NICK Stafford still remembers the early reaction when he set up his brewery in 1991.

Hambleton Ales had only just started brewing, when he got his first write-up from a Camra member... who promptly called it a “tin-pot brewery”. Ouch.

It’s fair to say Nick has proven that critic wrong - but he also has a little confession to make...

One of his most famous beers, the porter Nightmare, came about by complete chance on a disastrous morning in the brewery, he admitted this week. 

"I had a recipe but not all the ingredients. It was a crazy disastrous moment. I just didn't have everything and it was early in the morning, so we cobbled together something- and it turned out alright."

"Alright" is something of an understatement. The beer was the first winner of Camra's Winter Champion Beer of Britain award and has won enormous acclaim over the past 20 years. Nightmares don’t come much better than that.

York Press:

Nick Stafford in 1991 and this year

Nick has been looking back on that early scorn and lucky mishap, because his brewery is now celebrating its 25th anniversary, and such moments lend themselves to a dose of nostalgia.

The brewery has undergone a lot of change since it was formed, not least moving premises a couple of times. It’s now on an industrial estate in Melmerby just off the A1(M), about half way between Ripon and Thirsk.

But the brewery has cemented a strong reputation for consistent excellence without the braggadocious approach of some of the region’s newer producers.

Nick himself is also well-regarded within the industry, not least as operations director of SIBA and the brewery is also renowned as a reliable bottling plant, bottling many other breweries' beers as well as its own.

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The brewery is marking its silver jubilee in style, and is now about two thirds of the way through a series of 25 beers to commemorate 25 years.

A few are established mainstays, including As Good As Gold, Yorkshire Session Bitter, Stud Blonde, Stallion Best and, of course, that Nightmare Porter.

But most are new creations, which have been allocated a month or two in this year’s calendar.

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Earlier this year, XXV Anniversary Ale was the main nod to the anniversary itself, and more recently you may have come across the Super C Session IPA (brewed with Chinook, Centennial, Cascade and Citra hops) or Celeia Gold, a light golden ale brought out to coincide with the Olympics.

With autumn now on the horizon, the beers are going to get a little darker and there are some adventurous creations in there.

This months' beer is Fawcett's Brown Ale, an American-style ale with four malts from Fawcett's of Castleford: pale chocolate, crystal, roast and caramalt.

In November, Hambleton Toffee Stout will hit the bars, and then in December drinkers can choose from two specials. Festive Folly is a pale ale which the brewery say "will get even the biggest cynic into the Christmas spirit", while Christmas Stallion is a variation on the Stallion Best Bitter, brewed with the addition of cinnamon sticks.

Beers like that, it's fair to say, would have raised more than a few eyebrows had they been produced back in the early 90s, when Nick was starting out.

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"There is no doubt a lot has changed. Brewers have become a lot more adventurous or promiscuous - possibly both. But drinkers now are prepared to try different things and there are different brewers prepared to try to make a wider range of beers."

He says that when he launched, there were only a few dozen breweries in Yorkshire and the north east combined, but now there are well over 150 in Yorkshire alone.

"The competition is tough because there are some great brewers out there - but it's competition that keeps you getting up in the morning to work harder.

"Small is still beautiful. We are bigger and in a better place and a lot has changed, but we are still very much what is now termed as a craft brewery. We are delighted to be in this part of the world.

"The revolution in the past five years has really come on. The next five will be fascinating - let alone the next 25 but I hope my family will carry it on."