Who are you and your current job?
My name is Darren Clayson and I am one of the directors and owners of The Runaway Brewery. Unlike the rest of the guys and my business partner Mark, I don't work at the brewery and instead manage all the boring stuff, such as the finances, purchasing, export, accounts, beer duty, and human resources. This is the dull side of running a brewery, however as in any business it is critical to be sure that business runs smoothly, has clear targets and plans for growth and a good cashflow. I do however get to be involved in some of the fun stuff like events, beer festivals and creating new beers so it isn't all desk work.
What was the inspiration behind your brewery?
Both Mark (co-owner) and myself worked in high-stress corporate companies before setting up Runaway. When I sold my business in 2013 it was an ideal opportunity to invest some money and run a business that I was passionate about with Mark as the head brewer. This is where the name of the business comes from, the concept that we were running away from the corporate world and starting a journey into the world of beer. Beer has always been a passion of ours and I have spent the past 15 years traveling Europe and the US visiting many of the world's best beer destinations. From the beginning we decided that we wanted to brew great beer with a modern edge served via keg rather than cask, but that we still wanted to be approachable and nonpretentious.
This is something we have strived towards doing from the beginning with some success, with our beer appealing to people new to drinking beer looking for big flavors but also to more traditional cask drinkers. Our ethos at the brewery is also to really engage with our consumers and to be part of the local beer scene as well as the wider UK and global beer scene. The addition of a full-time brew tap which is currently being built in our railway arch, will mean the public can come and enjoy Runaway beers (along with guests) on a regular basis where it is made and served by the people making it.
Can you give us a tour of your beer scene?
Manchester has one of the most diverse and innovative beer scenes in the UK and arguably anywhere. Traditionally, Manchester was a heartland and leading cask beer city in the UK, with a great brewing heritage and several medium sized well-established cask brewers. More recently with the growth of the craft beer scene Manchester has seen a huge number of small independent breweries opening, particularly in the last 5 years (ourselves included in 2014). Breweries such as Cloudwater, Track, Squawk, Chortlon, Blackjack and Marble are really pushing the boundaries of British brewing and are knocking out some incredible beers. Manchester also hosts a number of amazing festivals each year. Indyman is arguably the best craft beer festival in the UK, held in the incredible Victorian Baths and showcasing the best of British keg beer along with some amazing guest breweries from the States, New Zealand and Europe.
This June also sees the second Manchester Beer Week Festival, which is a 10-day festival of beer held across the city involving dozens of events, open breweries and beer festivals and is a must for any UK beer fan. Coupled with that Manchester now has an fantastic brew tap scene with many breweries opening on weekends throughout the year, some also partnering with Grub's amazing street food festivals. For instance, shortly customers will be able to visit not only Runaway but also Blackjack and Beatnikz Republic brew taps all within a few hundred yards of each other in Manchester's Green Quarter, something that would have been unheard of 10 years ago in the UK. In addition to all that Manchester is awash with incredible bars and pubs serving great cask beer and a huge array of Brtish and imported craft keg beer.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery?
Get your branding right from the start, don't scrimp on this, there are so many breweries now your brand really needs to stick out and be distinctive. Have a clear perspective in terms of what you want to brew and who your target market is and stick to this plan. Get as much experience as you can by brewing at other breweries and if you are not an experienced brewer bring in people who are. Don't under estimate the costs of setting up a brewery, it isn't just the brew kit that costs money, we spent more than double the amount we spent on our brewing equipment on everything else. Pick your premises wisely, think about the future and whether you will have enough space to develop the premises and build in a brew tap if that is something want to do.
Consider carefully how feasible it is to brew the beers you want to brew, as a new brewery you may have grand ideas about west coast IPA's packed full of citrus hops, but if you can't get the hops you want on contract, which is highly possible due to the current demand and yields you plans may need to change.
This list of advice could on and on, but I guess lastly with my accounting head on, make sure you have enough cashflow, there is nothing worse than going to the immense trouble of setting up a brewery and all that entails to find out you can't pay the bills.