Saturday, 10 December 2016

A Hardknott Christmas - #1 Beer Pork Pie

My journey to being a brewer started with a general love of food and drink. My move away from a much better paying engineering job to the rather less financially secure future was driven by a passion for cooking and making tasty things. I still love all that sort of stuff and when I have time I spend hours making food that really, considering the man-hours, is incredibly labour intensive for the relatively small end result; but it's a labour of love that I cannot help myself getting drawn into.

Pork pie, done properly
Christmass is a time when many people who are normally far too busy to make great food start to turn to the Christmas classics. Be it a Christmas cake, a nice big ham, mince pies, yule log and of course the full turkey dinner complete with far too many sprouts and a healthy dose of stuffing and pigs in blankets. If you can't do it at Christmas when on earth should you?

A defining memory for me is that of my mother making a huge pork pie1, for which the process seemed to start with half a pigs head. I loved that pork pie, possibly partly because my Mum made it, and there is an unconditional need to enjoy every course up to pudding and cake2 lest I miss out on some due to having four brothers.

Speaking of which, I have to offer a hat-tip to my little brother for being the catalyst for this little experiment. A recent visit to see him resulted in me leaving with a very nice home-made pork pie for lunch on the way home. I'm not saying I'm competitive or anything, but I'm damed if he's going to beat me at making superb food.

It got me thinking about how to incorporate more beer into some of the cooking I do and in doing so giving me blog topics which I hope are inspirational to the reader. As an introductory post to this subject it seems I have quite a bit of information to disseminate, please bear with me, I am hopeful that it will be useful. It seems quite difficult to spend 3 days trying to perfect a pork pie recipe and not have a few things to say about the subject.

Hoppy beers, especially when dry hopped, are not best suited to incorporating into food3. This could put Hardknott beers at disadvantage. Making a slow cooked stew with Azimuth for instance will likely be the route for making a bitter stew and ruining a great beer.

Time for a cunning plan, which I hope will ripple through to a series of beer recipes over the next couple of weeks or so. I started with my own version of a pork pie, incorporating not one, but two beers.

There are many great pork pie recipes. There is little need to recreate them here. There is a solid one on the BBC food website. I shall try to focus on the detail of the beer incorporation in my own way and leave the reader to seek out his favourite recipe.

Pigs trotters make for the best jelly ever.
Jelly, this has to be the fundamental starting point for a pork pie, although it is actually used to finish the pie 😐. And jelly goes back to the even more fundamental culinary basic of a great stock4, it is my assumption that this is where the pigs head came in when my mother made pork pies. In my case I decided to go with pigs trotters, most really good butchers will let you have some for next to nothing and they make just about the very best jelly. In my case I got 8 in exchange for putting a couple of quid in the town clock fund. It helps that we prefer to buy in the local butcher rather than have to select the predictable shrink-wrap bollocks that are in the fridges of the local supermarket. He is a good chap our Paddy.

As it turns out I didn't need 8 pigs trotters. Two perhaps would have been quite sufficient. On the other-hand, we now have a significantly over-spoilt dog who really doesn't know he is born, and a dinning room floor that resembles a cave inhabited by a huge pack of carnivores. We also have sufficient pork jelly to make any amount of pork-related dishes. It'll freeze well I expect.

I covered the trotters with water in my biggest pan, which is about 12 litres. After simmering very gently for about 6 hours and straining5 the result was around 6 litres of a stock of the loveliest consistency, which seemed like it would probably set easily if chilled without further treatment. However, I decided to reduce6 it to around a quarter of the volume until the hot bubbling stock was really thick and almost like syrup. On cooling it set quite hard similar to those jelly cubes you buy for kids parties. This was exactly as I required. Effectively I've done all the boiling needed before adding any beer and in so doing removed the liquid volume that the beer will later replace.

My pork stock reduced to the
minimum gloopy sort of consistency
Of course a quick solution would simply be to carefully dissolve gelatine in beer, but I expect the result will be significantly less satisfactory and lack the meatiness I've achieved. The overall effect I was looking for was that of making a good solid jelly that also containing beer. One approach would have been to simmer the pigs trotters in beer. I knew this was foolish for all the reasons I've touch on already. I wanted to get beer into this jelly but by minimal heating of the actual beer as possible. My concentrated pig jelly was an absolute perfect starting point.

I decided to use Newton's Downfall for the beer-jelly. Well, it is 30% apple juice and apples and pork are a good match. I took a full 330ml bottle and made it up to about 500ml with my pork jelly concentrate. I then warmed the beer-jelly mix very gently to get the jelly thoroughly dissolved in the beer, but only just so as to not over-heat the beer. This can then be put in the fridge until needed for finishing the pie. This quantity should be about right for the size of pie I'm suggesting here, so long as the pie is greedy for jelly, which can be tricky to achieve, as I'll come to. I am also planning on trying to use the idea in some sort of terrine, work in progress.

To the pie itself. I did decide to strip all the meat and other soft tissue from the trotters to incorporate into my first prototype. Having now done it once I'd say it's a bit of a ball-ache and it's best just to give the lot to the dog and let him sort out what he wants. However, I am considering laminate flooring to replace the carpet in the dinning room.

Nutmeg, black pepper, chopped garlic, thyme, sage,
mace and salt as the seasoning mix for the pork meat
For the successful third attempt I used belly pork mixed with a little bit of bacon. Some people like to use leaner meat and add a little bit of pork fat. I am completely unsure why, as belly pork seems to get there much more economically. What is perhaps more of a question is the coarseness of the chop or grind of the meat. I think one of the defining things with my mothers pies was that it was not 100% pork mince. There were lumps of pork. I decided to simply chop up my belly pork into very small lumps rather than have it minced as I like the course texture.  Adding a little bit of chopped bacon certainly seems to help both flavour and colour wise. A total of about 1.5kg of pork meat seems about right.

I added nutmeg, mace, salt, sage, thyme, chopped garlic and black pepper. Most recipes ask for white pepper, I prefer black, personal choice and exact choice of herbs and spices, and quantities, is down to individual taste. I do really like the mace and nutmeg combo though, it's the defining spices in Cumberland sausage.

Scott suggested I try using Dark Energy in the pastry. I was, and if I were honest still am a little unsure about this idea, but I'm running with it for now. On the positive sides the finished pie browns easier and somehow the pastry is smoother and better bound. However, I only did one trial without so there is too much human factor to consider in the variability.

Filled pie, with apple on top, just before the lid goes on.
Next time we see inside it'll be cooked and scrummy.
As the pastry is going to be baked I was concerned about the increase of bitterness. This it turns out does not seem to be an issue7. However, despite the raw pastry having a quite delicious looking chocolate colour, I'm not convinced the finished pie hasn't got a greyness about it when cut into that might be considered unappetising.

None-the-less on making the hot water crust I ensured that I heating the beer until just boiling and no more and then immediately dumped in the flour. Kneading the resultant ball of dough as quickly as possible seems to be the key. The dough at about 60 degrees it's hard to handle, but ensuring a smooth dough and getting it made into your pie case quickly brings rewards. I strongly recommend, by bitter experience, using a pie tin with a removable base. A less satisfactory solution is to use a solid pie dish with foil lining.

For reference I used;

250ml Dark Energy (other beers can be used)
200g lard or pork fat (The fat recovered from the stock works well)
560g plain flour
1 tsp salt

A couple of months ago I was given some windfall cooking apples by a kindly neighbour. At the time I made an apple pie, but still had loads of apples left, so I froze them. Pork pie with apples and apple beer? Seems perfect, so in went the apples.

My Newton's Downfall and Dark Energy pork pie.
Also useful as a doorstop or any other application
where significant matter and energy density is required
and absolutely no use whatsoever as part of a
calorie controlled diet - please consume responsibly
and follow with a brisk 5 mile walk
I'm a bit of  stickler for food hygiene. I worry a lot about inappropriate heating or cross contamination, or meat not being cooked appropriately. Pork of course is a potential for health risk. I like to check anything I can with a meat thermometer. Most recipes seem to call for about 2½ hours at 250℃ and I can confirm by thermometer that this works well getting the core temperature to about 75℃.

Once the pie is cooked and started to cool we want at some point to get our jelly into the pie.8 I seem to have perfected a way of preventing most issues with this. While the pie is still warm, about an hour or two after finishing cooking, wrap the underneath of the pie with clingfilm and place back in the pie dish. This way the jelly cannot leak out of the pastry case but everything is still warm enough for the jelly to percolate all the little nooks and crannies it needs to get into. Warm the jelly just enough to get it nicely liquid. It took me several hours of topping up the jelly to get my best pie as full as I could, and it took most of my 500ml of jelly. The idea is that the jelly and the pie contents are more-or-less cooling at the same rate thereby eliminating food safety risks.

Cool and then chill, preferably overnight.

Share and enjoy, washed down with lots of beer, whilst recounting the story of the time one of your brothers stole all the chocolates of the Christmas Tree whilst the other got the blame. That's porkie pies for you. (it wasn't me)


1Well it seemed huge, I was only little at the time.

2We all knew we wouldn't get pudding if we didn't eat up our mains. When you have brothers who will happily eat your share of cake you daren't miss out, even if it does mean you have to eat sprouts.

3Do I hear you ask why? Basically, beers that have great hop character without being over bitter generally have hops added late in the boil or in dry hopping. Us brewers are looking for lots of juicy flavours and aromas but without the isomerisation of alpha acids.

Alpha acids come from hops and are the source of bitterness in beer, but these compounds only create that bitterness after being in the boil for a period of time. To minimise that bitterness production but to maximise on the lovely hop characteristics we want we put most of the hops in very late in the boil or in dry hopping. However the alpha acids are still there and will convert to bitterness quite quickly should we boil the beer again. Additionally the great flavours and aromas we love in good hoppy beers come from compounds that are a lot more unstable or volatile and will be destroyed or driven off by heating.

4Making stock doesn't create the most exiting bit of on-line entertainment, but I did a little video a while back about chicken stock. We do this all the time in this house and have a quantity of chicken stock in the freezer meaning I can rustle up a savoury rice in about 30 minutes. If I have one culinary tip to give anyone to improve their home cooking it's learn how to make stock. Once you try it you'll see why I object to stock cubes. You can watch the rather boring video here.

5Once I had strained the stock off the bones etc I skimmed the fat off the stock and tried to leave the sediment behind. This is easier done by cooling and chilling overnight in the fridge. This way the fat is solid and can be scoopped off the top and then the bulk of the now jellyfied stock dug out off the solid sediment. You need patience, an spare day and a big fridge. I currently lack all of these things.

6Stock reduction by boiling is a great trick to use when trying to concentrate flavours and consistencies. Of course many commercial convenience additives are made the same way. Classics are tomato sauce, chutney and jam. Commercial gelatine is no doubt produced in a similar way.

7I do know that alpha acid utilisation becomes significatly less efficent in strong beers like barley wines and double IPAs. If we couple that to a sweetening effect of the carbohydrates in the wheat flour we may get an explanation of a flavour that actually does work quite well.

8We have a number of conflicting constraints to worry about. Number one is that we want this high risk food to be chilled as soon as possible. A big pie like this isn't going to cool quickly. If it cools too far and we try to get the jelly into the pie it will set and not permeate the pie well enough.  If we pour in hot jelly into an already cool pie we risk local reheating of the meat and so create a potential bacterial growth. If we pour warm jelly into a hot pie the jelly will run out of any small hole it can find in our not-quite-perfect pastry. For reasons of food safety most recipes call for the pie to be chilled and the jelly only just melted before application to the pie. I can confirm this is a silly thing to do as you will get a thimbleful of jelly into the pie before the jelly sets and blocks the steam hole, unless you have feeble watery jelly that isn't worth diluting your pie with. Equally we should still worry about damaging the flavours of the beer with heat.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

We're better than the Bank of England

Five Pound Note - not vegan friendly
Apparently the new five pound note has traces of tallow in it. Tallow comes form cows, mainly. Veggies, vegans and Hindus for instance are getting upset about this.  This is a bit of a shame as I quite like the new more durable version. It occurred to me however that our bottled and keg beers have been free from all animal products for several years, but we just haven't really made a big deal out of it.

As it so happens, before the meaty five pound note scandalwe had already started to get our labels revamped to reflect the fact that our bottled beers are indeed significantly more vegan friendly than the five pound note.

We'd been spurred into action earlier in the year when CAMRA also performed a silly cock-up by making a big fuss about isinglass2. Silly old CAMRA, after all, it is only really cask beer that uses such finings. Dirty scummy keg beer and bottled beers that are not "Real" will certainly not contain isinglass. So the bulk of the beer CAMRA was campaigning for was in fact the very thing they were on that occasion complaining about.

Hardknot Bottled Beer - very vegan friendly

The first of these new labels have started to be used on new bottles we're producing, watch out for them on your next beer buying spree.


1To be honest, I'm having a struggle calling it a scandal. It's an unfortunate oversight caused by the fact that much of industry uses by-products of animals during manufacture. Most of us are blissfully unaware and would not make the effort to check. Vegans do care and can avoid purchasing products containing such animal derived compounds. Of course as the five pound not is now is fairly wide-spread circulation it is difficult to avoid using it if you do care. A rather silly and embarrassing thing to have happened. Rather than calling a scandal I'd prefer to use the term silly cock-up.

2I am sure most readers of this blog do not need me to explain about isinglass, but just in case....cask beer is generally racked direct from the primary fermenter into the cask. It may well have quite a high loading of yeast and other debris. The brewer puts a does of isinglass into the cask to help the suspended solids drop out once the cask is laid nicely in the pub cellar. The trouble is isinglass is manufactured from fish stuff. I'm not a vegan, but I still object to it because the stuff is quite horrible. It is often given the nickname of whale jiz, which is a fairly accurate description of it's appearance.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Hibernal Glow - a winter warmer

Buy Hibernal Glow

Well, here we go, the big rundown to Chrimbo. Every year we question if we should do a Christmas beer or not. Will it all sell, or will we have a job-lot left effectively unsalable in the New Year.

We've been lucky with our previous offer, Figgy Pudding, and managed to sell it all in time for Christmas. However, with the margins on beer being so damn tight it is important not to end up with waste that effectively turns margins into a negative number.

This year we went for something that was sort of Christmassy, but still without being overtly packaged as such. It's really just a winter warmer, a beer to hibernate with.

We made a chocolate orange porter, because it's a nice thing to have this time of year. Packed with orange peel and cocoa nibs you can certainly say that both are there in abundance.

I love winter in Cumbria. At least when it is cold and clear, rather than that miserable wet and windy season. I've been out on the fells and got various bits of imagery of our inspirational county, and bunged it into a very short video.

As usual we worked very hard to get a label design that matched the quality of our beer. The guys at LemonTop Creative pulled out all the stops and produced the rather arty design very befitting of the work of art inside the bottle. I'm really pleased with it, both the label and the beer.

It's getting to be a bit of an obsession of mine to take the label artwork and bring it to life. It is a sort of outward expression of intent as to the inward effort we put into creating our beers.

Hibernal Glow from Hardknott Brewery on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Rhetoric IV - the conclusion

It's been a long year it would seem. Although of course the time it has taken the Earth to actually circle the sun has not varied by any conceivable variation, it's just it seems like a long year to this carbon based Earth dwelling organism.

The Earth has nearly completed 11 full orbits of our closest star since I first mashed in. For our Tenth Anniversary year we felt should be marked with something special, and so this is exactly what we did.

We ended last year by brewing Rhetoric IV. The fourth, if you have a struggle with Roman numerals, in our series of experimental beers. It is a peat smoked porter. We put some of it into three separate spirit casks, and applied a certain degree of patience.

The long wait is over and we have now bottled these beers. Labels will be here in a day or two. It is a fairly simple job to run these bottles through the labelling machine and so be able to get them out to people far and wide.

You can buy these beers on our website, of course. But to help you out, and to give folk a chance to try these beers together, we are organising a few Meet The Brewer type things in various locations. We will be bringing a small sample of all our Rhetorics for a rare opportunity for a vertical tasting of all 7 versions.

The Hardknott Anniversary Roadshow

Cherry Reds, Birmingham - Friday 2nd December 6 - 8pm
Otter's Tears, Burslem, Stoke on Trent - Saturday 3rd December 7 - 9pm
The Tap House, Lancaster - Wednesday 7th December 7 - 9pm

Locations where details are still to be confirmed;

The Free Trade Inn, Newcastle-upon-Tyne - "sometime after the 12th"
The Mill, Ulverston, - date to be confirmed
Somewhere in Scotland, hopefully - details still to be clarified
And others still in discussion

About the beers

Rhetoric IV.I - peat smoked imperial stout

Total of around 3,000 bottles produced

This was the original beer using peat smoked malt. It's a great big imperial stout at 11% and gives big chocolate and raisins in the aroma, a taste of orange pith and of course an edgy smoky note reminiscent of a good peated whisky.

Works really well matched with mature cheese.

Rhetoric IV.II - wine cask matured imperial stout

Total of around 620 bottles produced

We put about 220 litres of beer into a red wine cask.

The most striking thing is that the oak has mellowed the peat smoke considerably. So much so that were we to do it again we would increase the peated malt. We get earthy tannic dryness, a hint of mint, peppery merlot and camphor cedar.

Matches well with haggis or orange duck savoury.

Rhetoric IV.III - brandy cask matured imperial stout

Total of around 480 bottles produced

Here we put around 200 litres in a brandy cask. Unfortunately we had a minor issue with the bottling line where a filling valve stuck open. It happens very occasionally. We lost around 30 litres of very delicious beer!

Again, a much reduced smokiness but a lovely in-yer-face milk chocolate tone, very liqueury nose, candy cinnamon spice aroma, destinct coffee and tones of liquorice.

Matches well with apple slice or gingerbread.

Rhetoric IV.IV - whisky cask matured imperial stout

Total of around 550 bottles produced

Again, about 200 litres went into a whisky cask. It seems the distillers have got a little cautious now about what brewers are using which casks and we got very little detail about the cask. It's normal ends were painted over to prevent us seeing the brand.

A significant problem with all of the casks was the debris from the charred insides of the cask. The whiskey cask in particular was very troublesome.

The resultant beer however is a striking with a campfire and charred wood thing reminiscent of simple fire baked bread. Toasted, roasted, smoky oak chips. Mellow cherry aroma and a glace cherry taste.

Matches well with plum crumble.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Long Drop

Beer, a nice drop and a long drink, generally. There are exceptions, like barley wine, imperial stouts and massive double IPAs, but on the whole beer is drunk in longer measures. In our fine and soon to be proudly independent1 island most beer is drunk in the fantastically traditional measure that is the imperial pint2. It's a cultural thing that has incredible resilience3.

I really like beers with a bit more about them. I believe a really good IPA has to be in the 6% region, or there or there about. This of course creates a few problems for people who sup beer all night long in pints. Indeed I've been asked many times if I can produce an "Azimuth Light"4

We've wrestled with this for a while. You see a beer at lets say 3.6% should never, in my view, have the letters IPA next to the name. I mean, just look at Green King and thier thing. No. Never. Brewing beer and calling at IPA at that strength only encourages the wider general beer drinking public to believe in that sort of nonsense.

I believe, with a fair degree of conviction that beer brewed, fermented and dry hopped at higher ABVs make for much more delicious beers. There are quire a few good scientific reasoins why this is probably the case.5

We wanted to have a go at a lower ABV beer, that we could still call an IPA. We thought about the hop rates, appropriate use of modified malt to retain some mouthfeel and body to the beer. We thought very carefully about dry hopping and maturation techniques so as to blast the sense of that general IPA ethos.

We've done it, we've made that very beer. We like it and we are sending it out to various places all over the country.

Can a 4.8% beer ever really be a session beer? Well, I drink beers much stronger than that during a session, and I know a few more who do. I'm sure there will be some who will disagree, but there you go, it's still more "sessionable" than Azimuth.....

Oh, and I did a video.

Long Drop Constant from Hardknott Brewery on Vimeo.

Are their still people who don't get why it is called "Long Drop"? Oh come on!!


1For the avoidance of doubt, yes I am being sarcastic.

2No, I haven't applied the closing </sarc> tag yet

3</sarc>yes, I do think it truly does have serious cultural inertia. Not that much of a great thing in my view.

4I kid you not.....

5Way back in my early days of brewing a brewing type from a significantly larger brewery came to the pub and we chatted about beers. As is oft the case, I started to chat about how much I liked a beer with a bit more poke. I forget his name or which brewery, and for that matter I'm fairly sure he had a fair bit of experience in several different breweries. He explained that in tasting panel tests a beer brewed and fermented at a much stronger gravity will be preferred by drinkers when cut back to a lower strength when compared with a beer brewed at target gravity.

The way the yeast works at higher gravities, the way the hop compounds are biologically processed by the yeast, the way the alcohol solution subsequently acts as a solvent on dry hopping all change the flavour profile of the finished beer.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Vigo Hand Labelling Machine

Righty, quick technical post. This is mainly to help out a brewing friend, but hopefully some other people might find it helpful.

We have had a nice bottling line for over 3 years now, It works well and we're really pleased with it. Prior to that we hand bottled. To be honest it's really hard work and tedious. However it is a way forward for breweries wanting to have control of thier own product, rather than contract bottling.

We started by applying labels by hand. That really is tedious. Later we borrowed a hand driven machine from Stringers. Nice people, who seemed very happy to continue to let us use their's. However, we got a little fed up of not having the machine right there and handy, so we bought our own, exact same machine.

It is supplied by Vigo. It's OK, but doesn't have great instructions. So I did a video. It's a bit roughly edited, but, you know, time and that.

Hand Labeling Machine from Hardknott Brewery on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Moo Bar - a public information post

The beer supply chain is complicated. There are lots of links with beer going one way and hopefully money flowing back to brewers, eventually. What goes on behind the scenes is fairly much hidden from the drinker. If we get grumpy with a pub because they are well over-due paying an invoice we might stop supplying. Sometimes this is temporary and may even go completely unnoticed by the beer drinker. A few harsh words, or more often than not carefully worded emails are exchanged, owed money gets paid and the beer flows again. Everyone is happy. I would not normally publish information about which outlets are more trouble, it wouldn't be right, but there are times I feel like grumbling. Brewers do tend to talk to each other and there is an increase of sharing of information in this regard.

Sometimes it gets to the point that there is a company that is behaving so abysmally that it is only right to call them out for the sake of all the very good businesses that are above board and working hard to run successfully businesses legally and more importantly in a morally sound manner. Be it pubs, breweries, wholesalers or any other businesses in the whole of the beer and wider alcohol industry we should not have to fight rogues.

I want to share with the reader my all-time worst ever experience bad business practice. In 12 years of trying to eek out an honest living this has become the one defining event. I refer to Moo Bar, that small chain of venues in the Penrith and Carlisle area. The concept is the brain child of a Nigel Tarn, previously famous for a bogus sale of his previous business for £7 million. (the sale never actually happened and Turbo drinks went bankrupt) In an apparent shock event this week the landlord of Moo Bar Carlisle, the property owner, evicted the operators, Moo Bar limited (Company number 08447386).

There has been local support for Moo Bar. Clearly the operation has found a good following amongst enthusiasts in the city. Be it for a good range of beers or for providing a music venue I am uncertain. Never-the-less the support is impressive. However, the facility that has been provided is clearly not a viable business and has been funded by unscrupulous and unauthorised borrowing from many people, in particular many smaller breweries like Hardknott. I have information that would indicate sums of in excess of £50,000 to brewers and beer wholesalers alone. Moo Bar owes Hardknott in excess of £2000, and this is after we helped Nigel's cash-flow problems in the early days with a supply of £500 for lines dedicated to Hardknott (which was never honoured in any reliable way) - we know some other brewers have done similar.

Nigel Tarn - Business buffoon
or downright crook?
either way, don't trust this man.
Nigel was from the start erratic in his payment of invoices. Initially not the worst, but never paid them in any structured way. Amounts paid were inconsistent with invoiced values making reconciliation of accounts difficult. If I were charitable I could say this is because Nigel is an accounting buffoon. However, I do wonder if this was a deliberate and cynical attempt to be obtuse so as to try and con us from day one.

Fast forward to September 2015. Much of Moo Bar's account was grossly overdue. Many invoices were over 90 days from delivery date. We were starting to fight with Moo Bar to get payment for beers and repeatedly had the company on stop.

We also noticed that companies house records showed a lack of filing of accounts and other mandatory documents. They have never, to this day, filed accounts for an operational company despite clearly trading. We were getting extremely worried and had already had the tip-off from other brewers that Moo Bar was in trouble.

Nigel suggested that we delivered more beer COD. Now, we have a strict policy here at Hardknott; Being on stop for unpaid invoices means being on STOP. No, we will not accept cash-on-delivery until the outstanding invoices are paid down. Starting up the van to go all the way to Carlisle to find the cash wasn't there was an option I was not prepared to consider1. Several other brewers had reported that COD delivery agreements had been made only to find no cash ready when the delivery was made.

We hit an impasse. We were not going to deliver unless Nigel paid his outstanding bills. Although we were not explicit he probably realised we were not only at the point of not delivering until he paid down his account, we had also already made the decision to reduce his account facility to zero.

Please remember, this is all before the floods in December 2015.

Nigel made some excuse about a serious illness, and being robbed by a member of staff. If I were honest I had already long ago placed Nigel in the chancer, bluffer and query rogue bin since my early dealings with him. I was fairly sure these were nothing more than excuses and based at best on distortions of the truth. We asked for a crime number as presumably it had been reported to the police2.

Nothing more came of it. No monies paid, no further communications from Moo Bar, despite us sending repeated email requests for payment. Of course in the middle of all of this there was the floods, giving Nigel a perfect sob-story to cover the fact that his business was already in serious trouble.

After what I thought was a reasonable amount of time I sent a final email pre-warning of a letter before action.3 This was then fairly swiftly followed up with the promised letter. By this time all of Moo Bar account with us was well over 90 days aged. We had paid all the beer duty, staffing costs, VAT, cost of malt and hops etc to our suppliers Further emails were sent indicating that the next course of action would be application for a County Court Judgement. No reply, no money. So, I applied for a CCJ, which we were awarded. I sent further emails stating that the bailiffs would start knocking next.

At this point there was an attempt to make amends. A second villain of the piece made an entrance. For the time being I shall refrain from further details, other than to say we realised that this character already had form and there are very possibly innocent people (or at least unwilling accomplices) who I am not willing to drag into this sorry story. An attempt to do a deal ensued, but sadly the deal fell far too short for us to be happy and we decided to walk away.

In the interim I discovered that many breweries and distributors were owed significant amounts. I started to investigate further and found a huge amount out about Nigel and some of his business dealings. In the end I stumbled upon the employee who was alleged to have robbed Nigel. This was a revelation, and certainly gave a signifiant alternative view on the dark dealings that had been going on.

The chef involved had been accused of stealing, it seems because he was paying suppliers cash on delivery out of the till to make sure stock could be bought. The chef was arrested on the day of his granddaughter's christening. We have checked the information we have in our emails and there is a sneaking coincidence in the dates of the start of the investigation and the date we requested a crime number. We are afraid we might have precipitated an innocent man's arrest as a result of us demanding proof of this "crime". He was interviewed and released, but too late to attend the important family event. To my knowledge no further action has been taken.

I also have information about signifiant PAYE irregularities in the Moo Bar empire.

The two ex-employees I have spoken to have indicated that there was never any "serious illness" - the information I have suggests that Nigel suffered from a bit of acid reflux. An uncomfortable but not serious condition. I know, I suffer and have to take "proton pump inhibitors"3. It is quite normal for the quack to recommend a camera is sent into the oesophagus and stomach just to make sure it isn't cancer. Decent people don't go around using this as an excuse to avoid paying debts.

I have information that would indicate that Nigel pretended to be in hospital when in fact he was on holiday living it up leaving staff to fight with the problem of an increasing number of suppliers who were refusing to deliver due to unpaid bills.

This morning I spoke to a spokesperson for Walton Goodland, the estate agency who is dealing with the lease. The outstanding bill for rent on the property amounts to in excess of £20,000. Moreover, the reason rents have been returned by the landlord is because the rents have been paid in the name of Baa Carlisle LTD (10087794) - where as the lease is in the name of Moo Bar limited. This is important in many ways. Firstly if the landlord accepted the payments from the wrong legal entity that incorrect legal entity would then achieve a right to operate from that property, whist the previous entity would still owe outstanding monies.

The debt with the landlord goes back in excess of 9 months and well before the floods.

Nigel is trying to set up new companies and allow the old Moo Bar Limited to become struck-off as a result of the company appearing to Companies House to be inactive. This is easy to achieve if all the directors resign. Once a company is struck off there is no longer a legal entity that can be chased for debts. It is a tidy trick used by unscrupulous rogue traders like Nigel and his friends. However it can be fought if there is proof that there is still action against the company, which there is. We intend to continue to fight this, as I know several other people are also doing.

Taking the action to communicate this story, which really only looks at a fraction of the deceit and bad-practice at play, is not something I am doing lightly. Calling out a "customer" might make prospective accounts worry that this is my normal MO potentially giving Hardknott a bad name. I hope they will understand that Moo Bar is a competitor to above board routes to market. I would hope that legal and ethical businesses will see ultimately my action is in the name of improving the lot for any decent business in the alcohol industry.

There are a lot of very reasonable and above-board pubs and bars doing things in an honest and reasonable way. It simply is not fair that this outfit is taking good business away from good places.

Yes, I'll not deny I want my pound of flesh, I can't have my money, and I do want to hurt Nigel, seriously. Baseball bats are probably not a good idea, and anyway, Nigel is using the keyboard as his weapon of choice, so why should I not do the same?

Nigel is a good bullshitter. He has various people believing the rubbish he is pumping out. However, he has robbed me of £2000. He has robbed numerous breweries of various amounts of money. He is damaging the brewing industry and my biggest fear is that he will "restructure", form a new entity and successfully trade from a new premises. I want people to know exactly the sort of person he is.


1It seems to me if you have the cash to pay for the beer you want now then you should be able to pay down a previous invoice. Once an account is in the state whereby the aged debt is shelved and future deliveries are all paid COD then a serious cash-flow problem has started. It is only a matter of time before that business goes south.

2it is worth noting that much communication with Nigel was via emails.  We have various dates in that email thread that helps us piece together and be sure about certain things.

3No, I'm not really sure what that means either.