Brave Harrogate brewer opens up on mental health struggles

A key figure in one of Harrogate’s most respected independent craft beer businesses has opened up about how his own mental health struggles have inspired the brewery’s new campaign.

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 12:51 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 12:58 pm
Rooster's head brewer Oliver Fozard with the Harrogate family firm's new beer Mind Games which will raise funds for mental health charity Mind. (Picture Gerard Binks)

Rooster’s head brewer Oliver Fozard said he had never wanted to “burden” anyone else with his situation until he heard of a tragedy within the craft beer industry.

He said: “Very few people knew about my struggles with anxiety, as I felt that I didn’t want to burden people with my thoughts and feelings.

“But one morning last year I learned via Twitter about someone who worked at The Maltings in York, who had ‘suddenly’ taken his own life.

“Despite never having met him, the news resonated with me, as I’d been suffering with anxiety for six to seven years and the news stayed on my mind all day.

“I decided to ‘open up’ on Twitter, in order to let anyone else suffering with mental health problems know that there are others out there dealing with similar circumstances.”

Run by Oliver in conjunction with his brother Tom under the watchful eye of their father Ian Fozard, the family firm Rooster’s has been a success story for a long time, so much so that it had to leave its original home near St James’s Retail Park at Knaresborough last May and move to larger premises at Hornbeam Park.

But success can breed its own pressures in an industry where mental health has been a largely unspoken problem until now.

After Oliver Fozard decided to be open about his struggles, he found himself having many conversations on the subject of mental health with customers, suppliers, colleagues and other friends within the industry.

He said: “Talking to other people connected to the industry has really helped me and knowing that there are others out there going through similar situations has allowed me to be more open with people and help others in return.”

In particular, two brewers he had known within the craft beer community, also decided to share their own experiences on mental health.

Oliver said: “In September the pressures I was facing at work, and subsequently at home, were having a very negative impact on my state of mind.

“I took some time away from the brewery and, thinking about what had happened earlier in the year, decided that I wanted to work with Colin Stronge, head brewer at SALT Beer Factory, and Daniel Vane, head brewer at Exale in London, to help promote mental health awareness within the brewing industry.”

Between the three of them, they decided to develop a project to raise funds for mental health charity Mind.

To that end, Oliver and his collaborators have brewed a cask-only, low abv beer that would only be available in a pub, a social centre which is often the focus of community life.

Called Mind Games, reaction to the new beer has been fantastic, with the likes of The Disappearing Chin bar in Harrogate also getting involved in making a charity donation for each pint sold.

Oliver said: “Ultimately, it’s about more than the beer. I’d like to encourage people, ostensibly men, to shake off the stigma, open up and know that it’s ok to share your feelings.”