Brewery all set for Nottingham festival

NEAABE111012d1, Blue monkey brewery, giltbrook. John Hickling checking the fermenting beer.
NEAABE111012d1, Blue monkey brewery, giltbrook. John Hickling checking the fermenting beer.

AS Giltbrook’s Blue Monkey Brewery celebrates its fourth anniversary, the highly-successful beer firm will feature at the Nottingham Beer Festival this weekend.

And company director John Hickling has high hopes after fighting off stiff competition from over 1,000 breweries to win four awards over the past two years.

NEAABE111012d2, Blue monkey brewery, giltbrook. One of the brewers Simon King pitching the yeast.

NEAABE111012d2, Blue monkey brewery, giltbrook. One of the brewers Simon King pitching the yeast.

The festival – the biggest of its kind in the world – features breweries from across the East Midlands and two years ago, when Blue Monkey was just one-year-old, John scooped the Champion Beer of the festival award for his beer Guerilla.

“Our beers are on top form so I’ve got high hopes for this year,” he said.

“We have a special beer called Infinity and it would be great if that won something. I would make it one of our core beers and it would have a great story behind it.”

Branching out from just selling to pubs, John is opening up a shop in Giltbrook next month, selling directly to customers from his warehouse. On top of that, he has also just opened up his first pub in Nottingham, with plans to open up several more.

But he never anticipated his new little venture to be such an enormous success.

“It’s become a monster really,” he said. “I wanted a small operation for an easy life, but it took on a life of its own. I never had the intention of it growing this size.”

“It’s pulled me along, but now I’ve got in the swing of it I want to see where it goes.”

John put the success of the brewery down to a ‘booming’ real ale industry, and said his beers appeal to the younger generation.

Blue Monkey started in a tiny unit in Ilkeston, but out-grew it within a year and moved to Giltway Industrial Estate in Giltbrook.

John said he now needs to decide whether to move again and expand the business even further, or stay where he is.

“We spent a lot of money setting this up because the other one was too small and now it looks like we are outgrowing this.

“In a year’s time we’ll have a big decision to make. Do we stay this size or spend the money and move somewhere else to allow it to grow?” he said.

The ambitious 37-year-old launched the business after spending years in an IT job that he found boring and unfullfilling.

“I was sick of working in a corporate environment and I hated being a cog in a massive machine,” he said.

“I wanted something I could take pride in.”

The beers sold by the brewery are Original, BG Sips, 99 Red Baboons, Evolution, Ape Ale and of course the award-winning Guerrilla.

They put on at least one special per month, and have brought Infinity back for the festival this weekend.

The Nottingham Beer Festival started on Thursday at Nottingham Castle and Blue Monkey anticipates it will sell over 4,000 pints over the course of the three day event.