(Main Image L-R Mike Bignall, Runcorn Linnets, Kirsty Walker, Lady Sinks The Booze, Noah Torn, Chapter Brewing)
In the midst of heated debates about the reach of craft beer and whether it is pricing out ordinary drinkers, grass roots community efforts to get craft into the hands of those who might never try it often go unnoticed. Well not here they don’t! I am all about ‘very local’ content and I am also about blowing my own trumpet (I don’t play the trumpet, I play the accordion, but ‘squeezing my own accordion’ has never caught on, despite my efforts).
Some time last August I visited local brewery Chapter at the invitation of head brewer Noah Torn, and whilst relating to my good friend Mike Bignall the high quality and innovative beer range I found there, he mentioned that he would like to have a local brewery supply a repackaged ale to the Runcorn Linnets new clubhouse – an enterprise which fell under his responsibility. I made the necessary introductions, took my payment of 1 (one) free bottle, and Linnets Ale was born. Brewed by Chapter (it is, in fact, Parabola, their 4.7% APA), and with a logo designed by a Linnets committee member, it is, as Mike puts it, “As Runcorn as you can get”. It also has the url of this very blog on the bottle. (Just squeezing my own accordion there).
The ale has been massively successful for Linnets, and has led to the club adding another one of Chapter’s brews to the fridge – Tired Eyes camomile wheat beer. At the clubhouse launch I noted Mike telling each customer that they had added a new line from the same brewer, and the majority opted for it without question. They trust Chapter now, the brewery is part of the gang, and so a little non-league clubhouse, where the bar is two tables in front of a few fridges, has become the sole Runcorn stockist of a brewery based in the town. This seems a ridiculous state of affairs seeing as this is an award winning brewery of which the local area should be proud.
Visiting supporters are also keen on the beer, and Runcorn are not the first club even in non-league terms to sell their own branded ale. It’s an interesting niche market for small breweries who are looking to get their product into peoples hands without having to negotiate with large distributors to get into a Wetherspoons, or spend valuable brewing time going to individual pubs and giving it the hard sell. In Chapter’s case they are expanding to keep up with demand and you can find their beer all over the country. They don’t need to be in the local pubs, but quite why those pubs and bars are not approaching them is a mystery to me – drinkers love a very local beer, as has been proven by the number of times Linnets has run low on bottles.
The clubhouse has been a great addition to the facilities at Runcorn Linnets, who are currently 10 points clear at the top of the Hallmark Security League, and the partnership between Linnets and Chapter has been mutually beneficial. It’s heartening to see that Breweries and venues are still quietly getting on with promoting craft beer in new markets – maybe that’s where beer lovers, brewers and vendors alike can take inspiration.
Runcorn’s next home match is on Saturday March 3rd against Squires Gate.