Miranda Hudson and her American partner Derek Bates are behind Duration, a farmhouse brewery based in Norfolk. Like so many businesses, breweries had their world turned upside-down by Covid, but here Miranda explains how they managed to turn things round with the help of ‘tap days’ – and the right support
Set up in 2017 as a nomadic brewery by Miranda Hudson and her American partner Derek Bates, Duration is a multi-award winning, modern farmhouse brewery based at Abbey Farm in the historic ruins of West Acre priory, in the Nar Valley. Miranda met experienced brewer and chef Derek while travelling in the US and they decided to start their own brewhouse after embarking on a tour of pubs and breweries along its eastern seaboard.
Renovating the Grade II listed property on a scheduled monument site was complex, so it wasn’t until December 2019 that it began producing beer – just three months before Covid-19 arrived and decimated the hospitality industry. Pubs and restaurants were forced to close, and customers turned to their phones and laptops to order food and drink. That meant Duration had to refocus its operation, pivoting from brewery to shop and event management, and increasing its warehouse and production capacity.
In April 2021, a dog and family-friendly taproom was opened from the barrel store where people could enjoy an al fresco drink along with some street food. Known as Tap Days and taking place each Friday and Saturday, the occasions proved such a hit that a permanent taproom is now in the offing. Other imaginative strands of the business meanwhile include yoga and beer sessions.
Co-founder and Managing Director Miranda explains: ‘With pubs opening and closing during Covid it was very hard to generate income. As a brewery, we were not forced to close our doors but our route to market was squashed.
Duration found itself selling direct to the public rather than pubs and was hampered by various shortages and an overwhelmed courier network. But with the support of New Anglia Growth Hub adviser Chris Sharman, the company accessed a series of grants which enabled it to expand its production capacity, as well as buy iPads, seats, tents and other items for Covid-safe table service and events.
‘Chris carefully understands your specific business to find the right funding for you,’ says Miranda. ‘He was very proactive and helped us to access the Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme, the West Norfolk Small Business Grant and the Plans for the Future Grant. So those three combined gave us around £100,000 and some of that was for operations, not just new assets.’
‘We could not get hold of aluminium to produce tins and we ran out of cardboard for deliveries. There was also a shortage of CO2 which so much of our brewery runs off and we need it to clean our equipment. So, we faced lots of challenges. But things like Tap Days really helped us to generate income and keep trading and without the grants we would not have had the money to do that.’
She continues: ‘We have definitely reached new customers and drinkers. People who could no longer go to the pub realised that they could buy from breweries, whereas before they would go to a farm shop or a beer specific bottle shop, so lots of discoveries have been made.’
New Anglia Growth Hub has provided businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk with more than 60,000 hours of support and helped them access £32.5m in grants and funding, since it was established in 2014. It offers free, impartial advice and its experienced advisers are drawn from a diverse range if sectors.
‘It’s been super supportive and beneficial to us as a small business, especially due to the extra funds made available because of the pandemic,’ says Miranda. ‘I would definitely recommend the Growth Hub to other businesses.’
Duration Tap Days take place at the barrel store every Friday and Saturday, 12-6pm; the Brewery Kiosk ‘cellar door’ opens weekdays 9am-5pm for take out beers (and during Tap Days); Brewery Tour & Beer Tastings take place on the first Saturday of the month, at 3pm; and Yoga & Beer Sessions take place on the first Saturday of the month, at 11am. To speak to a New Anglia Growth Hub adviser about your business, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 333 6536.