When the Runaway Brewery launched in 2014 from an unassuming railway arch in Manchester’s now fashionable Northern Quarter, it was a significant moment for Mark Welsby (below), the founder. Time to do something different. To run away from an old life (hence the name)? Maybe, but also to put something back into the UK’s beer culture. Specifically in the North West.
“We were both sick of spending our days sat at computers filling in spreadsheets, working in industries and for organisations, we felt little affinity with - we wanted to do something for ourselves. Something more meaningful - something relevant to us”, explains Mark.
“We wanted a better reason to get up every morning I guess! We're both into beer and had spent years seeking out great pubs, interesting beers and travelling the world visiting breweries. So watching our pub and beer culture struggle made us want to do something about it. Starting a brewery for us was a way to join the movement to help modernise something that we see as crucial to UK culture”.
This is the 4th time we’ve featured Runaway Brewery in our beer club (yep, we’re big fans) and every time we catch-up with Mark, they’ve made steady progress since the last time we spoke.
“We turned five in May which was a pretty big milestone for us. To celebrate we had a big party here at the brewery and brewed five collaboration beers with Donzoko, James Campbell, Gibberish, Hawksmoor and Squawk Brewery. I’m still quite amazed that we got this far, to be honest! It coincided with my 40th birthday too, so I was able to bury bad news amongst good” Mark laughs.
“Our little team has changed a little bit in that period. Our lead Brewer John Major (not that one) left us for Hawkshead last autumn where he's now brewing on their huge new kit at Flookborough. We were sorry to see him go of course, but a great complement that a big brewery like that was happy to employ people trained to brew by us”.
“We've employed a new brewer Oli, who learned his trade at Ludlow Brewery - a brewery we love from Shropshire. He took a few Manchester beers down to their annual beer festival this year which I think was fun and eye-opening for everyone involved!”
The IPA is part of the Runaway Brewery core range (above). It pours with a lovely, rich golden hue, and big hits of tropical fruit flavour (passion fruit, lychee and lime), but with a distinct malt backbone. It’s hop-forward, but well-balanced too.
Mark tells us that he’s also started experimenting with wine barrel-aged and farmhouse-style beers;
“This is an area of brewing we've toyed with over time and are now taking to the next level. As ever, its small-batch and slow going as we learn more about what works and what doesn't. We're really pleased with the results so far and will be taking the first keg to Indy Man Beer Con next weekend. We're thrilled to be asked back for the 6th year running, and will be pouring on Saturday and Sunday”.
Runaway’s on-site taproom (open to the public every Saturday from 12 - 8pm) continues to go from strength to strength too, says Mark;
“It's proving to be a great way for us to test out things. Manchester is really becoming an international beer destination, so it's an exciting time to be part of the beer scene in the city”.