on brewing and as long as we're around as a company that's the key point to our success.

"We're probably trying to launch a couple of new beers a year. It's a pretty constant cycle now. It's key to keep that brewing moving forwards and keep producing new products.

"We're currently looking at potentially producing a stout beer or a craft beer as a mid-range 4.5 per cent [ABV] ale."

Inside Joseph Holt's brewery

Joseph Holt's range spans a range of categories including bitter, lager, golden ale, mild, IPA and amber ale. But it does not have either a stout or a premium craft ale at present.

Kershaw said: "We're brewing a black which is our mild recipe as a 3.5 per cent but we haven't got a stout so that's one interesting area that we're looking at. But equally the market is very much going into lighter beers and we're looking at that side and the market's becoming more premiumised, which is why we're looking at slightly stronger quality beers in the mid-range bracket.

"The 4.5 per cent craft ale is a gap we've got. Above 4.1 to 4.5 per cent, the premium ale, that's something we're looking at.

"The market's generally going lighter, it's going hoppy. Lager's grown hugely over the last 20 years, and then we're looking more at IPAs like Two Hoots and American IPAs that tend to be hoppy. So I see quite a bit of growth in terms of lighter beers and then premiumisation of the market as well so people want quality, they want to pay slightly more for a pint but they might want a slightly stronger beer in terms of ABV.

"But all the time we want drinkability, we want that session beer, we don't want people to say that's jolly nice but I'll have a pint of beer please, we want people to say yes I'll have another of those.

"And that's quite a key test for us, that drinkability. What do people want? What's the market? What's a nice long-term drinkable beer?"

Kershaw is the fifth generation of the founding family at Joseph Holt, having entered the business in 1980 and taken full charge in 2000. Under his watch the brewery, founded in 1849 and headquartered in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester since 1860, has ramped up its commitment to developing new beers.

The brewery was boosted recently when its Diamond Extra Cold Premium Lager won a gold medal in the keg lager 4.8 per cent to 6.9 per cent ABV category at the 2017 International Brewing Awards, which attracted entries from 187 breweries and 982 beers in total.

Kershaw said: "We have a specialist product development committee which meets once a month and they're constantly looking at where we should go next in terms of new beers. It's been one of the best things we've set up, that committee.

"We've got four or five guys who are driving what they think our new beers should be, and we've got trade people sitting on that and brewers as well."

The entrance to Joseph Holt's brewery

In addition to its pub estate, Joseph Holt supplies its beers to more than 500 venues nationwide. Its products are also sold at supermarkets such as Morrisons across the UK, Lidl and Booths.

Kershaw said: "In terms of marketing, being in the supermarkets is very important to us but it wouldn't be a profit driver. But it's key to us, to our reputation and to our marketing. It means people can recognise your products when they're in the pub, they can enjoy our products at home but when they're in the pub they can recognise our name and our products and want to consume more of them.

"In terms of brewing, yes we're brewing for the North West market. But we're also brewing specialist beers that we can sell in other parts of the country as well."

Earlier this month, Insider revealed that Joseph Holt's turnover had risen to almost £60m, according to newly filed accounts for the 2016 calendar year. The company is also progressing plans to expand its pub estate, having recently bought five new pubs with the help of a £25m refinancing package.

Credit: Richard Frost for Insider Media.