30 Years (2014) – Northern Monk

Having seen and spoken to Cal Richardson twice this year on the festival circuit, it’s safe to say he’s a busy man. Cal co-manages Northern Monk’s events both home and away, and Leeds International is almost the start of the end of the festival run for the year for them. Just because they’re on home turf doesn’t give them an easy ride either, all festivals pose a challenge in some way, shape or form.

Cal and I first spoke at Big Foot Festival in Warwickshire back in June, one of the first festivals able to proceed in a post-lockdown world. They had a great little spot near the woodlands with a gazebo bar and their Faith ice cream truck pitched up next to it, which looked ace. Sadly, the truck had other ideas after making the near 150 mile trip and decided it decided it wanted to be a showpiece rather than function (we all have those days.) Thankfully, LIBF seemed to pose fewer problems for Cal and co. with a spot inside the main hall sided by a merch stand including foam fingers. Their biggest problem seemed to be running out of beer as, during our two sessions, beers did keep dropping off the list but there’s worse problems to have.

It shows that since their inception in 2014, Northern Monk’s popularity and demand for their beers is stronger than ever. With expansions and improvements frequently taking place across their two sites in the centre of Leeds, their reach and growth showing no signs of slowing down. Their Refectory site in Manchester was their first step outside of Yorkshire and it’s believed that they have their eyes set on hitting the capital in the near future too.

Cal offered us an insight into this year’s Hop City and the challenges his team faced trying to deliver an event in still uncertain times. From serving in plastic cups, to having the festival outdoors to allow some level of distancing he said he hopes he doesn’t have to do anything like this again with 2022’s festival looking more familiar to ones previous. Hopefully with some familiar characters from across the pond once things have settled down too!

The challenges he, and the brewery, have faced over the last 18 months haven’t stopped there though, with Cal finding himself on furlough in the height of lockdown. Whilst sitting at home playing his guitar was a nice break from brewery life, it was short lived after he was called back into action within the brewery to help see them through. As with many roles in this industry, it’s unlikely you stick to your role solely, with Cal soon drafted in to help with online orders and deliveries. Thankfully, he and many others have returned to the brewery since things have eased off further, and hopefully the damage done has been limited as much as possible.

But just because festival season may be slowing down, doesn’t mean he gets an easy ride until it all kicks off again. He already has his eyes on events well into 2022, making up for lost time, whilst the Refectory has its own events lined up for the remainder of 2021. What is in store, he couldn’t say, but he’s told to us to keep a watchful eye on their social channels for more details in the coming weeks.

Having missed out on this year’s Hop City festival, it has been some time since I paid the Monk crew a visit. Despite coming under some criticism (in particular for their eye-watering ABVs recently) I like to check-in with their OFS range when a new sour or westie grabs my attention and won’t let me leave well alone. Regardless of how you view them, Northern Monk are a massively influential brewery across the UK craft scene, even the international scene, with amazing events both at the brewery and in the field. Here’s to them and the likes of Cal who manage to make these things happen.

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