Q&A with Big Hand Brewing

Dave Shaw
Big Hand Brewing

Please introduce yourself...
I am Dave Shaw, one half of Big Hand. The other half is made up by Andy Benson. We are an Uncle and Nephew team. My background is civil Engineering and Project Management. Prior to brewing I had an extensive interest on the demand side of the industry. Andy, for his sins, was an RE Secondary School Teacher. Clearly we were destined to end up as Brewers.

Where do you brew from and what's your set up?
Big Hand was established in August 2012 and commenced brewing in April 2013. Based in Wrexham, N Wales, a town with a long history of brewing, though a quick trip round the town would lead you to believe that this was not the case. We are a 10BBL set up purchased second hand from a local brewery that was expanding. We are continually praising our kit as it always seems to turn out a good beer despite our inexperience at the start (and maybe still). The biggest hassle is conditioning. We have twice the fermenting to conditioning capacity and this often results in a bit of beer juggling. Increase in CT tanks is at the forefront of our next investment.

What was your path into the world of brewing?
Like so many it stemmed from disillusionment with my job at the time. Predominantly the middle management curse; no apparent control over the products you were measured against, not political enough to progress, 20 more years of the same thing, etc. All this coincided with redundancies.. Yay. Grabbed it, went to Brewlab, never looked back. Notice no mention of a desire rid the world of mediocre beer, smash the corporate giants and their cynicism, produce epoch making new beers. Just wanted to make good beer that people love to drink (lots of) and provide me with a reasonable income. Part one is on target, part two....hmmmm. Andy? Well he was a RE teacher. That didn't take much persuasion.

Where do you see your brewery in three years time?
We look to be making the transition from local brewer to a regional brewer. By that I mean that the population of NE Wales and Cheshire view Big Hand as their brewery. A strong presence in the pubs of NE Wales and Cheshire. But with a National reach through Distributors. Expansion in brew length will be very much in our minds about then.

Whats the single biggest challenge facing the UK independent beer market?
Hard to say. We could be swamped by the mega advertising of the major brewers as they see 'Craft' as a threat and so take ownership of the label. Whilst 'Craft' accounts for a few % of total sales the majors don't like to see even that go away from them. Or is it competition from all the new micros (us being one of them)? There is over capacity at the moment but the market continues to expand and so mask this. Each year we expect the reckoning to come and it doesn't. One year it will and that will be interesting. When? No-one knows.

What was the first beer which altered your perception of beer?
Got to say Shipstones Bitter, back in the day before Greenalls ruined it. Went to college in Nottingham and initially hated it. Yet somehow drank lots of it on a night out and never tired of it. After two weeks every other beer was measured against it. Some beers were better, most worse, but it was the yardstick. It was a classic session beer. Probably Pale, Crystal and some sugar, Fuggles and more Fuggles. Simple. More recently it has to be Punk IPA. Maybe not so much the beer but the whole story, image, ethos that comes with it. I don't mean I am bought in to everything Brewdog but it showed what can (should?) be done to promote something you believe is really good and worthwhile.

What beer do you wished you had brewed?
Would love to do a Burton Ale; properly. But from what I have gathered you are in for a 10 hour boil. Not any time soon.

Whats the strangest ingredient you've ever put in a beer?
Hops. Yes, that's it so far. The variety of flavours and aromas that come out of one species of plant is amazing. And we haven't even started to do a tenth of what some breweries are doing with hops. That is yet come when we feel confident enough. Have to say we don't have any great desire throw in plums or chillies or raspberry or mugwort or ground beetle shell. It may happen but not for a while.

Describe your brewery in six words.
Big Hand brew beers for drinking.

Mike Hampshire