Brewing up a bright future

NILA 20-08-12 BE 1 North Star brewery, Furnace Road, Ilkeston. Head brewer Richard Bower checks the gravity.
NILA 20-08-12 BE 1 North Star brewery, Furnace Road, Ilkeston. Head brewer Richard Bower checks the gravity.

After 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry and at the milestone age of 50, one Ilkestonian is preparing to make the leap and take on his brewing hobby as a full-time job.

In recent ‘Tiser articles, we have looked at two fairly well-established micro-breweries in Ilkeston which are making names for themselves in the real ale industry.

NILA 20-08-12 BE 2 North Star brewery, Furnace Road, Ilkeston. Head brewer Richard Bower charging the malt.

NILA 20-08-12 BE 2 North Star brewery, Furnace Road, Ilkeston. Head brewer Richard Bower charging the malt.

But unlike Nutbrook and Muirhouse, North Star – which truly matches the description of a micro-brewery – only started producing beer in April.

In fact, owner Richard Bower still works for 3M Healthcare in Loughborough making asthma inhalers, but spends all of his free time working on beers at a tiny unit in the Furnace Road Industrial Estate.

“It was never really the right time,” he said.

“But last October I reached 50 and I hoped something different would happen.

NILA 20-08-12 BE 3 North Star brewery, Furnace Road, Ilkeston. Head brewer Richard Bower product sampling.

NILA 20-08-12 BE 3 North Star brewery, Furnace Road, Ilkeston. Head brewer Richard Bower product sampling.

“I have always wanted to set up my own brewery and my wife said, ‘go for it’.”

Visiting the brewery, it was inspirational to see someone – in tough economic times – following their dreams.

Richard explained that even as a teenager he made wine out of apples and pears from the garden and, as an apprentice at Boots in Beeston, he helped to make the firm’s brewing kits.

He continued his hobby brewing at his Oakwell Drive home for friends.

NILA 20-08-12 BE 5 North Star brewery, Furnace Road, Ilkeston. Head brewer Richard Bower

NILA 20-08-12 BE 5 North Star brewery, Furnace Road, Ilkeston. Head brewer Richard Bower

He added: “I do love beer – we do it fantastically well in this country.”

Richard’s wife Dawn, who was made redundant from her job in human resources at Nottingham City Council, has taken on a full-time marketing role for North Star, which Richard said has been vital to their success.

“Without her expertise, we wouldn’t have got anywhere,” he said.

They chose the name North Star, he explained, because many people associate it with navigation.

And so the firm’s motto ‘Navigate your way to the perfect pint’, was born and is clearly displayed on the firm’s eye-catching pump clips.

All six beers follow the theme with names like Polaris, Helmsman and Pathfinder.

And one special beer Molly’s Pride was brewed for a friend whose daughter has Down’s syndromeand which raises money for the charity School For Parents which helps parents with children with conditions like Molly’s.

Richard hopes to bring some of that community spirit to the firm in the future.

“I have lived here all my life,” he said.

“I wanted to do it as close to home as possible because there are real advantages in being near to Nottingham and Derby – a real captive audience for the product.

“And there are great motorway links.”

He added: “Once we get a little bit more succesful I would like to get involved in a more charitable, community side here in Ilkeston, much like we have done with Molly’s Pride.”

His beers have been served at Ilkeston pubs, including The General Havelock and the Dew Drop Inn, and North Star has featured at beer festivals in Derby, Leicester and Loughborough, where they were the first brewery at the festival to sell out.

By April next year Richard hopes to give up the day job and focus on the brewery full time, produce more beers and secure more deals with local pubs.

To find out more about North Star click here to visit the website.