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Acorn plans big growth for cask ale

Added: Saturday, November 25th 2023

Acorn

Yorkshire’s prize-winning Acorn Brewery has seen the appointment of general manager Liz Casserly to take the 20-year-old Barnsley brewery forward under new ownership.

Liz, from Penistone, joins Acorn with many years’ experience in hospitality management - and a pledge to champion cask-conditioned ale. The appointment follows the sale of the 170-barrel -- 49,000 pints -- a week brewery to investment company Sonas Capital, with the retirement of former owners Dave and Christy Hughes. Over the years Acorn has won many awards for its six strong core range, including the flagship Barnsley Bitter and revered Old Moor Porter.

Motorcyclist Liz attended Huddersfield’s Shelley High School before university, studying Outdoor Education at Cumbria’s Charlotte Mason College where she developed her love for cask working in Ambleside’s Golden Rule pub.

Following several summers spent as a canoeing and rock-climbing instructor, with winters working in Yorkshire pubs, Liz joined the York based Pivovar group at their Sheffield Tap where she worked for four years, rising to the role of Assistant Manager. During this time the on-site microbrewery ignited her passion for beer production. She then managed Abbeydale Brewery’s Sheffield Devonshire Cat beer emporium, while also overseeing the sister 13-handpump Rising Sun Inn at Fulwood. organising and constructing a four-day beer festival in the car park with some 200 beers.

In 2019 she returned to Pivovar in a human resources role to direct recruitment and training across their Tap pub chain. A post with Hickory’s Restaurants followed as head of bartending, opening three new venues prior to joining Acorn.  

Liz,40, said: ”I have a passion for hospitality, brewing and beer. I have known and loved Acorn beers for years, so I am delighted to have this opportunity to take the brewery forward, building on the past 20 successful years.”

“We have a top-class core cask range. That that doesn’t need to change, but we will look at other opportunities for development. I would really like to brew a dark  mild -- Moorhouse’s Black Cat saw me through university. We will continue to develop the highly successful single hop IPA series, perhaps with new processes. Exports are also another opportunity. We already send beer to Italy and will look at building on that within the European and Scandinavian markets.”

For the industry generally, Liz would like to see cask ale championed with more marketing initiatives -- especially to reach younger people -- and plans to work with pubs on meet the brewer evenings and education events. “Lots of young people have never sampled cask ale. I would like to see them falling in love with cask as I did when I was 18, drinking to enjoy the flavour of beers rather than simply drinking,” she adds.

Welcoming the appointment, Brendan Fitzpatrick, director of Sonas Capital, said: “In Liz, we now have a first-class general manager to lead the excellent Acorn team forward and grow the business in the face of an extremely challenging environment for both brewing and hospitality. Liz brings a wealth of management experience to the post, with the energy, enthusiasm and imagination to match these challenges.”

Acorn was founded by former chef Dave Hughes in 2003 in Wombwell on a 10-barrel brew length plant and quickly gained renown for an outstanding range of cask-conditioned ales to see expansion. Acorn brews use the unique original Barnsley Brewery yeast strain from the 1800s. Earlier this year Barnsley Bitter took the  gold overall champion at the SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) North Beer Competition. Dave Hughes has remained at the brewery temporarily as consultant since the sale to Sonas Capital in August.

Acorn core beers are:

Barnsley Bitter (3.8%abv)  - Acorn’s first brew in 2003 marries the yeast strain used by the famous original Barnsley Brewery of the 19th century with Maris Otter malt and English hops and has frequently been a finalist in the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Champion Beer of Britain (CoB) competition at the annual Great British Beer Festival. In 2006 it scooped a CoB silver award. 

Old Moor Porter (4.4%abv) - was a pioneer in the revival of this style. A splendidly full-bodied dark brown beer, there’s chocolate on the nose and then hints of liquorice, coffee and caramel on the tastebuds from crystal, black and pale chocolate malts joining with a Maris Otter malt backbone. English Challenger hops deliver a teasing hoppy bitterness before a long and rewardingly mellow finish. It has scooped brewing accolades a plenty including voted a SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) National Champion.

Acorn Gorlovka Imperial Stout (6%abv) - Gorlovka, named for Barnsley’s Ukrainian twin town, is full bodied stout, rich in roast malts and dark fruits with chocolate and coffee notes delivered in both the aroma and taste. Challenger hops add a bitter spiciness and dry finish to the fruity aftertaste. At the National Winter Ales Festival 2010 it claimed gold for its style and took the festival’s bronze accolade. 

Barnsley Gold (4.3%abv) - this award-winning golden beer has good bitterness levels, with a fresh citrus and hop aroma. A hoppy flavour throughout with a well hopped clean, dry finish. A CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain Finalist in 2004.

Yorkshire Pride (3.7%abv) - is a straw-coloured  session golden ale with well balanced with creamy malt and good bitterness level.

Acorn Blonde (4.0%abv) -  well-balanced pale ale with fruity, caramel notes and a crisp finish.

* IPAs: Acorn is acclaimed for brewing more than 150 single hop variety IPAs (India Pale Ales) since 2006 – only the hops change for each carefully crafted cask brew and each release has been warmly welcomed.

Sonas Capital is a Greater Manchester based boutique investment company specialising in developing successful small businesses (SMEs).