‘It’s not the old guy in the shed anymore’: Communal brewery set to open for Manchester beer lovers

An open brewery offering people the chance to sign up and make their own beer is coming to Manchester.

Co-founders Matt Denham, 32, and Wilf Horsfall, 27, are set to launch UBREW, a simple concept in that members essentially rent space and kit and are given expert advice if needed.

The friends were taken aback by the success of their first site in London last year and decided to expand the business with the Manchester site due to open in September.

Though Matt was born in Birmingham, he grew up in Toronto where for years he took advantage of his family’s large garage to become something of an expert home-brewer.

When he returned to the UK six years ago however, he found continuing his hobby to be much more difficult.

“I struggled to find the right ingredients and enough space since – like many people – I live in a shoe-box flat in London,” said Matt.

“My flat is also pristine white and I would turn the kitchen into a brewery just about every weekend which wasn’t going down too well with my girlfriend.”

He met Wilf while working alongside him several years ago and they instantly bonded over tales of home-brewing disasters and successes.

“We talked about the idea of creating a communal brewery and decided to put it out there in a crowdfunding campaign to test it,” Matt told MM.

“Low and behold, hundreds of people signed up who were experiencing the same issues or just didn’t have the knowledge to be able to home-brew.”

After eventually pooling together enough cash to start up the business in Bermondsey, London, they soon reached full capacity with 165 groups of five and membership applications continued to flood in.

The waiting list in London now stands at over 800 and Matt admits he was surprised at not only the number of people signing up, but also the type of people.

“When we first set it up we thought that home brewers were going to flock to us,” he said.

“In actual fact, it was people who were interested in beer from all walks of life.

“In Manchester, about 30% of those who have signed up are women.

“Primarily we have young professionals and millennials so it’s not the old guy in the shed anymore, but by all means we will happily brew with them too.”

So far, UBREW have sold around 75% of their membership spaces and have trained over 1000 people so they expect to fill up the remaining slots soon with increased exposure during Manchester Beer Week.

A membership costs around £50 a month for a 50l kit and gives access to up to five people.

This includes space, equipment and expert advice but ingredients must be bought separately meaning the cost of brewing one bottle is around 80p.

The beer should stay fresh for around six to 12 months, taking roughly six weeks to brew from start to finish depending on the type.

Matt says many members down in London have even ended up creating their own brand of beer and 25 have gone on to become professional commercial brewers.

 “Some of our members down in London actually have a key to the joint and let themselves in,” he said.

“It’s worth noting that with the 50l kit you can brew 100 beers at a time so you’re going to need some help drinking all that beer.

“Members don’t need to worry about anything other than making good beer, it’s just like drinking in that it’s a community where you can spend time with mates.”

UBREW have plans to set up even more breweries across the UK in many of the major cities such as Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bristol, Brighton and Cardiff.

To sign up to UBREW in Manchester, click here.

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