Paul calls time on dream job as Wigan brewery is put up for sale

The team at Martland Mill Brewery, from left, head brewer Luke Blundell, Delia Wood and Paul Wood, as the real ale brewery is up for sale. Pictured with their final ale, Ancient and Loyal and, below, a pint of their finest
The team at Martland Mill Brewery, from left, head brewer Luke Blundell, Delia Wood and Paul Wood, as the real ale brewery is up for sale. Pictured with their final ale, Ancient and Loyal and, below, a pint of their finest

A Wigan real ale brewery is up for sale after the beer enthusiasts behind it decided it was time to begin a new chapter for the business.

Martland Mill Brewery was created by Paul and Delia Wood in 2014 but new owners have now been sought for several months.

Paul said getting to run his own brewery was a dream fulfilled and had lived up to expectation but the real ale industry’s punishing work schedule meant it was time to step aside and focus on his family.

The firm produces a range of beers closely matching Britain’s time-honoured brewing tradition and this has proven a recipe for success among drinkers in the borough and across the region.

Although the brewery will move on into new hands the Tap ‘n’ Barrel, Martland Mill’s micropub in Jaxon’s Court, will still be run by Paul although it will lose its tie and become a free house.

Paul, from Swinley, is now signing off after five years at the helm with Ancient and Loyal, a hoppier brew which takes its name from Wigan’s motto and is dedicated to the people of the borough.

The 53-year-old said: “It has been everything I thought and more running a brewery, it has been a blast.

“However, it has been hard work and it has got to the stage where we want a bit of our life back.

“Delia and I have got a young daughter and it’s time to spend more quality time with her and do something that isn’t going to be as stressful. Anyone wanting to run a brewery should think about their social life because basically they won’t really have one.

“We’ve not done too badly because we have been winding things down a bit giving us more family time together.

“We always said we would do about five years and we’ve achieved that while having a lot of interest in the brewery and our beers.”

Paul says he is proud of Martland Mill’s range, which started out with golden English ales such as Lancashire Loom before branching out to creations such as red ale D-Day Dodger and the dark beer Arctic Convoy.

Martland Mill also hit the headlines in the local press when they teamed up with humorous Wigan ukulele band Chonkinfeckle to create a beer but Paul says his proudest moment of all was when they served their most high-profile ale in the corridors of power in London.

He said: “The highlight was getting our beer in the Strangers’ Bar in the House of Commons. We had come from brewing in a garage to setting up our own plant, so getting our beer there was pretty special.”

In five years on the ale scene Martland Mill has had to weather its fair share of ups and downs, with a particularly dark moment coming in 2017 when the Tap ‘n’ Barrel’s ex-manager Isaac Greenwood ended up in court after fleecing the business of more than £33,000 to fuel drink and gambling addictions.

Despite real ale probably being more popular than ever Paul says the number of firms competing for business makes it a tough place to make a living.

He also admits concern over the growing popularity of the craft-beer movement with drinkers, saying he was always determined that Martland Mill would work to continue the UK’s decades and centuries-old brewing traditions.

He said: “I’m proud of all our beers, every single one has sold well. However, the market is very challenging, it’s pretty much saturated.

“There’s a lot of competition from breweries up and down the country and you are not always going to be selling 40 to 60 barrels a week. Everybody’s fighting to get their beers on the handpumps.

“You tend to rely a lot in this game on customers coming back to order your beers again and again, and we’ve been lucky to have the Tap.

“There’s also the craft beer coming in from the States which a lot of people seem to be drinking. Our beers are proper English real ales and it’s those traditional ones I’ve wanted to produce at Martland Mill. I’m not a big lover of craft beer to be honest and I’m worried we’re going to lose a lot of our heritage.”

The final beer Paul has made for his time in charge of Martland Mill both honours the template he has set down and is also a bit of a tweak on it.

He said; “Ancient and Loyal is four per cent and has some quite strong hops in it. It’s different to what we normally do. It’s dedicated to the people of Wigan. I know we will get a lot of comments saying it’s the rugby motto but it’s been on the Wigan crest going back hundreds of years.”

Paul says he hopes whoever buys Martland Mill continues its traditions while developing the business and says there have already been a number of serious expressions of interest.

He and Delia will remain at the helm until the purchase goes through, admitting he does not know at the moment how long the process will take.

He will remain in charge at the Tap ‘n’ Barrel and intends to make the pub a showcase for the finest real ales from the region and across the country.