We took ourselves down to visit SALT Beer Factory in Saltaire, West Yorkshire. We’ve been hearing some epic things about these guys, with their Alpaca IPA recently picking up the SIBA Regional Gold Medal for Bottle/Can Beer Overall Champion 2019 after only opening in November 2018. It’s not surprising, either, as they have some illustrious brewers within their team of just 4 people; Ned Zairi (Business Development Manager), Colin Stronge (Head Brewer, formerly of Marble Brewery, Black Isle Brewery, Buxton Brewery and Northern Monk), Chris Wigg (Brewer and formerly from Buxton Brewery), and Chris Morse (Events Manager & Brewing Assistant).
From the outside the brewery looked great, it’s in a Grade 2 listed building, originally a tram shed, now fronted by its own SALT bar and kitchen, which is open daily. We walked through to the brewery and taproom, which is open on the weekends, and were in awe. The ambiance of the brewery was fantastic, seating kitted out with gleaming copper tanks lined up on the left-hand side and a mezzanine platform at the back above three mash tuns. The 12.5 barrel brewery was simply a work of art.
Catching up with Ned and Colin, on one of the balconies overlooking the brewery was a fantastic sight. With a grin on his face, Ned kicked things off by telling us where it all began…
“This place was just a shell of a Grade 2 listed building, everything’s been custom built. We opened in November 2018 along with Craft Asylum #1 & Craft Asylum #2 in Leeds that are both extensions of the SALT brand, and to be fair it’s been 6 months of mayhem. The good thing is that we’re starting to create a name and reputation already. Saltaire is a small village, but prior to SALT there was previously The Hop at the front of this building, you then had The Cap and Collar across the road, Fanny’s Ale House and obviously Saltaire Brewery down the road, so it still had a strong beer culture. Although I think that we’re now providing a different offering to the area.”
“The vision for SALT was to build an experience led brand, so obviously we have to brew some amazing beer, but alongside that we can add so much more. The whole idea is that you can follow the journey of your pint from the raw ingredients, through brewing, to storage in these 500 litre copper tanks, to dispense. It’s a completely unique beer drinking experience. Everything we do represents us. We’ve been steadily busy, which is nice, we don’t just have the brewery tap but an events space too. Friday and Saturday’s have a DJ, playing funk and soul on vinyl which is great.”
“So far the biggest challenge that we’ve actually faced is that we’re super busy and only have a small team spinning a lot of plates. Luckily, we’re owned by Ossett Brewery, so we get a lot of support with logistics.”
This puts a lot of demand on the brewing side of things, as Colin emphasised; “We’re already struggling to keep up with demand but we’d rather the beer was right and we wait for it, than sending something out for the sake of getting it out to people. It’s really important that quality benchmark. On a personal note, I want SALT to be known not so much for quantity but more the flavours of the beers, always making it the best we can.”
This is something that both Colin and Ned agree on, as Ned confirmed, “I think that the exciting thing for me is that every time we brew a beer it gets better and it’s really exciting to see where we’re gonna be in 6 months time quality-wise. As a team, we brew what we want to drink. I’ve not said no yet, and you don’t tell someone like Colin Stronge what he can and can’t brew.”
“We want to continue to grow SALT and be recognised, not only for really good beer, but everything else that we do alongside it. I think that we’re really trying to open up the world of hop-forward beer, inviting the outside world in and getting more good beer into the hands of the people.”
SALT has some really exciting times ahead; they’ve already started canning in-house and have launched an online shop with Flavourly, and soon they’ll be recruiting for two additional team members and creating a barrel-aging store. On top of this, they will be hosting a special Beer and Food Pairing Experience evening with Melissa Cole on Thursday the 12th of September.
This place is a work of brewing art and we can’t wait to head back there again sometime soon. Keep up the epic work, guys!