Q&A with Thirst Class Ale

Richard Conway
Thirst Class Ale

Please introduce yourself...
Thirst Class Ale came about after a few years of homebrewing.  I found I really enjoyed it, but I was also getting really good feedback and winning awards.  I was finding my career in IT less interesting and fulfilling and the flexibility of working for myself and the variety of brewery life really appealed.  I started planning Thirst Class Ale in June 2014 and our first beers - Stocky Oatmeal Stout and Hoppy Couple IPA - were brewed by late December and debuted at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival the following January.

Since then I've brewed no fewer than ten different beers which have all been well received.  I took the decision in August 2015 to leave my IT job behind and start brewing full time which will by the time you read this will have become a reality.

Where do you brew from and what's your set up?
I brew in a unit in Reddish, Stockport where I also live (in Reddish that is, not the unit!)  The five minute commute is an improvement on my previous journey to work!  The setup is a custom built 10 barrel plant I've put together myself using parts gathered from various sources. This allows me to brew around 16,000 litres of beer once a week.  I still have the original 2 barrel plant I built when I first setup which is kept as a pilot kit for trial brews or special one-off beers where ingredients may be too cost prohibitive to make brewing a large amount viable.

What was your path into the world of brewing?
As with any brewer, a love of beer was really the first step.  I've drank decent beer since my student days in Sheffield and have always sought out new and interesting beers and places to drink them.  I've always had an inquisitive nature, so I think I really started homebrewing because I wanted to take beer apart and see how it worked!  It didn't take long for me to be hooked and when the opportunity to do my hobby (some might say obsession!) for a living I jumped at it.

Where do you see your brewery in three years time?
Even though I've been brewing commercially for over a year now it still really feels that 2016 will be the first real year for Thirst Class Ale.  Brewing part time hasn't really given me the chance to find a rhythm so most of the beers have been one-offs.  Next year will all be about defining a core range of beers and learning how to brew consistently on the new kit.  

Following this I intend to increase the availability of the beers farther afield and compliment them with an ever changing range of seasonal or one-off speciality brews.  I have no plans for world domination, but in three year's time I would hope to see a good selection of our beers available UK-wide.

What do you drink when you're not drinking your own beers?
I actually don't drink my own beers too often despite having a keg setup in the shed with up to four on at any one time.  That mainly gets saved for visitors!  I have my go-to breweries who include Magic Rock, Weird Beard, Brew By Numbers, Beavertown and various others.  I also like to support other local brewers so will look out for the likes of Quantum, Runaway, Brewsmith and Track who are all doing great things.  There are also a number of new local breweries such as Torrside and Beer Nouveau who I'll be seeking out more of.

When I'm not drinking beer I'll mostly be drinking white wine (probably a really dry Sauvingnon Blanc), gin and tonic or single malt whiskey (my collection runs to over 30 bottles!)

Which brewery other than your own do you most respect?
Without doubt this has to be Magic Rock in Huddersfield. I can't remember which of their beers I tried first, but I liked it and since then I've been hooked. They just seem to always produce good beer and I don't recall having one I didn't simply love. I've been impressed that despite their popularity they didn't try to expand too quickly to satisfy demand at the expense of quality. Their recent move of premises and expansion doesn't seem to have affected the quality of the beer - it's just meant more of it - which can only be a good thing!

Describe your brewery in six words...
Awesome. Mine. Experimental. Cold. (at the moment) Scientific. Happy.

Mike Hampshire