Northern Monk to expand as brewery stands out from the crowd

Northern Monk Refectory, Marshall Street, Leeds
Northern Monk Refectory, Marshall Street, Leeds
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An independent brewer is investing £100,000 in its growth, after securing funding from the British Growth Programme.

Northern Monk Brew Co, which was founded in Leeds in 2013, was awarded £18,000 from Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The investment will see the company create four new jobs, and increase brewing capacity at its Marshall Street site by 66 per cent.

It also plans to open up a bottling line and install a pilot kit will that will allow small brew batches.

Having moved into its current premises at the Old Flax Store of Marshalls Mill in August 2014, Northern Monk is now preparing to open the top floor as an event space known as the Chapter Hall.

Founder and director Russell Bisset told The Yorkshire Post that the company is looking forward to “exciting times” as it prepares to launch new products and build on its recent success.

The business, which has turnover of around £600,000, currently produces a core range of seven beers, with around four ‘specials’ on at any one time.

It has also produced a number of limited-edition collaborations, including one with US brewer Against The Grain and the first ever Anglo-Indian brewery collaboration. The brew, called Indian Spice, was produced with Mumbai’s Gateway Brewery.

The brewery also produce a beer with Meanwood-based North Star coffee roasters and also hosts food business The Grub and Grog Shop on its premises.

Mr Bisset said the investment will allow it to develop further relationships, which is part of the company’s ethos.

Northern Monk sees itself as coupling its forward-thinking approach to brewing with the industry’s monastic heritage.

Mr Bisset said: “Monastic brewing is very overlooked in the UK. Belgium is recognised as the home of monastic brewing.

“We like to pay homage to that and celebrate it. Monastic brewing was at the centre of communities for thousands of years and supported communities.

“We try and do that - we do a lot of work for charity and work with a lot of local independent businesses and we do a lot of collaboration. Beer itself has been the centre of communities for years.”

Having started in July 2013 using the “cuckoo model” - which enables small producers to buy spare capacity at other breweries - Northern Monk began looking for premises that would reflect its “industrial feel”.

He said: “I was really keen to find a building that reflected the industrial feel of the branding and the company as a whole and one that was in a location that was accessible enough, that you could have a tap room or a bar on site.

“When we found the Old Flax Store as part of the Marshalls Mill complex, it was just ideal. It’s a part of Leeds that’s so steeped in history and heritage and was arguably one of the most important parts of the industrial revolution in England.

“It’s great to be able to open up a brewery that was once the beating heart of production of Leeds and start producing a craft product there again.”

While the company is very proud of its roots, it also incorporates the “best of the global beer scene” as a way of standing out from the ever-growing craft beer crowd.

“For us, that’s the history and heritage of British brewing. The majority of beers that we produce are based on historic UK styles, but we combine that with some of the approaches of the American craft brewers.”

As a result, the brand is also targeting global expansion.”

“We’re sending beer out to Spain, we’ve had Italian distributors, we’ve sent some directly to the US, to Scandinavia, to Germany,” Mr Bisset said.

“We’ll be looking at all of those opportunities with our increased capacity.”

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Northern Monk is launching its ‘Sunday Service’ initiative this weekend, in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University.

Customers visiting the Northern Monk Refectory on Marshall Street can enjoy Sunday roasts, beer and board games, as well as live acoustic music provided by students on the university’s music courses.

Visitors to the venue can also donate food to the Northern Monk food bank, in exchange for a third of a pint of Northern Monk beer.

All donated items will then be given to St Georges Crypt.

“We’re really interested in getting involved in the local community and be able to do something good,” operations manager Kath Hartley said.