The London Craft Beer Festival brings together London’s niche craft brewing scene where those in attendance are guaranteed to have a love of quality beer. Last weekend’s festival, running from Friday to Sunday, saw Marc Sobbohi and James Pozzi travel down to the Oval Space in Bethnal Green.
From Siren’s slick Limencello IPA to BrewDog’s aptly named Cocoa Psycho, a 10% Imperial Russian stout, there’s everything on offer for the discerning beer drinker.
Mixed with London breweries, some from across the country and others from beyond British shores, every company has a different story and a different goal.
Some brewers, like Kernel, are happy with their lot and put a premium on maintaining quality of craft. Others, like Brouwerij De Molen have come from abroad, in this case Holland, to enter the British market.
We take a look at a few examples of brewers looking to extend their reach and get the world to taste their beer.
Siren Craft Brew
It’s no coincidence you’re drawn into Siren’s product. Faced with mythical sirens used to reflect the character of each beer you become intrigued and it’s far from a gimmick. Gordon McKenzie, assistant brewer, Siren Craft Brew explains the concept behind the branding.
“It’s about standing out against the current stuff. Especially in the UK. We really wanted to bring American style beers and expand on Ryan’s (Witter-Merithew, head brewer) background. A lot of the branding follows the idea that the beer brings people in. It’s not the way people have been doing it.”
Head brewer Witter-Merithew has vast experience from previous work with breweries such as Mikkeller and Evil Twin. Now embarking on his own project he’s using the contacts he’s made to take Siren to Italy, Spain, Sweden and Denmark (where he worked with Evil Twin).
This has allowed Siren to easily move into exports and McKenzie says being recognised as part of a London brewing scene rising in reputation has helped how Siren beers are received abroad.
“I think the orders speak for themselves. In one day the other week we sent 13 pallets worth of our beer to Scandanavia. Obviously the reputation’s there. We feel a part of the extended scene. We feel present despite not having a premises in London and that’s helped us.”
At the heart of the craft brewing renaissance are BrewDog. Founded six years ago in April 2007 by James Watt and Martin Dickie.
Maybe instead of renaissance then the word should be rebellion. Their Punk IPA and Equity for Punks concept encapsulate the unleashed nature of the company.
They set out to make people passionate about beer and, after the number of craft brewers who have followed, it seems that mission was a success.
Taylor has an easy answer for the reasons behind BrewDog’s success.
“It all comes down to the passion. Everyone is working towards the same goal and that is to introduce everyone to new craft beer. It’s quite simple: the harder we work, the quicker we grow.”
Ultimately for Taylor it comes down to having a platform to get the product and the message of craft beers across to the public. That’s why he sees the importance of events like the London Craft Beer Festival.
“It’s great for everyone. It’s more about the UK beer scene than just us. Having that level of interaction where we can talk about what we’re doing and actually getting them to taste stuff.
“The thing I look forward to most is seeing someone’s eyes light up when they try a new beer they didn’t think they would before. I think everyone is looking to challenge people and provoke that kind of reaction.”
Logan Plant, founder of Beavertown, looks a bit of a craft brewing rockstar and no wonder, considering he’s the son of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant.
His West Midlands routes have led him to fulfil a passion and a dream of his that had been burning ever since he hit his early twenties.
“I got into the craft brewing scene initially because where I’m from there are so many good little breweries. In my late teens and early twenties I got into going to these little places and drinking fresh beer. Predomininatly it was cask beer, it got me thirsty, it got my palate into it.
“I always had dreams from about the age of 20 about one day opening up a brewery. Then at the age of 30, I went for it.”
Plant started by opening a brew pub with a brewery inside. The joint was Duke’s Brew & Queue in Haggerston and the brewery was Beavertown.
In the past few months Beavertown has moved premises, close to the Olympic Park, to give the brewery a chance to expand.
They now brew seven or eight times a week. Plant believes that once you start exceeding the tax breaks for microbreweries a brewer has to “go big”.
“You’ve got to go big. I think once you step over that tax limit it’s a real sharp ascent through the tax, up until you get to certain amount. Basically you’ve got to go from 5,000 hectare litres to 12,000 hectare litres. To go from five to 12, obviously you’ve got to go all out.
“At the moment we’re nowhere near that, we’re around 1,000 hectare litres. It’s scary, but I would like our beer to get out around the country. I’d like people to drink my beer.”
For Plant it’s all about intensity of flavours and ingredients that are core to the product. He believes that distribution methods today make it viable to send beer across continents and keep the quality.
Having just sent their first two pallets of beer to Australia, suddenly they’re opening up to becoming more than a London brewery.
“It’s about being sustainable and four barrells is quite hard to sustain a business at, so we’ve got to expand.”
As for the name Beavertown, it all comes from the old cockney name for the De Beauvoir Town area where the company started. Plant heard it, loved it and brewed under it.