London – the home of the next Brewdog?
Berlin Based London native Andrew Wilkin takes a look at some small craft beer breweries in London, and what we can expect from them in the future.
Industries rise, industries fall. One on the certifiable up – it’s craft beer. Lets take a look at London, undeniably a boomtown for the good stuff. It’s a city in which it isn’t just the big dogs – the Meantimes, London Fields, the Camden Town Brewery – making waves. There’s also many small new brewers establishing themselves.
After some evidence? Evin O’Riordain of Kernel fame has noted that since 2009, London has gone from nine to seventy breweries! It’s prime time to take a look at three of them, and get a gist of where London’s craft beer scene is going…
The Crate Brewery – canal-side wonder
Launched by New Zealand’s Jess and Tom Seaton back in 2012, Crate emerged in the heat of Olympic fever. Situated on a picturesque site next to the canal in Hackney Wick, it’s a microbrewery, bar and pizzeria, where they brew just six drinks – the Crate Lager, Golden Ale, India Pale Ale, Best Bitter, Stout and a Cider. Neil Hinchley, Director and Head Brewer at Crate, admits the amount of malt and hops varies per brew.
“The more traditional beers we produce, the Golden and the Stout for example, contain mostly UK hops, whilst the IPA and pale ale contain a huge amount of new world hops, from the US and New Zealand, including galaxy, summit, citra, nelson, amarilo, cascade, and chinook.”
Away from their own establishment, Crate distribute to a steady client-base of around fifty to sixty customers, mostly within the M25 – including an order from Claridges for golden ale to put in their bread! Other accounts include many craft beer bars and trendy individual locations such as Islington’s Tap Room and the Ace Hotel.
Whilst not planning to expand into another site, Neil adds that they’ve purchased three more fermenters – 4000 litre Unitanks – doubling the size of their kit, and have also invested in a kegger. This allows them to keg all their beers in house – something they do unfiltered, which he admits has a “fantastic impact on flavour”.
All this is impressive given Jess and Tom’s concurrent ownership of the nearby Counter Cafe, which hosts hot disco/street food night Flamingo Pier. With these two, there is no doubt that time is clearly at a premium, making their work on Crate doubly impressive. Their aims for the future? “To innovate, experiment and enjoy, to continue making the best beers that we can.” Neil then quickly adds a footnote – “to make more beer, drink more beer!”
The White Building, Unit 7, Queen’s Yard, London E9 5EN, United Kingdom
Kernel Brewery – under the archway
Kernel, launched in 2009 by Evin O’Riordain, is a brewery operation run out of an archway in Bermondsey, nestled amongst a number of other food and beverage makers and not far from some other brewers – Brew by Numbers and Partizan for example. Run by eleven beer-aficionado friends, it’s immediately clear that this is an unpretentious, honest operation.
Actively not looking for expansion, Kernel have some prestigious accounts to their name – the Hawksmoor group and triple World’s Best Bar „Artesian Bar“ at The Langham Hotel for example.
Are they interested in having a bar, like Crate, or creating their own distribution channels? “That’s not something I’m interested in,” says Evin. “I don’t want to take the focus off the brewing.” Kernel actively talk of focusing on London, 75% of their client base, as they simply don’t have enough beer to meet demand, and don’t want to try!
A major difference with Kernel is that they don’t make the same beers weekly, instead they’re constantly mixing things up. Open every Saturday from 9am to 2pm for direct sales, they make Pale Ales, India Pale Ales and old school London Porters and Stouts. But it’s recommended to check the website in order to see what the specific week offers up.
Whether experimenting with their liquids, or changing their hops with the seasons, there’s one overarching focus – trying to make the best beer that they can. Want more evidence of their “just beer” approach? Take a look at the simple, clean branding.
Arch 11 Dockley Road Industrial Estate, Dockley Rd, London SE16 3SF, United Kingdom
Beavertown Brewery – personality-packed
Comparatively, Beavertown Brewery has shown massive expansion – launched by December 2011 by Logan Plant and Byron Knight in the kitchen of Hackney’s Duke’s Brew and Que, Beavertown has expanded twice, and since May 2014 occupies a 11,000sqft space in Tottenham Hale. There’s a core range and the constantly evolving, experimental Alpha Range.
Here’s where you can try beers like the Black Yeti or the intriguingly named Imperial Lord Smog Almighty, a roasted malt, chocolate and caramel aroma-packed concoction. A particular highlight of the core range is the Smog Rocket Smoked Porter, an Industrial Revolution-inspired beer consisting of nine malts, including the Rauchschmalz from Bamberg, and two hops, notably the US hop Chinook. It’s a smoky beer, resonant of London’s industrial past…
Beavertown, from the packaging and marketing alone, has a distinct image. Nick Dwyer, their Creative Director, utilises imagery from “The War of the World’s” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, as well as having discernible influences from 50’s sci-fi, Tim Burton’s movies and even hallucinogens!
Their own brewpub and original brewing base Duke’s Brew and Que stocks their beers, but Beavertown also has a big external client base – one made up mainly of “specifically craft beer channels”. Most notable are The Euston Tap and the locations of Barworx and the Craft Beer & Co.
Beavertown is looking forward – Nick Dwyer, their Creative Director, admitting their current aim is to hit the “ever increasing demand”. He then adds, “we’re increasing all the time in both space and staff.” There’s no doubt Beavertown is looking for growth here, but Brewdog-style growth – that’s something else entirely!
Unit 17 and 18, Lockwood Industrial Park, Mill Mead Road, Tottenham Hale, London. N17 9QP
A mixed portrait emerges. Kernel actively aren’t interested in expansion, whilst Crate and in particular Beavertown show an inclination towards it. One other thing is clear – there’s a distinct community feel amongst the brewers of the Big Smoke.
Crate even stock Kernel, Beavertown and Five Points in their bar, and talk of how London Fields and Truman’s have come by when they’ve run out of hops! This is something Evin of Kernel also noted – they may be small, but there’s a big community vibe between the brewers.
Will we see a Brewdog from London then? That’s open for debate and these breweries will all forge their own path. As a footnote, it’s important also to remember how exceptional Brewdog’s story was – that’s growth of an unprecedented sort. Let’s reconvene in some years, and see how the players are doing then…