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We Hear From the Duo Behind Hockley Helles, the Nottingham Lager Going Head-To-Head With Heineken and Amstel

8 November 21 interview: George White
photos: Ekam Hundal

We chat to Nottingham Trent University graduates Will Barratt and Al Squires - the brains behind Hockley Brew Co - about their delicious new lager, Hockley Helles, breaking into a challenging industry, and what they have planned for the future...

Nottingham is famous for its craft beer. From Magpie Brewery to Castle Rock, there are tons of tasty local options for the fine folk of this city to try out. Yet the one thing that has largely been missing is a good old lager. Luckily, Hockley Helles is here to fill that gap. 

From ex-NTU students Al Squires and Will Barratt, this crisp, refreshing drink is Nottingham’s answer to the Estrellas and Budweisers of this world. Crafted from quality malts and hops, the new bev on the block has been designed to reflect the character and vibrancy of our exciting city. “In Nottingham, there isn't really a craft lager out there,” Al says. “We wanted to bring that directly to the local scene. The drink really embodies the community spirit of Hockley.” 

Launching a lager and going toe-to-toe with multi-million pound companies is understandably a challenging prospect, though, as Al explains. “It’s a really tough industry. Some of the biggest names in the world are currently dominating it. We’re just trying to focus on our USPs - the fact it’s independent, locally brewed and good quality.” 

These unique selling points will be crucial for standing out amongst a very saturated crowd, Will continues, ensuring they offer something that giant global businesses cannot. “It’s vital that, as we grow, we don’t lose the values that we started with. That’s what happens to so many brands. For us, it’s about maintaining those values all the way through.” 

Local people are our biggest asset. If they get out there and spread the word, that always helps

One of those key values is a focus on environmental sustainability, which Will explains will always be “at the forefront” of the brand. “We’re working really hard on the sustainability side,” Al adds. “It’s a vegan lager, unpasteurised - all the things you might not get with bigger beers.” 

Taste is also of the utmost importance, with the pair looking to Bavarian brews as inspiration for a flavourful yet drinkable pilsner-style lager. Before officially launching, Al and Will underwent several rounds of testing to get the recipe spot on, making the most of the bar they’ve managed - Market Street’s Code 34 - to get instant suggestions on how to make the drink the best it can be. “We basically used the bar as a focus group for the beer,” Will laughs. “That was ideal. When creating a new product, having a set of people to trial it is so important. From there, we made the changes we needed to and got to where we are now.” 

Going forward, the good people of Nottingham will continue to play a huge part in the success of the brand. With each pour, sip and positive response, the duo will nudge closer to achieving their final goals of expanding their product across the country, stepping away from contract brewing, and taking their business to new and interesting places. “Local people are our biggest asset. If they get out there and spread the word, that always helps,” Al says. “Cities like Manchester, Bristol and London all have lots of big taphouses, and we really see that as our vision.” Another top class brewery serving up delicious drinks right on our doorstep? Sounds like heaven. 

You can find Hockley Helles on tap in bars across Nottingham, including Cock & Hoop, Percy Picklebackers, and The Castle Pub. 

hockleybrewco.com

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