Raven Hill Brewery: Meet the Yorkshire farmer's son making canned beers for walkers, cyclists and adventurers

Celebrating the spirit of adventure is how a farmer’s son turned brewer from the Wolds describes the beers he now creates in East Yorkshire, having travelled the world for either business or pleasure.

Mark Savile grew up at Raven Hill Farm in Kilham where he would help out on the family’s mixed farming enterprise during summer holidays and where his brothers farm today.

But Mark said his career was always destined to take him away from the farm and that he has taken in several continents working for leading agricultural companies Syngenta, Graincorp Malt, Cargill and Omex.

“I worked for businesses that combined my family’s farming background and my science background having studied science to MSc level at Leeds University.

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    Mark Savile with his beers at the family farm in East Yorkshire

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    “I had been taken on in a graduate programme at Syngenta where I then worked for three years and have worked with companies that needed to purchase malting barley and that gave me a better understanding of the changes in malt demand and the brewing world.”

    Mark said it was while working with Cargill in Australia and Asia that he became interested in brewing.

    “I met a lot of micro brewers, distillers and larger scale brewers all around the world and particularly liked visiting those in the Philippines.

    His canned beers are aimed at walkers, cyclists and adventurers who want to carry them in a rucsac

    “It was through being around other brewers and talking with them that I decided I really liked the beer side as a business and I launched my first beers here on the family farm four years ago with my aim of producing really tasty, refreshing beers that offer a sense of celebration after a day of adventure.

    “I now brew in Holderness and also in Leeds.

    “They are all very much a part of the whole thing I’m trying to do. I have great relationships with the Hodgsons of Great Newsome Brewery where some of my beers are now brewed.

    “Business has been pretty challenging in the past few years due to Covid restrictions.

    “We didn’t have a licence to sell beer online, to do consumer sales at the start of the first major lockdown in 2020, so we missed sales in those first months when the weather was fantastic and everyone was out walking in the countryside but we caught up in the summer months and we did really well."

    Mark’s reference to walking and exercise is particularly pertinent because his beers are all named after either outdoor activities or what you might encounter while out on the Wolds, the Moors and Dales. Adventure is in his DNA.

    “After three years with Syngenta I travelled for a year and went to South America touring every country on the continent and taking in everything from the rain forests to Aconcagua – the highest mountain outside of the Himlayas.

    “The salt plains of Bolivia were really worth going to see. My adventures are currently more close to home as my partner Gemma and I recently celebrated the arrival of our second child, but I still need to go back sometime. The people of South America are so energetic and flamboyant.

    “Our flagship beer is Ravine, a New England IPA at 6.7 per cent and others include Trail an easy drinking session IPA at 4.2 and the new Explorer at 5.5. We have six beers available at present.

    “They are all about providing that great taste that you want to experience at the end of the day on a walk or climb.

    “I love hiking, scrambling up rocks, triathlons, coast to coast cycling, marathons, mountain climbing and finding new trails either around where I live in Nafferton or basically anywhere. I do it more for fun than anything competitive.

    “It’s a great way of catching up with mates on a weekend and keeping fit.”

    Mark said that cans of beer are perfect for those out walking, cycling, hiking or any other exercise.

    “I prefer cans to bottles and a can is much lighter. If you’re taking a rucksack you can easily get a few cans in and they are far better than bottles for keeping the beer cool as no light gets in.

    “There is a perception among some of an older generation that beer in bottles is of a greater quality than in cans, but that’s more down to a few years ago when there was a cheap lager in cans mentality."

    Mark said this change back to visiting bars and pubs with his beers since the lifting of Covid restrictions has now seen his online sales reduce markedly in line with national trends.

    “Our beers are back to being in cask, keg and can having been solidly in cans during the pandemic restrictions. The online business is now a much lower proportion of what we supply.

    “We are still only a very young business but we already have several bars that have ours on all the time and many that have ours on as well as many others.

    “Around 85 per cent of our trade is based around East Yorkshire and York and we now have around 50 bars and other outlets that stock Raven Hill.

    “If you’re just on as a guest ale you always seem to be chasing that guest spot.

    “Our beers are all about providing a refreshing taste and we believe there’s nothing like a refreshing beer, especially after a day’s adventure and exhilaration."

    Mark said he realises the market he has gone into is pretty congested right now but isn’t fazed by it.

    “The competition is massive, there are some really great beers out there from lots of great craft and micro brewers. You’ve got to have a point of difference and ours are most definitely to appeal to the market that wants to be out and about. Things like our orange and pineapple pale ale can do the trick.

    “I’m still using Raven Hill as a base, as well as having an office at home in Nafferton. My goal is to grow and keep growing, making Raven Hill a brand synonymous with the spirit of adventure."