Dark Star shifts ‘some’ Hophead production to Fuller’s

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Transparency is key: the brewery is not hiding where its Hophead is produced
Transparency is key: the brewery is not hiding where its Hophead is produced
Sussex brewery Dark Star has confirmed that some of its flagship Hophead pale ale is being produced in London at Fuller’s Griffin Brewery.

The brewery, which was bought​ by Fuller’s in February, is sending its brewing team to Chiswick, west London, to oversee production of Hophead on Fuller’s brewing set-up, but is also continuing to produce the 3.8% ABV beer at its Partridge Green site.

Dark Star managing director James Cuthbertson, who previously described​ the sale to Fuller’s as ‘a natural fit’ said that brewing Hophead in London was a necessity to ease pressure on production in Sussex.

“We need to brew quite a bit of Hophead, and if we can move some of the volume for Chiswick then that eases some of the pressure at our site,” he said. “We've been doing it for about six months now, but not really talking about it because people would be looking for the difference. We learnt the lesson when we moved into our current brewery from our old one, where we kept brewing our beers for a month at the old site. People claimed they could tell the difference, but actually it was the same beer, from the same site."

"We taste it every week against a control brewed at Partridge Green and we can't tell the difference.”

Exact figure not known

Cuthbertson could not put a figure on the exact amount of Hophead being brewed in London. “It depends on how much capacity we have at Partridge Green,” he said. "We might brew it three times a week down our way and then once a week up there.

“It was always more than half our capacity here, so it allows us to do more beers like Revelation, and new collaborations and more exciting stuff down our neck of the woods.”

“I'm pretty relaxed about the whole thing,” he added. “Because we always brew in Partridge Green every week we will always have that control to taste it alongside. We are also sending the beer off for testing as well to make sure it stays within the parameters and profile we want, which, back in the day, we would have never have done.”

“Both sets of brewers are working as a team and our brewers are leading the quality and consistency, and championing the beer, and that is the key thing for us.”

New investments made

Since the sale of the business to Fuller’s, Dark Star has been able to invest in a new canning line, barrel-ageing room and kegging line, all of which will be completed by the end of the year. Cuthbertson said that the key focus of the business would continue to be on quality over growth.

“The last thing I wanted to do was turn the switch on and be knocking out tens of thousands out of Chiswick,” he said. "We haven't even released Hophead in the full Fuller's estate yet.

“It's a beer that some would say is the best in its class and we want to take our time about it. There's no rush on their behalf to return their investment, it's more important that we do it properly.”

"We’re also about to sign new ten year lease at our existing site, so people can rest easy about the future of Dark Star in Sussex, we have some exciting plans ahead” 

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