Red Willow Brewery, Shameless
The best thing to come out of Macclesfield since Joy Division.
Toby Mackenzie began his career as a Computational Molecular Biologist (we all know someone who does that for a living, right?!), with his work split between Cambridge and Palo Alto. Commuting between East Anglia and California clearly took its toll and so he packed it in to work in London. Still, he commuted from his home in Cheshire to the Big Smoke. It was no wonder a career in brewing was so appealing. Partly, so that he could work closer to home and spend a bit more time with his family. Partly so that he could pursue a hobby that had got out of control. “It (homebrewing) was fun and the initial results were passable. Slowly but surely it started to take up increasingly large amounts of my time. Before I knew it I was experimenting and brewing most weekends. Possibly brought on through a mid-life crisis, I embarked upon a war of attrition to convince my better half that my idea of setting up a microbrewery was the way forward. Luckily for me, she agreed, in fact pretty much straight away, so the much-rehearsed orations never had a chance to be aired.”
Caroline didn’t just go along with Toby’s mad idea. She decided she’d join him and together the husband and wife duo launched Macclesfield-based Red Willow Brewery in late 2010. The naming of the brewery shows Toby’s less than conventional; some might call it eccentric approach to business, brewing and child naming. “It’s based on our children’s middle names. Our eldest is Willow, a reference to, I am ashamed to admit, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and for some reason we let our daughter pick our Sonʼs middle name. She chose red”.
From their state-of-the-art brewery in an old station building on the West Coast Mainline, Toby, Caroline and the team, which is now 12 people strong, brew a wonderfully diverse range of beers for keg, cask, can and bottle.
Shameless was the first beer to put the brand new canning line to work. It’s gloriously hoppy with a big hot of tropical fruit and a clean grapefruit finish from Citra, Columbus, Nelson and Simcoe hops.
“The idea for Shameless was to produce a classic American IPA, with a good amount of body, balanced off against bitterness and hops. The name came from it being an unashamedly old school new world IPA; an oxymoron if ever there was one” explains Toby.
You’ll be wondering where else you can get your hands on Red Willow’s wares. Well, we’re pleased to report they have bars in their hometown of Macclesfield and a few miles away in Buxton. They supply canned beer to Marks & Spencer, Booths and The Co-op across the North-West. Since 2013 they’ve also brewed a beer under contract for Virgin Trains that you can drink whilst you travel from Manchester to London, just like Toby did whilst dreaming about launching a brewery all those years ago.
You can buy a Red Willow Brewery mixed case here.