Richard Wells began his brewing career at university in Cumbria; ‘I discovered I was quite good at making beer, and it saved money!’ he smiles. Originally from Sleights, he returned home in 2012 after graduating and was unsure about which direction to take next. ‘I thought ‘why isn’t there a brewery in Whitby?’ Then I had a slightly crazy idea; I know how to make beer and I’m at a loose end – so I rented a tiny unit in town and started a micro-brewery.’
In a relatively short space of time, and with the help of his dad, he moved from a small operation on an industrial estate where he brewed 100 litres a week to his fabulous hill-top location bang next to Whitby Abbey, where today they produce 6,000 litres a week with a workforce of seven. ‘I pestered the farmer for years to rent me his derelict barn’ smiles Richard, ‘but I couldn’t budge him. Then I asked his wife – and that seemed to work!’
The huge former cow shed had no floor, running water or electricity – and hardly a roof, so the renovation was considerable. ‘It was a once in a lifetime chance to have a place in Whitby, my home town, the place that I love. We rolled up our sleeves and, together with local craftsmen, built the brewery that we use today.’
You can take a ‘beer tour’ round the plant; the huge, round wooden vats are in plain view, and there’s a bar at one end with six permanent beers including Jet Black, Saltwick Nab and Whitby Whaler.
Sit in the pleasant, south-facing yard with a stunning view of the Abbey, and sample your pint in the sunshine. Richard has plans to extend the pub aspect of the business ‘I want the place to be a tourist attraction as well as brewery. I love the interaction with the public – otherwise I’d just be stuck in a shed making beer, which can be a bit solitary!’
‘After we switched the brewery on and produced the first Yorkshire ale we were pleased to discover that the beer was a hit in the local pubs’ says Richard. ‘We now distribute our beer all over the country, from Derbyshire to Devon. It’s first and foremost a Yorkshire product and we’re very proud of that.’