Enfield Brewery is not what you’d consider a “conventional” new brewery, especially not a new brewery in London, which are often cosy to say the least. Located a stones throw from the North Circular in Greater London, the highly-specified brewery occupies part of a major warehouse with the option to move into the remaining space, when necessary.
The Eley road facility houses a DME Brewing Solutions brewhouse complete with six FVs, supplied and installed by ABUK. It also runs a Moravek BC15 inline automatic Beer Carbonator with BF15 sterile beer filtration module and Moravek 12/12/1 beer filler tribloc with double pre evacuation. Enfield Brewery, which officially launched at the SIBA South East Regional competition in July 2016 where they picked up a silver award. Not bad going for an operation run by a team of four.
Many brewery openings are the culmination of a love affair with beer that turns a hobby, or part time interest, into a full-time profession. Rahul Mulchandani, director and founder of Enfield Brewery has been surrounded by beer, and alcohol, for longer than many. Granted, he developed a passion for beer while studying business management and marketing, but it was the proceeding years where he really learned the trade.
His time at university allowed Rahul to meet his now business partner Shadaan, who was undertaking a degree in software engineering at the same time. Like many university students, they undertook their own education in beer during those years and also dipped their toes into homebrew. But for Rahul, who returned to the family business following the conclusion of his studies, it was that move that truly proved to be the catalyst for a move into brewing.
That family business is Enfield’s Imperial Cash & Carry. And as a company that holds anywhere between £5m and £15m of beers, wines and spirits at any one time, Rahul has had his fair share of experiencing, and dealing with, breweries from the off-trade perspective.
“I needed a few years to learn the industry before attempting to become part of it and the family business gave me the ability to do that. It allowed me to learn a lot, and hopefully help breweries, too,” he explains. “Only the other day a brewery came to me and I was able to give them advice on what is likely to sell here and what isn’t. But there is more to it than how good your beer is and how effective you have made your branding when it comes to entering distribution channels.”
He adds: “Pack size is important, for instance. Lots of breweries are supplying their beers in 24 packs, which is fine but a small store, with limited storage and shelf space will simply often not have the capacity for such packs. They might only want six or eight. I also believe that shrink wrap casing is a better proposition than cardboard in this situation because unless you are spending a significant amount on the packaging, people will still want to see what’s inside so they’re likely to just rip it off to see what it looks like. Or worse, they’ll just pass it by.”
But with nearly a decade’s experience working at Imperial Cash & Carry, the wheels were well and truly in motion for moving into the brewing industry. Two years planning preceded the first brew in 2016 and Rahul acknowledges the time and planning that went into the major career move.
Support came from the family business, but this was complemented by the sale of his house.
“My family were supportive but there was obviously the need for a business plan to prove ourselves, too. It wasn’t going to happen overnight and everything needed to be done right,” he adds.
And that business plan is based around a number of clearly defined ideals. The team were set on allocating more space to the brewery than it needed from the off. It is possible to double the amount of FVs currently in operation without the need for any structural change. But Enfield Brewery can also remove a wall to expand into the aforementioned space to boost its operation.
Opting for a facility on the same site as the family business has offered a raft of benefits, but expansion flexibility was key.
“We’ve invested a lot in this brewery and I think this part of London is on the up. Beavertown, Pillars, Wild Card, Redemption and Camden Town are near here, just to name a few. There are good transport links and you are close to a lot of London locations, among others,” he says. “Plus, space was a massive draw for us. Being under a railway arch is a lovely romantic notion, but it’s not a practical longterm solution hence why when many breweries reach a certain stage they look to move out.
“It’s about leading with your head and not your heart. Don’t get me wrong, there are many benefits to being based in highly densely populated areas and you can benefit from that immediate captivation. It’s also more difficult in a location further out where nobody has seen you. But that’s not to say that areas like this cannot become like that. Enfield is undergoing a great deal of regeneration, too. It is on an upward trajectory with projects such as Meridian Water popping up on our doorstep.”
The Enfield Brewery business plan is also centred on a lean team, with Rahul and Shadaan on the operational front, while brewing is undertaken by head brewer Stuart Robson and his assistant Andrew. The latter moved to the UK with his girlfriend around two years ago and following a stint at Ubrew, joined the fledgling team at Enfield.
Head brewer Stuart has held positions at breweries and at businesses on the ingredients supply side. Prior to moving back to the UK several years ago, Stuart was the co-founder and head brewer of Shongweni Brewery, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The move back home was driven by the blunt assessment that he could no longer tolerate the gun violence and “having his neighbours shot”.
During his tenure at the South African brewery, owned with his wife Sherene, Robson’s beers graced the pages of respected volumes such as ‘1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die’ edited by Adrian Tierney Jones. Since being back in the UK, Robson says his roles have allowed him to meet around 1,000 of the breweries in operation here, where he has observed the changing beer landscape that is mirroring other geographies he has visited and brewed in.
“When it comes to the brewers themselves, I am still seeing that level of support, and perhaps the sharing of ideas. But where it is changing, and where the challenge lies, is with the marketing people. They are not focused on technical issues or the science, they are focused on getting beer in shops and bars. That’s where it is more cut-throat and will continue to get more so. You’ve got the really big companies at the top of the chain but its the guys in the middle, and that is where the true fight is,” he explains.
Stuart is relishing the challenge, and opportunity, that his new position presents him. He cites Enfield’s use of water from its own borehole as a positive differentiator for the business. He also stresses the importance of having a split in the brewery’s range, too.
“Look at the London IPA, it’s brewed with all English malts and hops. Pale, Vienna and Wheat on one side and Pioneer, Cascade and Oilcana on the other. Then we have another beer that uses seven different US hops. It’s about having beers that speak to different markets, and knowing which ones are best suited for each,” Robson adds. And each for these beers are brewed on the brewery’s “pilot kit” Robson says with a smirk, pointing to the impressive brewhouse and tank setup.
Extra capacity exists to allow Enfield to offer it up to other breweries, with four currently scheduled to use the facility in the coming months. Elsewhere, contract bottling is part of the brewery’s proposition and Rahul spent a lot of time researching the best technical solution possible.
On this side of the business, Moravek supplied and commissioned a BC15 inline automatic Beer Carbonator with BF15 sterile beer filtration module and Moravek 12/12/1 beer filler tribloc with double pre evacuation. The Moravek BC15 inline gas atomise type beer carbonator delivers a smooth natural carbonated finish with consistent CO2 levels.
According to Moravek, a reduction in dissolved oxygen DO is also achieved in the BC Beer carbonating chamber allows it to achieve the lowest DO’s in the industry which is another important feature.
“The Moravek BC inline process also allows Enfield to instantly change C02 levels to suit the differing beer types that Enfield might run in a single day without the time delay and hassle of in tank carbonation which can be hit and miss,” explains sales director Phil Quinn.”The BC15 Beer Carbonator and 12/12/1 tribloc filler are interfaced electronically as well as being hydromechanically synchronised. This ensures the beer process pressures and filler counter pressures are automatically balanced and always correctly set to optimum further enhancing filler performance.”
He adds: “A combination of full factory pre delivery testing and Moravek’s well proven technology ensured a quick smooth quick commissioning start-up of the line producing finished saleable product on only the second day of commissioning. The BC15 also features automatic filler prime function, automatic purge run out with minimal beer losses as well as CIP function of the complete filling system.”
There’s no doubting the Enfield team’s passion and the strength of its setup. Participation in a recent Wetherspoon’s London beer festival initiative resulted in their beers being sold in more than one hundred pubs across the capital while a launch at Craft Beer Rising is expected to raise the profile further. The brewery also wants to continue growing its distribution, both geographically, and also format-wise, through keg, cask and bottle.
But despite the major investment in Enfield Brewery, Rahul in particular is aware that there is no right to an overnight success.
“We all get involved and all want to make it work. We know it won’t happen immediately. It’s not a case of here today, gone tomorrow. We are in it for the long run and aware of the effort and time that takes.”