A self-confessed ‘session drinker’ whose taste in beer was influenced by three years studying agriculture at Newcastle University in the heart of ‘Broon Dog’ country, Duncan recruited head brewer Jamie Simm to be the creative genius behind Long Man even before the paint was dry on the brewery walls.
Previously with the award-winning Royal Tunbridge Wells Brewery, Kent, he was intrigued by the chance to influence production all the way from plough to pint.
Jamie says: “Not only does it offer a level of control which only a handful of other brewers have, but it is also environmentally sustainable. Ultimately, the choice of variety is Duncan’s to make and I certainly wouldn’t tell a third generation farmer how to grow it, but he does involve me and we do regularly inspect the fields together. I can literally jump in the car and drive up to take a look at the barley, and we do.”
Now a partner in the business with Duncan and Steve Lees, he steered Long Man to success in last year’s Beer Awards, where all four of the beers entered came away with medals to add to the hat-trick the brewery picked up at the International Beer Challenge a month earlier.
This year, it’s aiming for the beer Oscars, the International Brewing Awards, held every two years, where it will come up against some of the best in the world.
Although the brand was deliberately designed to appeal to the biggest bandwidth of drinkers, maintaining quality is a deceptively skilful task.
Jamie says: “To begin with, I focused on producing the beers which would help establish the brand – best bitter, pale ales, etc. Now I hope Long Man is known for producing quality cask ales, most of which are fairly traditional ‘cooking’ bitters. This is something I am very proud of because the key to well-executed beers like these is balance.
“The weird and wacky are good at winning awards and making a lot of noise, but with the traditional session beers like ours, there’s no place to hide.”
About 20 per cent (100 tonnes) of all the Propino spring malting barley produced on-farm goes into Long Man beers.
Such hyper-local provenance is a big part of the brewery’s marketing story, which is becoming increasingly important if they are to realise their ambition of becoming a national and even international brand.
Carving out a space for the nine beers which the brewery has so far produced among the 11,000 or so real ales shouting for attention in the UK is no easy task, although the 19 awards they have already lifted helps.