Mad Squirrel is a forward thinking, contemporary brewery based just outside of London at the foot of the Chiltern Hills. From humble beginnings in 2010 the business has continually grown and evolved, often in unexpected ways, to become one of the leading breweries in the region. Mad Squirrel currently produces around 2 million pints annually with a focus on unfiltered beers for maximum flavour.”
Mad Squirrel Brewery was established in 2010 by Directors Greg Blesson and Jason Duncan-Anderson. Originally called Red Squirrel, the first brew kit was installed in Unit 24 Boxted Farm, in Potten End, a small village between the towns of Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. Initially, production was focussed exclusively on traditional style British cask ales.
To begin with business was slow, with the company producing around 50,000 litres in its first year of trading. But over the next couple of years sales and production began to grow. In 2011 and 2012 the brewery won the CAMRA Hertfordshire Beer of the year competition with London Porter (5.0%) which helped boost local sales significantly. Alongside this the brewery was becoming a regular feature on respected bars in London, with pubs such as The Harp in Covent Garden ordering every week.
2013 proved a pivotal year for the company for a number of reasons. Early in the year the brewery began to produce a couple of beers in keg, mostly for use within its own taproom at the brewery. In the summer of 2013 Red Squirrel opened their first town centre outlet: The Brewery Shop. The concept was a specialist beer off-license with a dual on-license and bar, so that customers could enjoy beers to both drink in and takeaway. This was opened in the town of Chesham, Buckinghamshire, about 8 miles from the brewery itself. The concept proved so popular that the brewery would go on to open other branches of the The Brewery Shop, all in towns across Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, over the next few years.
At the start of 2014 the brewery underwent an expansion in order to keep up with demand. Throughout the rest of the year and 2015 it continued to expand its repertoire of beers, slowly incorporating more keg beers and more contemporary styles.
By 2016 production had been maxed out again (now at 250,000 litres per year) and the company was now operating 4 Brewery Shop outlets. By this point the range of beers had expanded well beyond the confines of traditional cask ales and also included lagers, wheat beers, contemporary style IPA’s and more. It was becoming increasingly obvious that the branding as Red Squirrel, which was very traditional, did not sit as well alongside such modern beers. Drastic plans needed to be implemented in order to move the company up to the next level.
At the start of 2017 it was announced that the company was completely retiring the Red Squirrel name and rebranding as Mad Squirrel. Alongside the new name came a new visual identity, an overhaul of the beer range, a rebrand of The Brewery Shops to Mad Squirrel Tap & Bottle Shops.
At the same time as announcing the rebrand the company also revealed that it would be moving to a much bigger unit (unit 18) on Boxted Farm and would be installing a completely new, much bigger brewery, complete with a canning line, laboratory, chilled warehouses, an on-site Tap & Bottle Shop and more. The new brewhouse, built by American Brewing Equipment and shipped over from Nevada, was commissioned in September 2017. Throughout 2018 and 2019 Mad Squirrel has continued to push itself forwards, building its presence in the on-trade, opening more of its own outlets, attending beer festivals across the country and beginning to export. At the start of 2019 the addition of 3 triple brew (9,000 litre) tanks were installed at the brewery to keep up with demand. Recent growth has been particularly driven by one key brand: $UMO (4.7%), Mad Squirrel’s flagship APA is brewed with Summit and Mosaic hops and served unfiltered, unfined and naturally hazy on keg. $UMO accounts for 30% of the breweries production and is permanently listed in over 100 bars and pubs across London and the Home Counties alongside several key restaurant listings. The brewery is on track to produce 1 million litres in 2020 (with production split 60% keg, 25% cask and 15% small pack). The chain of Mad Squirrel Tap & Bottle Shops is now up to 6 in total (with branches in Amersham, Chesham and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, and Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead and St. Albans in Hertfordshire) with the planning stages for the 7thsite now underway. The Tap & Bottle Shops account for about 20% of the breweries volume, with the rest going to trade, predominantly across the South East of England, but increasingly further afield.