Architecture

Building a Brewery – The Ibex Beer Story

Drinking a local beer at the end of a day in the mountains was always something my husband Dave and I looked forward to. Whether we’d been out on our bikes, hiking in the hills or skiing with friends, we’d always end up in a bar, recounting the events of the day. From our home in the UK, we’d holidayed in Morzine a few times before we moved here as a family to start a chalet business in 2011. We’d already noticed the lack of a local beer on tap and this sparked an idea that we sat on for a year.

In 2012, in the tiny kitchen in our rented house, Dave started brewing our beer. It didn’t start well and a lot of it went down the drain. We’d just started our chalet business and we’d just had another child, so it wasn’t an ideal time to launch a brewing project! It took a lot of trial and error, combined with some encouragement from our local friends, but the seed had been planted. For a few years Dave brewed in cellars and caves, anywhere he could find a small amount of space for the kit. But in 2016, after some really great feedback from friends and family, we invested in some larger equipment and things became more serious. We moved into our first premises in Morzine, it gave us the capacity to brew ten times more beer and IBEX Beer was born.

Our objective from day one was to create a beer that you could enjoy after a day in the mountains; one that wouldn’t destroy you like some of the Belgian beers we’d drunk in the Alps. Dave began by creating easy-drinking, lower alcohol beers that could be enjoyed in a more relaxed way. This really has remained at the core of IBEX. As you’d expect, there are some British influences in the beer, but as we’ve grown we’ve been able to incorporate new styles in our range and there’s now a selection of brews to suit all tastes. We like to think that our beers reflect the international feel of Morzine and the wider Portes du Soleil as a destination. Our customers give us great feedback on our hoppy beers, such as our IPAs and NEIPAs, all of which are very drinkable. We put that down to our water supply – mountain water tastes so pure and you can absolutely taste that in the beer.

We have had a huge drive to improve the quality of our beers across the board, in addition to playing with new styles that could sit alongside our core range. From the beginning the dream was to have our own brewery and taproom alongside an events space that could be combined with great local food, somewhere for families to enjoy. Around 2019, with all of these ideas and with orders constantly increasing, the penny dropped once again… we needed to increase our capacity, significantly, once again.

Growing breweries need two things – a lot of money and a lot of space. We started to look around for a larger building to brew in. Industrial buildings are very few and far between in alpine towns and there was nothing suitable at all. So we began discussions to build a custom-made brewery on one of the final plots of land available for industrial development in the Morzine area. This gave us the opportunity to plan space for more tanks, offices for our growing team and create an environment where we could welcome people directly into the brewery to drink our beer. The pandemic arrived and the plan went on pause. Construction of our new brewery finally began in 2022 and we opened the brand new IBEX brewery and The Wood Yard tap room in the summer of 2023.

Dave learned a lot about brewing beer during his initial home-brew experiments and then moving to our first brewery all those years ago. This gave us the confidence to plan our new >> space to account for future ideas and expanding capacity. A production brewery is all about work flow and being able to do multiple jobs during the day. We’ll be brewing while transferring beer, packaging and organising logistics. Much of the equipment we’ve installed, the floor drainage for example, was custom designed and we worked with some excellent local companies to achieve this. We invested in top end equipment; the new brewhouse (that’s the kit that makes the beer before fermentation) gives us the chance to tweak our recipes and improve our beers in so many different ways. We’ve also increased our fermentation capacity by 100% so we can double our output. We’re on track to brew 300,000 litres of beer this year, and we can double this again in the future by replacing our fermenters with even bigger tanks – that’s why we have such a high roof in the brewery!

We’ve designed the brewery to be as efficient as possible, both from an energy perspective and for our production processes for many years to come; it was a labour of love but we’ve finally got it just right. In the future we plan to switch out our CO2 use for an onsite machine that produces nitrogen from compressed air. We’d also like to set up renewable energies to power the site and replace our local delivery vehicles with EV alternatives.

It’s every brewers dream to have their beer drunk on the site that it’s made – it doesn’t get any fresher than that! Launching The Wood Yard – our tap room and restaurant, was absolutely the realisation of this dream. We called it The Wood Yard because the site was previously used as a saw mill and the brewery actually sits on the area once used for sorting the incoming logs.

The space that we’ve created is unique in our region and alongside the 10 lines of beers (our own and often a couple of lines of neighbouring breweries’ beers), we also have some great wines, cocktails and we’re developing a solid reputation for good food by our excellent kitchen team. From the very beginning we’ve offered a well-priced daily lunch menu for both locals and tourists alike. The menu changes each week and there’s an evening menu designed to compliment our beers. We’re also able to stay open all year round, because we never stop brewing! It’s nice to be able to offer an experience for groups of friends, families and dog walkers who stumble upon us, just off the river path along the Dereches.

It’s been a real pleasure to welcome so many people to The Wood Yard since we opened last summer. One of our proudest achievements has been taking our team from four people to 12 full time staff as we opened the doors. 90% of our clients are French-speaking, but our bilingual team are a happy mix of English, Belgian, French and Australian so you’ll hear a beautiful mix of languages when you come to drink or dine with us.

This winter you can expect some fun, interesting, new evening events at The Wood Yard. We’ll launch a new menu inspired by world street food that’s designed to be drunk with our beers. We want to create interesting things for people to do after a day in the mountains. We’ll be running beer tastings and brewery tours as well as hosting regular live music events and guest speakers too. There’ll also be a couple of special dining evenings this winter but the emphasis will always be on creating a welcoming space with delicious food – and great beer of course!

Opening a brewery in the Alps has been an incredible and surreal experience and we’re very grateful for all of the wonderful feedback and support we’ve received. Our team have been fantastic too, from the the original team, of myself, Dave, Mark, Ed and Josh to now the all the ‘new’ guys, they have really got behind us to support the business and now we all feel like a family. For now we’re looking forward to retaining our position as a respected craft brewery while also developing some cracking one-off beers for everyone to enjoy and for The Wood Yard’s reputation as a great venue to continue to grow.

As anyone who runs a business will know, it’s all-consuming. Our 10 and 13 year old boys even get involved too! Of course we ski, snowboard and bike far less than we used to but living as a family in one of the best mountain destinations in the world means you can’t really complain. We’re hoping for a bit more of a work – life balance in the years to come. Of course the final thank you has to go to Dave – he brews the beer, after all! He’s never faltered in his belief that we were doing the right thing and he’s worked incredibly hard to make it all happen.

opening hours / Winter 23/24:

Open daily from 3pm – 11pm
Kitchen open from 4pm – 9.30pm

BAR@IBEXBEER.COM // WWW.IBEXBEER.COM
+33 (0) 7 45 22 15 93
Insta @ibex_the_wood_yard // @ibex_beer

Building a Brewery – The Ibex Beer Story
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