A look behind the scenes at Dunscar Bridge Brewery

This Bolton woman has swapped designer clothes for foaming beer. Amanda Griffiths investigates.

Pat Kitchen is under no illusions about being a woman who has had the cheek to stray into a man’s world.

‘I’m sure there are people who haven’t met me who would think: “What does she know – she’s from the fashion industry?”’ But as the managing director of Dunscar Bridge Brewery, based just outside Bolton, she knows all about good taste – in beer as well as fashion.

But she confesses to having known virtually nothing about the industry before joining the brewery. But when it comes to the crunch, Pat believes the same business principals can be applied to creating great fashion or producing a cracking pint. ‘I love the challenge,’ she says. ‘I have got a lot of experience and I apply that to make sure I do a good job.’

Pat, who grew up in Bolton, worked for top tailoring house Garbo as head designer before she went travelling, ending up in Australia where she and her husband settled.

‘I got a job straight away in the fashion industry – I had to go back down the ladder a bit. I started off in the pattern room of one of Australia’s biggest fashion groups – something I hadn’t done for at least ten years, but I rose in the ranks and became general manager.

‘I started to be quite frustrated really. Australia’s fashion industry is so much more casual while England is quite innovative.

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‘As I began to adapt I tried to get companies I worked for to be more innovative and created ranges showing 229them how people would want them rather than just copying other people’s style,’ she says.

It’s this innovation she’s brought to Dunscar Bridge Brewery, which has just opened a new brewhouse in the old bleach works at Dunscar. Returning to Bolton in 2004 with her husband and son, Patrick, she tried her hand at property developing before businessman Jeremy Jones approached her for this role.

‘He asked me to have a look at the brewery, the beer and the quality and see what we could do to perfect it and to see if we could turn it into a viable business. In just over 12 months we’ve gone from perhaps a dozen customers to 180,’ she says.

‘It’s about doing your research just like in the fashion industry and knowing who your customers are and what they want. There are trends everywhere in life. I think once you have worked in a creative industry you develop an instinct and knowledge of how to look at who your customers are.

‘The real ale industry is an old one and people are protective of it. They certainly don’t suffer fools gladly or give you a second chance. I’ve been working closely with our head brewer Doug Baxendale to bring the standard up. It’s all about the yeast and cleanliness as it’s a live product.’

With the scale of production increased Pat has overseen a move for the brewery into the bleach works, where they also have their own bar. Production is currently split between the two sites but soon will be moving to the new brew house completely.

And with success at her feet does Pat regret leaving the fashion industry? The answer is ‘no’.

‘It was time to move on,’ she says. ‘I loved it but the pace was so fast and there was so much travelling it was very wearing. You’re priorities change in life, especially when you have a family.

‘I do still follow fashion. I still love it and like buying nice things, but I’m not obsessed with it like I was. It’s like anything else, you have to have a passion for it.

‘I wasn’t a real ale drinker, but I am now. I also enjoy wine and in a way it’s just like that in the way you taste. The more you do the more you can enjoy the blends.

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