The Last Ride

“I couldn’t honestly believe it. I was really, really upset,” Aaron Getliffe, co-host of the Points of Brew podcast, tells me with genuine anguish in his voice upon discussing the closure of Kelham Island Brewery. And he’s not the only one. Tributes poured in across social media in support of the brewery from fellow brewers, writers, bloggers and, most heart-warmingly, the loyal customers who have supported them throughout the years. 

Much like the loss of a close friend or relative, the announcement that Kelham Island Brewery will be closing its doors hit many people hard, sending shockwaves throughout our industry. An institution in the Sheffield brewing landscape since 1990, it’s hard to imagine a world without their beers adorning pubs and bars across the country. One of those beers in particular, is Pale Rider; their signature pale ale that drinkers UK-wide have swooned over since it was first brewed. 

Inspired by the US, this pale ale was amongst some of the first that introduced many to American hops and the flavours they could impart on their beer. Bagging itself CAMRA’s Supreme Champion Beer of Britain award in 2004, its quality didn’t go unrecognised either. Since then its reputation has preceded it, with people assuming the brewery’s place in the brewing world being firmly cemented. It would appear even those with a long-standing legacy aren’t immune from the rising costs we all find ourselves surrounded by. 

While direct reasons weren’t cited in the announcement made by the brewery, Roger Protz spoke to Ed Wickett shortly after who confirmed rising costs and Covid were to blame. “We’ve had a tricky couple of years and they could have got worse. The brewery is getting old and some bits were falling off. It needed investment but we’ve been faced with surcharges for gas, fuel, malt, hops and delivery charges,” Ed told Roger. They’re not alone in closing their doors, with others including Beatnikz Republic in Manchester and Fallen Brewing in Scotland to name but two more, and rumour has it there are more to follow suit in the coming weeks. So where does this leave us and how can we help?

Simply put; drink beer and local beers at that. But, when we too are facing living costs spiralling out of control it’s not that easy. After lockdown closed down the on trade, a spike in running costs was another hurdle that brewery’s, pubs and bars did not need, and now their loyal customers are having their pockets hit harder than ever. Visiting a local might have once been a weekly occurrence, perhaps more for some, but those few regular pints might become the odd and infrequent one or two.

Likewise drinking at home has become commonplace, with many drinkers still finding solace and safety within the confines of their home or beer shed. Whilst seeking shelter from Covid is understandable, home drinking has to dwindle if our beloved places of comfort are to continue to navigate these troublesome times. But, for one last time, let us saddle up, hit the trail and raise a toast to Pale Rider and Kelham Island Brewery who will never be forgotten. 

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