Flavourly chats with BAD Co. Head Brewer Paul Holden-Ridgway about the brewery’s origins, inspirations and future.
Craft beer is about identity. An identity of independence, of community and of having the best drink you possibly can. That is what it takes for a brewery to set itself apart from the multinational beer corporations and compete with them from a grass roots level. And this is what North Yorkshire’s BAD Co. Brewing and Distilling are all about.
Inspired by a trip to America and the beers and breweries that he encountered, Head Brewer Paul Holden-Ridgway decided to start his own company with the fiercely independent values that his stateside counterparts showed him. Playing about with different recipes in the back of his pub, word soon got round about Paul’s creations and a local brewing club began to take shape.
Supply couldn’t keep up with demand and he needed to learn the ropes of the industry rather than just teaching himself. After getting a job in a local brewery, Paul met David Brown, a local businessman with a passion for craft beer and a knowledge of the industry. And so, BAD Co. was born.
That was back in 2014, and within three years the team has grown from three to 15.
It’s still growing, as more and more people try BAD’s British brews with an American stamp. Paul explained that US breweries like Lancaster Brewing, Dogfish Head and Left Hand Brewing all set an inspirational bar for them to reach for.
This quest to be ranked among the big names in craft is central to the company’s ethos: “Our passion for craft beer defines us and runs through everyone that works for us. We are passionate about every element of our business and driven by our relentless quest to produce British craft beer that rivals the best in the world!”
“Our passion for craft beer defines us and runs through everyone that works for us.”
The American hop-heavy, experimental style has proved to be a success across the craft brewing world, and BAD Co. is no exception. Their first brew was an early version of what is now called Dazed and Confused. A velvety Milk Stout, it was inspired by the kind of beers Paul found across the pond and the latest recipe has found its way into their core range.
Their current best-seller is their sessionable Pale Ale, the 3.8% Comfortably Numb and Paul told us why he thinks that is: “It’s not only due to the massively popular trend towards pale ales, but also due to its fruity, fresh, hoppy flavour for such a low gravity beer.”
The core range also includes a few other notable gems. Love Over Gold is a refreshing Blonde that combines bitter orange notes and a citrus fruit tang, perfect with fish and salad dishes. Satisfaction is a soulful Brown Ale that packs a punch at 6.7%, while at the other end of the scale is the sessionable grapefruit pale Slow Rider at only 2.7%. If that wasn’t enough, the staple range also includes an Oatmeal Pale Ale, and Wild Gravity – BAD’s stalwart IPA.
As this roster goes to show, BAD Co. are believers in the old adage of variety being the spice of life. Part of this is down to the team’s constant eye on what is going down in the craft brewing world. When deciding on a new recipe, Paul tells Flavourly, “we try to keep up to date with what’s going on elsewhere and a lot of our new brews are influenced by happenings in the States, but also changes in the British market as well.” This often involves taking an experimental approach.
“It’s hugely important, not only to experiment but also to brush up on the latest knowledge from the industry leaders. We look to be experimental as much as we can and in the past have done this through a range of specials and experimental brews. This year’s schedule is already planned; so watch this space!”
“It’s hugely important, not only to experiment but also to brush up on the latest knowledge from the industry leaders.”
In the past, these specials have included a series of seasonal beers, such as Elf Juice – a spiced beer with with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Similarly, Summer Breeze is a pale ale with a twist; combining refreshing lime and mint, it’s the beer equivalent of a mojito.
All this has meant that BAD’s drinks and brand are getting noticed. Several of the core range have won awards at home in Yorkshire and a little further afield. Paul was excited to inform us that “just the other week we were entered into the Dublin Beer Cup and managed to come out with 7 medals across different categories against some of the breweries we have been inspired by in the past.”
There’s more exciting drinks in the pipeline, too. “Later this year, we’re releasing our first lager as part of a pilot project to dip our toes into the market. It’s been a long time coming and we’ve worked hard to make sure we sit well alongside the techniques and traditions used in German & Czech brewing to get the best out of our brew.”
And it’s not just beer that’s planned. The keen of eye may have noticed that BAD stands for Brewing and Distilling. Unfortunately for us, however, exactly what spirit is being distilled will remain secret for the time being. “Distilling has always been on the agenda here at BAD, but before we get to this we want to make sure we nail the brewing side first and not leave a job half done!”
“Distilling has always been on the agenda here at BAD, but before we get to this we want to make sure we nail the brewing side first”
As the British Beer market becomes an ever-busier place, we asked Paul what sort of challenges small craft breweries like BAD Co. face. “Whether its equipment or recipe development, it’s always hard to stay ahead of the curve,” he explains. “We constantly invest in both equipment and time for development to make sure we stay as current as possible”.
He sees, however, the presence of craft titans like Brewdog and Beavertown as only beneficial to the scene. “It’s great to see so many breweries challenging with innovative interesting recipes. It’s a great time to be in craft beer.” As for the future of British brewing? “Today’s drinkers will continue to turn their back on big mainstream brands as they search for smaller craft brands and styles they enjoy. The existing share of craft volume of the total beer market will continue to grow and the drinker will have a vibrant and relevant choice of craft beers. That has got to be a good thing.”
We can only agree. BAD are proud to be part of this movement, and with innovative beers and a strong brand ethos, they could just be Britain’s next big brewery.
Originally published in Issue 2 of our Flavourly magazine. Written by William Moss.