Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales was established in 1991 in the hamlet of Holme on Swale, situated on the banks of the River Swale in the Vale of Mowbray. The White Horse on the Hambleton Hills can been seen from the brewery.
Nick Stafford was made redundant twice within seven months during the worst recession since the Second World War and set out to earn a living without relocating. Despite severe underfunding, and after only a few months, awards, employment and growth were significant features of this business. Financial targets were met months early and after just three years the brewery had to be relocated within the hamlet. In 1997 Hambleton Ales gained the coveted award of CAMRA Champion Winter Beer of Britain for its Nightmare brand. Turnover is now £1.3 million.
Never compromising on quality of products or service, Nick has developed a small family business employing 9 local people and using local suppliers whenever possible. Malted barley, the main ingredient, is purchased exclusively from Fawcetts of Castleford. Needless to say, Hambleton Ales serves many local communities because it is the brewery’s business to supply Yorkshire pubs and restaurants. Private individuals are very important customers, as parties, weddings and anniversaries are constantly being celebrated with ale from its home delivery service. Local off licences are supplied, as are some supermarkets in Yorkshire. It is company policy to support local schools and sports clubs with supplies of refreshments for their fund-raising events at less than cost price.
Innovation has been the core of the brewery operation, not just in the recipes of new beers which are created every month, but also the design and manufacture of brewing and bottling equipment used exclusively by Hambleton Ales. Bottling of beers from 30 other Yorkshire breweries is undertaken by contract on a modern, fully automated production line. In 2005, Nick Stafford’s ‘Hambleton Ales Gluten and Wheat Free Ale’ (GFA) was launched. It is the first British brewed beer of its type, providing the full flavour and satisfaction expected from a beer but in a gluten free formulation. Nick Stafford spent several years researching and developing bottling and filtration techniques. His breakthrough in brewing this unique ale has presented him with the opportunity of meeting demand from the UK’s 100,000 coeliacs. There is now a sister product, GFL – a gluten free lager - and both beers are sold by Tescos and Booths supermarkets nationally.
Investment in the rapidly growing business continued in 2007 with the commissioning of a £250,000 filtration and bottling line and the opening of a £700,000 new brewery near the village of Melmerby, between Thirsk and Ripon. 2013 promises more services to brewers with the installation of ‘craft beer in keg’ washing and filling equipment and the expansion in the choice of bottle styles. The premium bottled beer market continues to grow and Nick intends to remain at the heart of it.