Running a brewery in the Pays Basque


Bob Worboys set up a small brewery in the Pays Basque after moving there with his wife Carolyn and their sons in 2005. After featuring him in Living France in January 2009, we catch up for a five-year update

“Moving from London to a small community of 5,000 people is a very big change in terms of access to services and goods, and integration into a primarily agricultural rather than urban community. By keeping our minds open we were welcomed with open arms, although as with any small community anywhere, I can imagine we will remain outsiders for many years.

Since 2009, our business has grown – we’ve pretty much tripled our turnover and taken on a local lad full-time with additional help in the summer for the bar that we now have at the brewery. Running a small business is a continual challenge, whether as a result of negotiating your way through French bureaucracy or having to work up 18 hours a day, seven days a week to produce enough beer. A willingness to work very hard, speak good French and having a very, very understanding family has helped enormously.

The most rewarding aspect of running the brewery is, on the one hand, supplying beer to large events where you can see lots of people enjoying a glass of our beer and, on the other, working with one of the best restaurants in the world – the two Michelin-starred Mugaritz in Spain – to develop beers with food pairings.

Overall though, setting up a brewery is a lifestyle choice, thus the occasional passing of a cold, financial eye over the enterprise makes one wonder if there might be a better way to find a work/life balance!

My advice to someone thinking of moving to France is to learn the language and, if you are planning to set up a business, make sure you are very well funded. It will take you much longer than you think to develop your business. Of course, it helps to be a bit mad as well.”

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