Food & Drink

Sips ahoy! Manchester’s steady ship Privateer Beers sets sail for boozy victory

The craft ale industry is full of great characters.

Matt Jervis, 32, from Didsbury and owner of Privateer Beers, is one of them.

I went to see him at his relatively new base under the railway arches in Temperance Street, tucked away near the Mancunian Way.

He is instantly welcoming and personable – he reminds me of Andrew Flintoff, with his laid-back demeanour and steady flow of playful banter.

We go outside and he lights up a cigarette: “So, what do you wanna know?”

Quite a lot, I thought to myself – such as how did a young man like him end up brewing over 200 gallons of ale every month?

He wastes no time in telling me about the business he started back in March 2012 at the slightly smaller premises in the same Street.

Matt was tired of running pubs for other people and watching them make all the money.

“It went wrong and left a nasty taste in my mouth,” he says.

So the thought popped into his head – why not start a pub? Or a microbrewery?

Matt carried out what he likes to call ‘a lot of market research’ – in other words, a lot of drinking.

He noticed that drinkers of real ale would often drink ales that had an alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage of over 8%.

BEER BUNKER: From where Privateer Beers set sail across the city

This meant that they could only enjoy half-pints of these ales – otherwise they would quickly be on the floor.

The aim of the new venture, then, was to create a range of ales that were under 5% ABV.

As a business model, it works perfectly.

People can buy more pints at a lower ABV because they will not get drunk too quickly – unlike with the ultra-strong ales – and they will certainly buy more if the beer tastes good.

The four Privateer ales currently doing the rounds in local pubs are Roebuck, a 3.8% amber ale; Dainty Blonde, a 4.2% pale ale; Dark Revenge, a 4.5% dark mild; and Red Duke, a 4.8% red ale.

Matt wanted to brew flavoursome ales that appealed to many people.

“Obviously, not everyone has my taste in beer – but in there somewhere, there should be something you like,” he said.

HEY THERE SHIP MATE: All Privateer Beers are named after English ships

The beers all get their names from English ships – HMS Roebuck, HMS Dainty, HMS Revenge and HMS Duke of Edinburgh – which ties in with the privateer theme.

The existence of privateers goes all the way back to the 15th century, when piracy was becoming such a problem that the crown basically granted merchant ships permission to destroy or commandeer pirate ships.

Mancunians will see the naval-themed pump handles dotted around Manchester and the North West at such venues as Sandbar on Grosvenor Street – which Matt says is well worth a visit – and at Morley’s Cheeks pub in Chorlton.

Like a touring rock band, Privateer Beers are also likely to pop up in random pubs around the region.

It is a frenetic business – as we are chatting, a pub landlord enters the beer bunker asking for a couple of casks, which Matt duly supplies.

This highlights the reality of a microbrewer’s world – you are the muscle and the face of the business.

“I own the company. I do all the deliveries. I am both the accountant, the manager, the chief executive officer and the dogsbody,” Matt jokes.

He has hired one or two people to help him, though.

This means that he is sometimes left with the boring stuff and none of the actual brewing.

NAVAL-THEMED PUMP CLIPS: Seen around bars across the region

“It’s rather annoying. Pete brews all the beer; I do all the running around.”

We chat about the industry and what it feels like to provide a nice beer for people at the end of a hard day.

Matt is glad to be the source of such happiness.

“I like to think that there are people out there, having a laugh with their mates, enjoying one of my beers. Then when I see someone groggy in the morning, I wonder if I it’s my fault!”

Matt is fundamentally a man who enjoys beer. He cannot stand what he calls ‘beer nerds’ who agonize over all the specifics of the brewing process, conditioning and storage.

According to Matt, taste is all you need to focus on.

Privateer does not enter competitions, and the idea of having ‘Award Winning Beer’ on the labels makes Matt shudder.

“The idea was, rather than [making] a beer to have a conversation about – to sit there and look at it – it was beer to lubricate the conversation. If you’re down the pub, enjoy the time with your mates.

“That was the philosophy. If you like it, you can have a lot.”

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