Our series of interviews with local, north east breweries continues today with a trip up to Northumberland with Rigg & Furrow.
Rigg & Furrow is a family run micro-brewery based on a farm in Northumberland. We caught up with Theo Howie to get an insight into how he got started brewing, what the brewery has achieved so far and what the future holds for Rigg & Furrow.
Meet Rigg & Furrow Brewery
How did you first get into beer brewing?
A long time ago I did a teaching qualification, we all had to do a ‘micro-teach’ to the group and one of my friends on the course did his on home brewing. Being a beer fan, I was very interested! I did a lot of reading and research, and started to produce a few experimental 1 gallon batches on my kitchen hob, it quickly became an obsession!
How would you describe your beers? Are you influenced by a particular style of beer or brewery?
We like to say that our beers have a sense of place – they are influenced by our surroundings on the farm, as well as historical farmhouse brewers who made beer for seasonal farm workers with the ingredients they had to hand, with a modern twist!
Our water on the farm has a unique character and is quite soft which helps our beers to be refreshing and easy drinking. We use locally grown Golden Promise barley as the base malt in our beers. We produce seasonal beers using ingredients from the farm – we’ve recently done a rhubarb, and an elderflower beer, and have cultured wild yeast from under our apple trees which is currently fermenting an imperial stout in a 500L ex Macallan whisky barrel – the start of our barrel aging program!
What makes you unique to other breweries?
Being a farmhouse brewery, not just based on a farm, but having a connection with the land, being able to grow our own grains, and using ingredients which are grown on the farm in our beer is a big point of difference from what most other UK breweries are doing at the moment.
What has been your biggest challenge and biggest accomplishment since you opened?
Our biggest challenge and accomplishment has been getting the brewery up and running in the first place! We were very lucky to be supported in getting started with a rural development grant from LEADER. It still gives me a great thrill and sense of accomplishment seeing people drinking and enjoying our beer.
What is next for the brewery?
We’re planning to get in another fermenter or two, and then invest in a lot more wooden barrels! We’ve spent our first six months getting set up, dialling our brewing kit in, getting to grips with sales and all the paperwork associated with running a microbrewery, our plans for the future are to focus on producing small batch seasonal releases, continuing to improve our output, and continuing to experiment and have fun!
How do you see the beer scene changing in the North East and the UK as a whole in the coming years?
I think the micro brewery scene will continue to grow – people are increasingly interested in, and aware of, the provenance of their food and drink, and I think once someone has made that shift away from the industrially produced it would be strange to shift back.
Where can consumers currently find your beer? Where do you expect/hope them to find your beer a year from now?
It tends to vary from week to week! But our beer is regularly available on draft in a number of pubs local to us – you should be able to find us in The Office in Morpeth, The Northumberland Arms in Felton, The Railway in Acklington, The Fishing Boat Inn in Boulmer, The Pack Horse in Ellingham, The Beehive in Earsdon as well as occasionally around all good Northumbrian free houses! We are also fairly regularly in Newcastle in pubs such as The Free Trade Inn, Bridge Tavern, Pleased To Meet You, Tyneside Cinema Bar, The Bridge Hotel and more.
Our bottles are regularly stocked in a number of shops including mmm… and glug, CentrAle, BodaHome, Scotts of Alnmouth, Warkworth Village Store and more.
A year from now we’d like to see our beers a bit further afield – so far the furthest north has been Kelso, and the furthest south Sunderland!
Other than your own what is your favourite beer and brewery right now?
It’s really difficult to narrow down! It’s a great time to be a beer drinker especially in the north east – I have to give a shout out to our friends at Credence Brewery in Amble who are releasing some incredible beers at the moment.
Box Social, Flash House, Errant, Almasty, Wylam, and more all continue to impress and inspire.
Further afield in the UK I really love what Redchurch have been doing with their Urban Farmhouse beers. Six Degrees North are doing some really good stuff. Burning Sky are consistently great, Chorlton and Mad Hatter are both making some amazing sours – I could go on!