How did we get here?
We’ve only gone and bloody done it, we’re building our dream!
A little over a year ago in a derelict barn with little more than an idea, we shared our vision to a room full of local people. After a year of grit and charm as we find ourselves almost ready to start our huge building project at a beautifully idyllic farm in Norfolk, we ask ourselves how did we get here ready to ‘Bet The Farm’?
Here’s how in 15 fail safe steps (pah!)
How did we get here?
Duration Brewing has a clear and simple vision: To use hyper local ingredients to make farmhouse ales and fresh beers that reflect the land to which they belong. With a taproom and a visitor centre (eventually) at our north Norfolk site we will invite the discerning and inquisitive alike to come pull up a chair at the farm and appreciate a beer direct at the source.
1. Leave your job and all known security
Just over a year ago we dedicated ourselves full time to this project, leaving behind the jobs we loved to reach for a life’s ambition – Bates left his position as Head Brewer for a popular London Brewery, Brew By Numbers (our collaboration brew with them launches in a few weeks) and I (Miranda) stepped down as CEO of a charity empowering women and girls past sex trafficking and stopped renovating houses for clients in London. We both loved what we did, but had set our sights on a new life.
We kept an income coming in by running an airbnb out of the upstairs of our home. It hasn’t been easy juggling and adapting our lives to make room for an all encompassing passion project. We didn’t know at the outset if we’d get to this point. It’s undoubtedly the hardest path either of us have travelled, going from secure incomes to a tumultuous winding road of big hopes and fears, complete uncertainty and testing times. But, miraculously, by placing one foot ahead of the other and never ever giving up, we have got to this point and there is absolutely no turning back.
We’ve literally ‘Bet The Farm’ and tied ourselves to this ship.
On this day, exactly one year ago, with the support of a great mentor in Paul Jones from Cloudwater Brew Co and with a small crew of close friends, we held an event and first said our idea out loud. We had nothing but an idea and determination.
Now we are about embark on a 6-8 month construction project to build our dream, transforming a derelict old barn amidst the ruins of a 12th century priory site into a destination farmhouse brewery.
2. Keep looking for ways forward
Since that sunny April day when we pitched our idea, a continual dialogue has been going on with any and all interested parties. We’ve rallied support and built momentum. We’ve dealt with each hurdle practically, learning as we go and trusting that we WILL find all the solutions we need. It’s been relentless, exhilarating and rewarding and each step has brought us closer to bringing our idea into being. All the while we’ve worked hard with one objective at the fore – to make the brewery fit the site and the project fit our budget without compromising the dream.
3. Travel the country
We have travelled cross country and across seas to some of the most innovative breweries around and made 12 beers and counting in collaboration. Thanks to our generous host breweries we have something with which to put ourselves and our idea out in to the world for all to taste. We have travelled for collaborations, to meet potential investors and to gain experience from other breweries. We have also had more site meetings then we can count clocking up 1000’s of miles on the 200 mile round trip, often done in a day, from our current home in London. All the while keeping our daughter in school and running our busy home as a guest house on airbnb.
4. Figure out the details
Taking stock right before the building works start it’s bloody amazing to think of all we have achieved in one short year.
- Obtained planning permission and grade II* listed building consent from seven separate bodies including the Secretary of State and Historic England. (Our conditions stretch from building homes for protected species of bats to designing a membrane bioreactor water purification system to recycle water and discharge less waste water cleanly in to the nearby river).
- Designed around limitations – we can’t dig more then 2 feet down and we can’t dislodge a single stone or brick.
- Obtained 2 rural development grants from DEFRA (along with our landlord) to develop the site to bring employment and farm diversification to the region.
- Accepted and welcomed by the UK beer industry who have shared advice, written about us, opened up their breweries for collaborations and been kind enough to stock our beers when we’ve had them.
5. Be bold
Coming in at a certain scale with a clear vision AND saying it out loud – it kind of puts a no-turning-back approach to things and we are ok with that. Bates is creatively ambitious and technically strong and I am determined and tenacious around a challenge so it was go big or go home from the minute we first shared our idea. It’s a compellingly real approach where everything focuses on delivery. Duration is an ambitious venture that needs significant funding. Thankfully the project was awarded a double grant which will help with the site development and miraculously we have managed to raise our project’s budget retaining a 75% stake. We pitched at the site – it sold itself – to local people we felt could align to our vision and see the bigger picture.
6. Design the smartest plan you can
We opted for a high end German kit to keep labour costs down and encourage a committed workforce and skilled brewers to our remote site. Plus we opted for a koelschip and wood division to really allow for provenance in our offering. We believe our supporters understand that our model strives for profit with a capped growth model, thinking laterally to margins not volume while enabling maximum creativity; we are putting all our life savings in to the mix and have asset finance agreed on our brew kit and canning line. It’s a big punt but one that we feel is worth the risk to have a lifestyle business we can grow old in and to hopefully shape the UK beer scene with.
7. Get a visionary
Our brewer Bates was Head Brewer at Brew By Numbers, London and has great pedigree as a brewer, butcher and chef. You could Bates loves the complete offering and has been behind many food and beverage success stories in the UK and the US where he is from (South Carolina). It is undoubtedly his vision that has helped shape Duration’s identity.
8. Get a Producer
It then came to me (Miranda – a gig economy type that has worked in production across many creative fields including theatre, photography and architecture) to make it possible – I took the challenge of pulling together a raw concept and shaping it into a strategised plan. Nothing ventured nothing gained right? So I resolved to make Duration viable, tangible and visible.
We are the two key people behind Duration, but there is absolutely no way this project would have got anywhere at all without the support of the community that has literally flocked round us – the fuel to our determination, formed of people who know us well and, remarkably, people who don’t.
9. Always believe
Belief is a crazy power. Our gaze has stayed firmly focused on our end goal using belief. We’ve got complete conviction in what we are doing and have used that to trust in ‘Power of Yes’ as we’ve sheepishly asked for collabs – that people will believe in the project and say yes! We’ve also deployed ‘The Subtle Art Of Not Giving a Fuck’ when we’ve come up against seemingly unsurpassable obstacles – because to reach our goal, we have to find a way. We’ve deployed a lot of grit and charm and sheer bloody mindedness to keep going. We’ve been spurred on by a growing number of supporters both close to home and at large that we’ve found purely through sharing our idea.
10. Find the right supporters
Our family and friends have pulled out every stop offering full encouragement, welcomed distractions and practical support. The local community in Norfolk have heartily welcomed us, from West Acre villagers who came around slowly to the idea of change, to influential businesspeople and councillors who have shown the project enthusiasm and offered us an open handshake. The UK beer community has also embraced us, as excited for the project as we are it seems. From established brewers offering experiential based advice and inviting us to make beers with them, to the wider industry of beer lovers, sellers and marketers, who in person and across social media have got excited about the project and helped let the beer world know we are coming.
11. Get the fear
The prospect of failure is ever present with any ambitious project – ours has huge upfront costs and a tight cash flow but stopping now is not an option. We can’t say we’re not bricking it half the time, but that’s natural and it actually keeps us on our toes (and up half the night, most nights). We feel duty bound to our financiers, friends and family, ourselves, our supporters and the beer loving public to do our damnedest to build Duration right and to make it a roaring success. We just have to keep telling ourselves fear is a positive stress. Fear can encourage us to succeed. It can over power you if you let it, but in context our problems are all good problems to tackle! This project is also no longer ours alone, we’ve been carried by support (tinged with fear) and we hope to be good custodians steering a project that has been shaped by the belief of so many people.
We have some busy months ahead and we can’t wait until the day we are making beer at our own facility and inviting all the wonderful people who have invested belief in Duration to come along to our opening party. So many collab brews to return and so many good times ahead on the farm – a family place where we will make sure everyone feels welcome at. There is some imaginary point in the future where we know our hard work will have been worth it, it will never reach a full stop because the journey is the destination and we are trying to enjoy each step, however nerve racking.
12. Say thank you….a lot
We often hear ourselves giving huge thanks to everyone that has got behind this idea. If you are reading this and you don’t think we’ve said it enough please know we are immensely thankful. Without you all it wouldn’t be happening. So many people have taken the time and energy to share their enthusiasm and we’ve felt so much excitement for the project. So many individuals and organisations and companies have invested time, energy, skills, reputation and hard earned cash into this project and we are incredibly grateful. THANK YOU.
13. Share news when you have it
We’ve got on to social media and shared our news as we’ve been getting it. We’re going to make this blog a monthly occurrence to share each new chapter of our exciting adventure as it ramps up a little more. From the first round sign in, through to the building project, a lot is about to happen, hopefully through to having an operational brewery and a super-dooper launch party we can invite you all along to.
14. Remain yourself
We want to be as transparent and honest as possible and share the journey for all that wish to be on it with us. Please ask us any questions using the comments section and let us know what you’d like to hear about.
15. Now build it and hope for the very best!
We haven’t got a catchy title yet but we’ll be sharing the floor plans and showing you the site layout including the brew house and cool ship.