Well what a year its been! Didn’t that fly by? And other such things people always say this time of year. Seriously though 2017 has been the biggest year to date for our little company. And as we enter the last leg of the year, now is as good a time to take stock of what we’ve achieved and look ahead to some of our plans for the next year.
2017 – the year that was.
We started 2017 fairly quietly, with the launch of two seasonal beers: Short days and Long nights. Long Nights was a session black ale, whilst Short Days was a Vienna IPA, both exclusively on cask. Both were received well, with Short Days was the more popular of the two. However, we barely had time to register feedback on these two beers as January was manic behind the scenes, prepping for our biggest development to date...
On 19th February we revealed our big secret to the world. We were rebranding and Red Squirrel would become Mad Squirrel. The move, which coincided with revealing ambitions for our new brewery, new core range beers, packaging in cans and more, was met with a mix of excitement and scepticism across the internet. It was a bold decision, and one that was always going to divide people. However as 2017 has played out it has definitely been a wise move and one we have absolutely zero regrets about.
Throughout March, April and May we worked hard to get our new identity in people’s minds, visiting pubs throughout London and the home counties to replace our old pumpclips with the new ones, updating POS materials and more. We also began the extensive planning required for our move to the new site. We released a slew of Limited Edition beers: Ferrous (a citra red ale), Without Fire (a smoked Marzen), Cyclone and Typhoon (a pair of New England Pale Ales), and Gold Digger (a grisette). We also teamed up with Celtic Marshes to release the first two Mad Squirrel ciders, Old Man Hicky and Pulp Fiction.
At the end of May we unveiled our Craft Beer Cruiser, this bespoke mobile bar system, boasting 8 keg taps had its maiden voyage at Wycombe’s Frogfest street festival on 28th May. Over the summer the CBC went out to numerous private functions, weddings, carnivals, festivals, and firework displays. We are expecting 2018 to be even busier for the CBC.
June, July and August were some of the busiest months we have ever gone through. We installed our brand-new brew kit and moved production onto it. We also moved our offices into their new unit. Amersham Tap & Bottleshop had an extensive refurb and expansion, taking over the empty unit next door, knocking through and installing a pizza kitchen. Amongst all this we also found time to squeeze in a trip down to Silchester for a collaboration brew with Wild Weather Ales, a 5% single hop Vic Secret IPA, called “Mystery of the Secret Squirrel”.
The pace didn’t slow down once it got to September. We finally released Roadkill, our core range Opaque IPA. The beer was met with an amazing response and has become a real fan favourite of our core range. We also released Berkhopsted, our annual Wet Hop harvest ale, made with hops grown in our Berkhamsted Tap & Bottleshop garden. We finished the month on a high note, with winning “beer of the festival” with Hopfest at St.Albans Beer Festival (whilst Roadkill was dubbed the unofficial volunteers favourite).
On the first weekend of October we officially opened the Brewery Tap & Bottle shop, with 10 beers on tap, pizzas, amazing countryside views and beer to take away. We are so pleased to finally be able to offer a proper craft beer destination in our home town of Hemel Hempstead.
During November we fired up our new canning line for the first time. Hopfest and $UMO 440ml were released into the wild and have been filling the fridges on beer fans ever since. Towards the end of this year we have released several more Limited-Edition brews, Polar Vortex (American Amber), De La Bean (Coffee milk stout) and Subculture (California common).
So that’s 2017 wrapped up. Including core range, we have brewed 19 different beers at a grand total of little over a million pints. Its been the biggest year ever for us, but now is not the time to rest on our laurels. As 2018 is shaping up to be even bigger:
2018 - the year to come.
We start the new year with a new limited-edition beer. January is traditionally the time when people cut down on the good stuff and try to look after themselves a bit. With that in mind we decided it would be a good time to go low with our ABV. Really low. The lowest we’ve ever gone.
BIJOU VERMONT TABLE BEER
“Bijou” is a 2.9% Vermont table beer, brewed with wheat and oats, hopped with Cardinal, Hallertau Melon, Hallertau Blanc, Simcoe and Citra, fermented with Vermont yeast and served completely unfiltered and unfined, this hazy, juicy little number is small and elegant with a body that belies its diminutive stature. Bijou will be released on 5th January 2018 and will be available in keg and limited cask.
Other things going on in 2018:
- Expect to see Roadkill in 440ml cans early in the year, and Flying Squirrel soon after that.
- We will continue to produce one off limited release beers, alongside Bijou, we are also hoping to release another instalment in our “De La Theme” series in early 2018; a hazelnut milk stout called “De La Nut”. Despite the persistent rumours, we have no plans to abandon cask ale production in 2018.
- We are hoping to install two triple fermentation tanks (18,000 litre capacity each) in the first quarter to keep up with demand for $UMO and Hopfest and give us the ability to increase lagering time for Flying Squirrel.
- We are having a stand at Craft Beer Rising festival in February, we are really excited about this and will make sure to bring some exclusive beers, more information and tickets can be found at www.craftbeerrising.co.uk
- We are looking at the possibility of installing a secondary, smaller brewkit which will allow us to really push the envelope with regards to our beer releases, we are also looking at a compact bottling line (so our bottles are filled in house, as well as our cans) and a labelling machine for our canning line so we can start to release limited edition beers in small pack.
- After having to cancel it in 2017 due to overstretched resources, we are aiming to properly launch the Unhinged beer festival in 2018.
- Expect to see Mad Squirrel beers reaching out into the wider UK market more, as we work with an increasing number of wholesalers and start to deliver directly into new regions. However, we will not be making an appearance in any major supermarkets anytime soon.
- We are currently working on the negotiations/legals/paperwork for three new Tap & Bottleshop sites, with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, all of these will hopefully come off within the next year. Alongside these we are always on the lookout for new sites. If you think you’ve found the next location for a Mad Squirrel Tap & Bottleshop, let us know, we’ll make it worth your while (in beer of course)
Every year comes with its challenges, its victories and its defeats and no doubt 2018 will be just the same, but we are all incredibly excited, and determined to make it our biggest year yet!
Everyone at Mad Squirrel would like to wish all our customers a merry Christmas and a happy new year!