If you have been living under a rock for the past little while (it’s okay, we forgive you..) or one of your New Year’s resolutions was to delve into the dreamy world of craft beer (in which case, we salute you..) then this piece is for you. We recently caught up with the fantastic James Cuthbertson (Managing Director), to bring to you a little insight into the phenomenal success story of The Dark Star Empire.
For any Dark Star newbies out there, can you tell us more about the brand?
We’re a Sussex based Craft Brewer. We were born in Brighton in the cellar of the Evening Star pub back in 1994. In 2010 we moved to a farm in Ansty (near Haywards Heath) before moving to the site in Partridge Green, just south of Horsham in 2010, where we are now. We produce over 20 different beers each year from our 3.8% Golden Ale, Hophead to our 10.5% Imperial Stout. We have always been a brewer known for our creativity that has seen us brew beers like Crème Brulee and ‘Not into Yoga’ -a beer brewed in the style of a Pina Colada.
How did you get Dark Star off the ground?
Like most great ideas, it was born in the pub. Initially, it was a bunch of guys cashing in ISA’s, pension plans and any savings they had to put a very small brewery in the cellar of the Evening Star Pub in Brighton, but it wasn’t long until demand outstripped supply and bigger premises was needed.
Would you say The Real Ale industry is booming and why?
It’s enjoyed about 10 years of very good growth, but with pubs still closing at a rate of circa 10 a week (depending on what stats you believe) and more brewers opening, I expect times to be a bit tougher for the Craft Beer market going forward. That said, there’s never been a better time to drink beer, there are so many great brewers brewing an eye-watering range of beers – there really is something for everyone.
Talk to us about Hopfest.
About seven years ago we decided to have a party and see if anyone wanted to join us. We thought that the end of the hop harvest would be a good time to do it and it would be great to have a wide selection of beers and music, so in the Autumn 2012, ‘Hopfest’ was born. Now, each year people in their hundreds come to the brewery to enjoy live music, beer and BBQ with all profits going to the Dark Star Foundation www.darkstarbrewing.co.uk/foundation
When did you know it was the right time to venture into pubs under The Dark Star name?
It’s a well-worn path with brewers, first you build the brewery then you secure an estate to sell your beer through. We were also lucky enough to have Heath Ball around to run them – Heath’s pub, The Red Lion and Sun in Highgate was recently named the UK’s Best Pub, but we knew that Heath ran the best pubs long before his award, so we were delighted when he agreed to work with us to launch our estate of pubs.
What’s next for you guys?
We have three big projects that we want to complete in 2019. Firstly, we are installing a canning line into the brewery in January to help us make the most of the rise on craft beer in cans. We are also building a Barrel Aging Room to lay some beer down for a while before bottling later in 2019 and beyond. Finally, we’ll be opening our Tap Room in the brewery and will host lots of events once in action mid-2019.
To find out more about Dark Star, their shop, epic pubs and history, click here.