From hairdressing to brewing - the origins of the Ulverston Brewing Company

PUBLISHED: 00:00 31 October 2016

LAN Nov16 Ulverston Brewery

LAN Nov16 Ulverston Brewery

milton haworth

Ten years ago Ulverston’s Anita Garnett swapped the world of hairdressing for a life in brewing and has never looked back.

Anita Garnett with her pink and black barrel, which are often a talking point when people spot them and are popular for weddingsAnita Garnett with her pink and black barrel, which are often a talking point when people spot them and are popular for weddings

‘Brewing is not that much different to hairdressing. You’re still creating something that people enjoy, and you get the same buzz when you hear praise about your work.’

It may not the most obvious analogy, but the premise is certainly the same. So when Anita Garnett, co-owner of Ulverston Brewing Company, swapped 25 years of blow dries for buying hops, the only thing she really missed was the daily gossip in the salon.

‘It sparks a bit of conversation when you say you’re a brewer,’ explained Anita, who up until 2012 was in charge of all the brews in the business. It is now in the safe hands of her partner, Paul Swann, and Anita looks after the design and admin. ‘When I was a hairdresser, people were nonplussed. But it was almost a shock to people, as when I started brewing it was very much a man’s world. People respected you. It was quite exciting to be a female brewer.’

Back in the 15th century, female brewers – brewsters or alewives as they were known then – were the norm before the profession was later taken over by men. The water in medieval Britain was often contaminated making beer the drink of choice, and it was up to the women to brew good ale. Often gentlemen of the house would marry his alewife if she brewed excellent beer, to help keep them there. Now, there are more and more female brewers starting up businesses, and the professional is going full circle.

Anita Garnett and Paul SwannAnita Garnett and Paul Swann

So how exactly did Anita start brewing? She explained that Paul had always been into beer, so when Hartley’s brewery in Ulverston closed he was really upset. ‘My hairdressing clients were getting older and when my younger sister passed away from cancer, it made me realise life is too short. In the end we decided if someone else beat us in opening a new brewery, we would be annoyed. So I sold the business and we launched the brewery.’

In 2006, the duo – along with a second hand brewing kit – set up in an old winding shed just outside Ulverston in Lindal. They didn’t want to invest in a permanent space until they knew what they were brewing was worth selling. Four years later they purchased the Old Auction Mart, an abandoned Victorian building dating back to 1875 which was purpose built as cattle market.

‘It was nice to be able to put the cattle market back into use. It took us just under one year to get it up to standard. We also got a state-of-the-art 12bbl brew kit from Vincent Johnson of Johnson Brewing Design in Bury.’

Paul then left his job and joined the brewery full time in 2012. ‘To a certain extent, I do miss brewing, but the new kit is a similar set up as Paul’s old gas terminal engineer job so he knows what he’s doing – I’m paranoid I would do it wrong!’ said Anita, who is still involved in all the recipe formulations. Most recently, the brewery has created four seasonal new recipes to celebrate their decade of success. The most recent is Perfect Day, a pale ale, with the next being Forever Autumn.

Anita Garnett and Paul SwannAnita Garnett and Paul Swann

The Old Auction Mart isn’t the only link to Ulverston heritage that the brewery has. Their regular beers are all named after Laurel and Hardy films, due to the town’s most famous son, Stan Laurel, being born there in 1890. Even the fermentation vessels are named Laurel and Hardy.

‘Every brewery has to have something unique for them to stand out in what is becoming a very busy market. If you would have asked me ten years ago how we would be doing, I would have no way expected to be where we are now.

‘As well as the local pubs in the area, we also stock two pubs in Wales and one in Glasgow. Most recently we won the Sussex beer festival with our beerr, Fra Daivio. I think meant more than winning a local award as we are being judged solely on taste – nobody knows us down there.’

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