About the Author
Tim is the launch editor of The Brewers Journal and is a keen advocate of the brewing industry.

Beavertown outlines plans for new brewery

Beavertown will be able to output up to 500,000hl per annum from its new brewery and expects the first beers from the new London facility to hit distribution in April 2020.

London-based Beavertown has revealed the specifications of its new brewery, which will be housed in a 129,000sqft building on a six acre plot in Ponders End.

The Beaverworld build, which commenced in January 2019, comprises space for a brewhouse, packaging, warehouse, logistics hub, offices and visitor centre.

The company said it expects its new brewhouse will be installed, commissioned and tested from Autumn 2019 with beers rolling out to the public from April 2020.

Beavertown has opted for a Krones Steinecker Brewhouse that will be able to deliver a maximum capacity of 500,000hl per annum and allow the team to brew in 150hl batches.

The five vessel brewhouse features a Variomill, Mash Conversion vessel, Lauter Tun, Wort Kettle, Whirlpool and an Equitherm energy recovery system.

The manufacturer is supplying 38 fermentation maturation tanks ranging from 150hl – 600hl in size along with centrifuge, filtration and an automated dry hopping dosing system.

On the canning front, an automated KHS can line offers capacity to fill up to 30,000 cans per hour (330ml).

Palletised cans go in, get depalletized, rinsed with ionised air, filled, sealed, coded and packed (in cartons or in trays) prior to palletisation.

A KHS keg line can fill up to 160 kegs per hour (30l) offering the ability to be expanded in the future to a maximum capacity of 240 kegs per hour.

The Beaverworld site will also feature a 12,000sqft visitor centre that houses the main taproom, kitchen, store and scope for tours.

Beavertown will also be retaining its current Tottenham Hale home, 4.5 miles from the new facility. This will be repurposed to expand the brewery’s Tempus Project barrel ageing programme.

With both taprooms open on a Saturday, the brewery has also outlined possible plans to operate a “Beaver Boat” that travels between both sites on the River Lea.

Logan Plant, founder of Beavertown, explained: “Beaverworld is the culmination of 7 years of blood, sweat and tears by all of Team Beaver over the ages. I am so proud of what we have all achieved and immensely excited about what we are about to create in Enfield.

“Our aim has always been driven by our excitement and passion for making more than just a beer. We’ve always wanted to give our beers a personality and a heartbeat, make them tactile and real.

“What we are going to create at Beaverworld is going to be exactly that. We are going to build the most sophisticated, quality driven brewery, with the heartbeat of an amazing visitors centre and experience.

“The brewery will take people on a journey of the senses. Visiting the brewery will be an unforgettable experience! Beaverworld will help us on the way to achieving our mission of getting great beer on to every street corner for the thirsty masses! I can’t wait to sink a few pints with you all in March 2020 when we open the doors and let you into our dream!!”

The Brewers Lectures return to Manchester this week

How to brew a great lager, upping your social media game, cask-conditioning, expansion and the role wild yeast can play in your beer are all hot topics up for discussion at the Brewers Lectures in Manchester next month.

The Brewers Lectures return to Manchester on the 6th February at The Castlefield Rooms, along with some of the industry’s leading figures in their field. Brett Ellis, co-founder of Wild Beer Co, Cloudwater’s head of community engagement Doreen Joy Barber and Reece Hugill, founder of Donzoko Brewing will all be speaking at the afternoon event.

We will also have talks from Sam McMeekin, co-founder of London’s Gipsy Hill Brewing, Alice Batham, technical brewer at Brewster’s and Robert Percival, regional sales manager of Europe at Lallemand.

The event will feature talks on the cask-conditioning process, the best practices involved in the brewing of a great lager, and the role Diastaticus yeasts play in your beer and how to handle them.

There will also be talks on improving your brewery’s social media output, the challenges faced during expansion, and a look at wild beer styles and their production. 

The afternoon will be split into two sessions, each featuring a panel discussion where the topics of the day can be discussed and debated. Separating each session is a drinks interval, where you’ll be treated to excellent beer and a great opportunity to network with attendees and speakers.

Tim Sheahan, editor of The Brewers Journal, which organises the Brewers Lectures series, said he was “thrilled” to be hosting the event in a city characterised by excellent beer. 

“When you name some of the UK’s best breweries, you’ll find that a fair few of those are in and around Manchester. There are few places that match the city for its breweries, as well as places to go out and enjoy those beers, too.”

He added: “We’ve always taken pride in the Brewers Lectures offering people something different, something new to learn, or to look at parts of the industry in a different way.

“To have excellent, diverse brewers, leading suppliers and best-in-class marketing figures speaking in Manchester on the 6th February is a thrill, and it should be another great event.”

The Brewers Lectures in Manchester take place on the 6th February. The lectures are made to be accessible to all, so you pay what you want to attend. 

Tickets are available here

Running from 12:00pm to 16:30pm, the event will be held at The Castlefield Rooms, 18-20 Castle Street, Manchester, M3 4LZ.

For full information and tickets, click here.

Dear John | Give and Take

Many brewers have learned from John Keeling, the former head brewer at Fuller’s. Equally, he spent much of his brewing career seeking wisdom from others, too. Here, he touches upon some of the changes to take place during his time at Fuller’s and explains that the power of the team is always greater than the individual.

I joined Fuller’s in January 1981. At that time,Fuller’s produced about 70,000 barrels per year and it owned 90 pubs. Around 80% of the brewery’s beer went to their pubs while the rest went to free trade.

Bottling mainly produced bottled Guinness, the kegger mainly handled lager bought in under contract and the cask line, by far the biggest volume, produced London Pride, ESB and Chiswick. 

Indeed, such was the demand for cask beer that each one of those was produced in barrels (36-gallon containers) and firkins were a relatively small volume. As an aside, the bottled Guinness from Fuller’s had a very good reputation and at the time, Fuller’s used flash pasteurisation for their beers rather than tunnel pasteurisation. This meant we were very good at sterile filling, something that helped enormously when we went on to produce bottle conditioned Fuller’s beers.

Now, Fullers produces around 205,000 barrels of beer per year and own nearly 400 pubs. Nearly 80% of the beer is sold outside of Fuller’s pubs and barrels have long since disappeared, while firkins are nearly 100 % of the racking output with very few kilderkins produced. Bottled Guinness has also sadly disappeared, with the bottling line running flat out producing Fuller’s beers for the export market and supermarkets. Kegging still produces lots of keg contracted lager but Fuller’s keg beers have grown considerably.

The market has changed and Fuller’s have changed with the market.

When I was interviewed for the job of junior brewer, which carried a starting salary of £5,000, the process was carried out by Graham Ure the retiring brewing director and Reg Drury, the newly appointed brewing director. I later found out that Graham had been a brewer for the Army during the war and had served on a ship that was a floating brewery.

Reg, of course, was a great influence on me. He was the person who taught me how to be a head brewer in their brewery, how to plan for the future, how to deal with other departments and how to look after your team. During my time with the brewery. Fuller’s has always been great investors in the future and new technology.

I worked for Reg on many great projects including Fuller’s first new brewhouse for 125 years. Other projects included a new cask line, kegging line, warehouse, bottling line and numerous tank farms. In fact, we rebuilt the brewery under Reg and I saw first hand the pressure put on him to succeed. The future of Fuller’s was in his hands.

When Reg decided to retire, he told me that one of the reasons was that the cask line was wearing out and he didn’t want to be the man to replace it. He was tired of the stress and strain. 

Instead, I would have to do it

I remember when we first produced London Porter.  After racking it into cask, it turned out to be very flat and Reg was worried. We stood next to the casks sampling them and realising they were all flat. Reg said what should we do? 

I answered by saying that the beer had enough fermentable sugar and the yeast was viable. 

All it needed was time. 

Reg seized on this and told me I was right and that we would give it four days on the floor to make the condition. Of course, Reg would have realised this but with all the other pressures on him he hadn’t got the time to think. I was glad that on this occasion I could do his thinking for him. This made me realise that a problem shared is a truly a problem halved. The power of the team is always greater than the individual.

Fuller’s were one of the first breweries to use conical fermenters for ale and started to use centrifuges in 1976! At the time they dabbled with becoming an all keg brewery for draught beer. They quickly decided against this when CAMRA arrived on the scene, but quickly adapted new technology for the production of cask beer, which gave the beer greater consistency and quality. Fuller’s never won a prize using the old open squares, all their prizes were won with conical brewed and centrifuged beers.

“A problem shared is a truly a problem halved. The power of the team is always greater than the individual.”

Funny enough it wasn’t Reg’s idea to get centrifuges but Philip Eliot’s. Philip was what everybody called a character. He was, in actual fact, the uncle of Anthony Fuller and the assistant head brewer. He ran brewing, fermentation and maturation. My first job was to work for him. I greatly enjoyed it even though Philip had a bit of a temper which would blow up quickly but just as quickly disappear. He was a very fair man who after bawling you out would then insist on buying you a pint, although it would be Chiswick Bitter (he never drank or bought anything else). 

When he retired we calculated that he accounted for 0.5% of the total Chiswick sales.

One of the things he did for me was tell me months before informing the company that he was to retire. He then told me I had six months to learn his job so that I would be the logical choice to take over from him. He got me my first promotion, although I dare say Reg had me marked out for this also.

Another person who had a great influence on me was Ken Don, the head brewer of Wandsworth-based Young’s. He really showed me how to be a head brewer outside of your brewery. Ken has always helped young brewers and put plenty back in to the industry he loves. 

He was chairman of the Heriot-Watt former brewer’s association, sat on the advisory board and was chairman of the London and South Section of the brewer’s guild. I too have held all those positions because I also want to put something back in the industry. Finally, Ken loved meeting drinkers and did many meet the brewer events, something I enjoy doing to. This really does keep you in touch with the drinker and enables you to interpret marketing data better

I have tried to take all those influences and use them as an inspiration for my own work in brewing. Hopefully, in another article, I will write about my years as a brewing director and look at how Fuller’s changed in that period and how I put into practice everything I had been taught.

Expansion in the spotlight in the latest Brewers Journal Podcast

Growing as a brewery, as a team, as a business is what many aspiring brewers set out to do. But is expansion as straightforward as many think? The new episode of the Brewers Journal Podcast looks at the dilemma facing many companies in the industry.

“One of the toughest decisions you’ll make as a brewer is to expand or not; and if you’re a small brewer, the decision is a thousand times harder,” explains Velo Mitrovich, host of the Brewers Journal Podcast.

In the second of our Brewers Journal Podcasts going to give you advice and help in answering this crucial decision.

There are some tough questions you will need to be asking yourself, but the number one question has to be: what are YOU looking for in growing your business.

Besides bringing in some industry experts, Velo also looks at some similar industries whose owners go through the exact same dilemma.

“Growth is the outcome of business done well; it should not be the goal.”

Velo Mitrovich of Reby Media and MC of the recent Brewers Congress, will explain all in this entertaining and informative podcast.

To listen to the latest episode and to subscribe, click here

Fullers to sell to Asahi for £250m

Fuller’s is to sell to Asahi Europe for £250m.

Chiswick, London-based Fuller’s is selling to Asahi Europe for £250m. Through the move, the Japanese firm enters new categories, adding cask ale and cider to its portfolio.

The two businesses have also agreed to arrangements that will see beers from across the Asahi portfolio sold in Fuller’s-owned pubs and tenanted outlets.

Fuller’s will carry its former brands, alongside the existing Asahi Europe portfolio across its pubs and hotels.

Asahi Europe said it will use its established global footprint to build the newly-acquired brands across the world.

The company will acquire the operations at the Chiswick-based Griffin Brewery where it will continue to brew.

Ownership of Dark Star and Cornish Orchards brands, brewing and cider-making operations, as well as wholesale operation Nectar Imports will also transfer to Asahi Europe.

The agreement remains subject to the conditions of the deal, including approvals by Fuller, Smith & Turner’s shareholders and the UK Competitions and Markets Authority.

Assuming that the conditions are met, the transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2019.

Hector Gorosabel, CEO at Asahi Europe explained: “Asahi Europe has already established a leading presence in the premium beer category. Welcoming these brands and operations to our business will further consolidate that position, enabling us to even better serve our customers and consumers.”

“At the same time, our global footprint will enable us to unlock the potential in these brands internationally to significantly enhance their scale and value. It is another step towards realising Asahi Europe’s vision of becoming a global brewing powerhouse built on our commitment to brewing excellence and quality.”

Wild Beer Co add Millionaire to core can lineup, launch blended stout

Wild Beer Co has added Millionaire, its 4.7% Salted Caramel, Chocolate and Milk Stout to its range of core canned beers.

Somerset-based Wild Beer Co has broadened its family of 330ml canned beers with the addition of Millionaire.

The stout joins a portfolio that includes Bibble Pogo, Fresh, Nebula, Sleeping Limes and Yokai.

Millionaire is brewed using speciality Munich Malt for its base, something the brewer said results in a full-mouthfeel despite the beer’s relatively low ABV.

They add: “We use Valrhona Cacao Nibs to bring the chocolate element to the beer. These are renowned to be the highest quality available and because of this are used by chocolatiers and pastry chefs around the world.

“We source Cornish sea salt for the salty kick at the end of the beer that brings the salted caramel delight and finishes off the beer.

“Using lactose brings the milk in the milk-stout, sorry nope this beer isn’t vegan but it is one of the few of ours that isn’t. The lactose gives a silky smooth mouthfeel and lush velvety sweetness in the beer.”

Wild beer Co has also launched B.A.B.S, or ‘Barrel-Aged Blended Stout’. The blend is made from four different beers that have been aged over 12 months using four barrel types: Single Malt Whiskey, Bourbon, Olorosso & Palo Catado Sherry, and Red Wine Barrels.

Embrace the opportunity | Brixton Brewery

Brixton Brewery has done a great job of placing South London on the brewing map since starting out in 2013. But a life-changing approach from Heineken has allowed the team to accelerate their growth plans, employ more staff and increase the brewery’s visibility. And they’re just getting started, reports Tim Sheahan.

A year can be a long time, and it can also fly by. At times, it can feel like both.

I first met Jez Galaun, co-founder of Brixton Brewery, back in 2016. Dressed head to toe in brewing overalls, he was under the cosh, balancing half a dozen different tasks while also overseeing a brew at the company’s railway arch brewery. 

The South London site – just a stone’s throw from the frenetic, melting-pot high road that connects Brixton Road and Brixton Hill – was full to the brim. This was the sign of a business enjoying steady growth, but one that was balancing the endless commitments that comes with such territory. 

It was a moment that is both a distant memory, yet one this writer recalls vividly.

Fast-forward more than 18 months and Galaun is in attendance at the inaugural Brewers Congress 2017, an educational event organised by this very publication. Talks were delivered on areas such as branding, the barriers to growth, as well as the exciting opportunities that are out there for breweries.

The following day, Brixton Brewery announced the biggest news in its short history. That it had partnered with Heineken UK in a deal that would enable the business to open a second site in Brixton, boost capacity nearly tenfold from its 3,000hl site to up to 30,000hl, and significantly grow its team as a result.

One year on, Galaun and Brixton Brewery, co-founded by Libby Galaun, Mike Ross and Xochitl Benjamin, are looking very much at ease in their new home. But they know this is just the beginning. 

“It was surreal and somewhat strange being in a room with all of our peers without anyone knowing,” explains Galaun. “The year that has followed was crazy, if I’m honest. Building a new brewery feels like starting again.”

He adds: “We’ve had much to learn and we want to go as fast as we can, but we’re particularly conscious of the pressure that would put on us as a team. So we’re simply trying to build things up step by step.”

And that’s exactly the approach they’ve taken. The new brewhouse, manufactured by Gravity Systems, has produced in excess of 50 batches since it was commissioned earlier this year. The brewery also has a sales team for the first time in its five-year history. 

The imminent appointment of new sales person complements a sales manager and brewery ambassador, tasked with winning new business outside of the brewery’s South London home where much of its beer has traditionally been sold.

“London is a big market and to make a mark, you are going to wear out a lot of shoe leather,” says Galaun. “Until we moved into this brewery, we focused a lot on small pack as it helped us get our beer out there. When you’ve only got a little bit of beer to sell, you focus on the smaller containers. We can change that now.”

Fifty percent of their beer produced at the brewery’s old – and still operational – site at Arch 547 on Brixton Station Road went into bottle, while the remainder was split between cask and keg. Since the move, close to 70 percent of the beer Brixton Brewery produces goes into keg while the rest is canned and bottled.

“We really want to make our canning line sweat in 2019,” he says.

The scale and scope of Brixton Brewery’s new facility is impressive, but there is still much room to grow into, as well. New FV tanks will arrive in the new year while the bottling line, currently operational at its older site, will be moved into the new brewery so to bring all packaging under one roof.

This methodical approach follows months of getting to grips with the company’s new brewhouse. Such a jump has been exciting for the team, but it’s not without its challenges, too. 

“We’ve wanted, and needed, to take time to understand the different efficiencies this new kit offers. Whether that’s how we extract sugars from the malt, or the flavour and bitterness from the hops,” says Galaun. “We also need to make sure that we are getting the right yield from the equipment, because that doesn’t simply happen straightway. 

“When we started brewing at the new brewhouse, we were getting the flavour we wanted but not the right amount of beer. So we had to adjust things by increasing the amount of wort we were casting from the brewhouse to the fermenters.

“With that, the flavour changes so you’ve got to dial things back in with the amount of dry hop. It has taken quite a few brews of each recipe to say ‘ok we’re happy’ with this flavour profile and the amount of beer we’ve produced. That has been an interesting experience and not something we have had to do before,” he says.

While Heineken has offered its expertise at many levels, it hasn’t engaged in much hand-holding as Galaun and the team grow into their new brewery.

“They don’t brew on this scale or produce the style of beers we brew. But they’ve helped in terms of project management and getting the brewery up-and-running,” he says. “What’s also been valuable is the way they’ve helped in getting the kit in the right place, not just for our needs today, but in five-years time.”

For Galaun, the new site has a logical flow with raw materials coming in one end, going into the brewhouse, then fermentation, before packaging and warehousing. This setup has allowed the team to reach their production goals for 2018, which is producing close to double the 3,000hl capacity its arch site is capable of.

At its maximum, the new setup could produce 30,000hl per annum, but Gallaun sees such output as a way off yet.

“This facility is big enough to hold tanks to produce such volumes, but that’s a lot of brews each week on a brewhouse that isn’t automated. We wanted it that way. We wanted that manual level of control and intervention we had on our old system,” he says. “Other brewhouses were more automated, more suited to brewing multiple times a day.”

What Brixton Brewery did specify though was a whirlpool, with Heineken recommending a three degree slope on such a system.

“Like anything else, they didn’t recommend kit we should buy, they just sanity checked things and ensured each supplier was providing us quality equipment,” he adds.

The addition of a canning line was a big move for Brixton Brewery, kit that has perhaps unsurprisingly been specified with the ability to fill 440ml cans when required. This is something that will see the light of day in 2019, with Galaun identifying lager and “hazy, hoppy beers” likely to be distributed in such vessels. 

While Brixton Brewery always planned to grow, expand and invest in new kit, the Heineken partnership enabled the team to accelerate such plans. 

They’ve never looked back.

“It was serendipity, I suppose,” says Galaun. “We had long reached maximum capacity in the Brixton arch. There was no way we could add any more fermenters!” 

With that, the company identified an 8,000sqft site located on Brixton Hill, half the size of the site they now have. However that site came off the market and at the same time, late 2016, they received an approach from Heineken.

“They emailed out of the blue to tell us that they liked what we were doing, their desire to talk and to discuss how we could work together. It was to the point,” he explains.

Galaun says he and the team were “humbled” that such as business had noticed what they were doing on a relatively local, modest level.

“You don’t get that type of email every day, and we’re an open-minded bunch so it made obvious sense to agree to talk,” he says. 

“And we made them come and brew with us!” laughs co-founder Xochitl Benjamin. “We outlined our vision for the business and that was something they wanted to get behind. We don’t think this current setup would have been achievable for us if we had used crowdfunding or similar.”

These discussions continued for 12 months until Brixton Brewery announced the deal in November 2017. And the team remain heartened by the response to news.

“We had a lot of people congratulate us, acknowledge the hard work we had put in and tell us it was a great opportunity for us and our beers,” recalls Galaun. “That meant a lot.”

He adds: “A lot of breweries in our position know how hard it is to grow in London when it comes to identifying suitable space. We were fortunate to find a path to allow us to carry on with our journey; there’s a lot of breweries looking for that same next step. They could relate to us and the opportunity we were given.

“For us, much of this partnership is about us making the best beer we can. We want to place Brixton on the map for great beer. That’s not something we felt we could do as well in the old site when it comes to the level of quality control and analysis. But we can, now.”

Galaun is enthused with the beer the brewery is producing, noting a stable wort heated by its steam system. Packaging quality has experienced an uplift too, with lower dissolved oxygen levels being achieved in the three canned beers it produces: Reliance Pale Ale, Atlantic A.P.A and Low Voltage Session IPA. 

The brewery’s co-founder is also positive about the impact the tie-up will have on the team as a whole. 

“We want to give our staff the opportunity to grow as professionals but also improve their quality of life, too. Brewing and living in London can be tough, and you have to be very passionate about what you do. We want to ensure our staff can grow with us, in work and outside of it,” she says.  

A positive working environment will also pay dividends for Brixton Brewery as it further grows into its new home, and its relationship with Heineken evolves, too.

The brewery’s beer has already made it to around 15 of the multinational’s Star Pubs and Bar estate, a number that will only grow in time. But for now, the focus is still firmly rooted on developing direct relationships across London, fulfilled by the brewery’s sole trusty delivery van.

You get the impression that such an approach suits Galaun and the team, while they continue to get to grips with Brixton Brewery 2.0.

“The task of setting up a new brewery is almost like starting a business all over again and it is very, very intense. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had help and project management advice, so I have massive respect for those that make that journey alone,” he says.

Galaun adds: “I think that we’ve taken a quantum leap going from a small 10 hectolitre railway arch setup to a 50 hectolitre 15,000sqft facility. 

“Then away from production, we’ve had to really think a lot more about our brand, what it means to us and what message we want it to convey. You spend a lot of time thinking about that when you’re supplying locally, but that ramps up incredibly when your beer is reaching a wider audience.”

And reaching a wider audience will become more commonplace for Galaun, Benjamin and the Brixton Brewery team in 2019 and beyond. 

Concentrating on producing a quality core range of beers remains the priority, while the older site will enable production of more seasonal and experimental beers and offer up a stronger taproom experience in due course.

“We want our beer in more places than ever before. But not at the compromise of quality, either,” says Galaun. “We want more people discovering what we do, enjoying it, and associating Brixton with great beer.”

Northern Monk revamps branding

Northern Monk has said it wants to challenge the “perceived notion of what northern is” following a total brand refresh that comprises rebranded core packaging, an updated logo and a new website.

Leeds-based Northern Monk has revamped its branding and said it wants to place an even greater emphasis on its core range in 2019.

The brewery, which has updated the packaging of its core beers, has also added two new beers to that family in the form of Origin, a 5.7% gluten-free IPA and Striding Edge, a light IPA that was well-received when initially launched as part of Northern Monk’s Patrons Project series.

Its rebrand has been completed by Leeds-based strategic brand design agency, Robot Food. The refreshed logo has been designed to feature a much cleaner, simpler compass design, with the original monk icon remaining the same.

On the can designs, Robot Food used illustration and colour to create a world around the beers, capturing the emotion behind each.

Colour is used to evoke the nature of each beer style and flavour, from calming session-able blues to bold, fiery IPAs. Each beer has been given its own personality and story that was then used to influence the illustration.

Russell Bisset, founder of Northern Monk said he wanted the brand revamp to convey his passion for “maximalist” experiences.

“Whether it’s in music, art, or beer, I’ve always been a fan of multi-layered experiences and the depth that comes with that,” he explained. “We want to build on the success of our Patrons Project series and offer something that builds upon the values Northern Monk stand for.”

He added: “We also want to challenge the perceived notion of what northern is. The cans don’t solely need to be images of rusty steel and the like. It’s about respecting heritage and pushing things forward.”

The rebrand follows on from a strong 2018 which featured a successful crowdfunding campaign, expansion, new beers and the opening of its second refectory site, in Manchester.

“It was an incredible year, and not without its challenges,” he said. “We took the big step from growing from a small group of friends to a large group of friends, and ones that needed to increase the organisational aspects of the business, and all that comes with it.”

With the opening of the Manchester refectory under its belt, attention is also turning to other sites along with new projects.

Bisset said: “We are thrilled to have opened Manchester and its safe to say we are actively looking at Liverpool. We’re happy for Bundobust to be the canary when opening in new cities!

“In all seriousness, we both see the value in opening in the same cities. Going forward, I’m eager to explore the opportunities in Glasgow and Newcastle, as well as London.”

Northern Monk will also be the host brewery of this year’s Northern Powerhouse collaboration project. Wylam Brewery in Newcastle hosted the critically-acclaimed inaugural series in 2018.

Core range vs specials – a retailer’s perspective

Having a strong core range is important for the brewer and it’s important for those selling it because such a portfolio allows the consumer to build a relationship with the brewery and retailer in question. But special and seasonal beers complement such staples in a very effective way too, explains Jen Ferguson, co-founder of London’s Hop Burns & Black.

Ask any independent retailer and they’ll tell you that core beers are the bedrock of their business, as “fridge favourites” and party beers.

Even though we stock more than 350 different beers and bring in from 15 to 30+ new beers a week, it’s our core brews that drive the volume through repeat purchases, six-packs and case buys. Our top five best-selling beers each week will almost always be cores from breweries local to our two South East London shops – the likes of Brick Peckham Pils, Gipsy Hill Hepcat, Villages Rafiki and The Kernel Table Beer. 

It’s the sign of a great brewery if they can deliver a consistently good quality core range and these core beers are ones that customers return to again and again.

Core beers are important to brewers

I’ve been banging on a lot this year about the importance of independent breweries, which are increasingly under threat from the advances of ‘Big Beer’. For many independent breweries, key to their success and survival is being at the heart of their community.

More and more, drinkers want to buy local. Most of us take pride in where we live and provenance plays a key role in our choices at the bar or the bottle shop. 

A consistently good core range offers breweries the chance to cement their place in the community. Drinkers look out for their beers as a touchpoint in pubs, as a dependable signifier of quality as well as an opportunity to drink local and support independent business. 

A gateway to move on from macro

Craft beer still accounts for less than 20 percent of the overall UK beer market, which means the majority of British drinkers are still choosing macro beers at the bar and in shops. I see core beers as hugely important as a gateway to introduce people to independently brewed and/or craft beers. 

Brick Brewery founder Ian Stewart agrees. “An accessible beer and recognisable brand creates a safe zone for the macro drinker who has probably read a lot about the craft beer boom but feels it is a little out of reach. They’re probably not going to dive into a 10 percent pastry stout or funky sour, but they do like the idea of buying local – a beer such as Peckham Pils from our Foundation range, for example, provides this easy introduction.”

But one-off specials are important too…

For us, one off, experimental, limited edition beers are what brings the boys, girls and tickers to the yard. Particularly with our online store, if we can be the first to list, say, the latest Verdant, Northern Monk or Cloudwater special, we win the day. Our biggest spending customers come for the newbies and rarities and stay for the rest of the catalogue. 

These big spenders aren’t buying huge quantities of these specials – they’ll likely choose one or two of each beer before moving on to the rest of the catalogue, creating an important halo effect.

Most of our best-selling breweries have both a core range and a strong programme of specials. Many started with a strong, well-loved core range but have seen how the market has changed and evolved accordingly. 

Gipsy Hill co-founder Sam McMeekin says: “I remember the days of delivering beer to a bottle shop and having customers buy cases of Beatnik right off my trolley. But we saw the market changing in front of our eyes, with many craft customers moving to specials as a

primary purchase, with core as a filler.

“We developed a line up balanced between specials and core to ensure we can stay up to date with what’s wanted by consumers, as well as supporting the indie shops who are at the coal face of changing hearts and minds to craft.”

Breweries doing both successfully also include the likes of Brick and Northern Monk, which now sell their core ranges in supermarkets while reserving specials for the specialist market. Brick, for example, works on a pricing structure for its core range to ensure indies have a fair price and can continue to provide these much-loved fridge favourites.

Can you only do specials?

There are no hard and fast rules in the wonderful world of beer! Some breweries have done very well without a core range. Newcomer Loka Polly in Wales, for example, has targeted the craft market this year by producing a schedule of one-off beers that showcase constantly changing duos of hops. In doing so, it has quickly become one of our most in demand breweries.

Cloudwater also famously made its name with an ever-changing range of specials and seasonals. Recently though, even it has moved to more of a core approach with its autumn/winter range, with “brewed all season” beers joining the list of one-offs.

I have a new brewery, what should I do?

Above all else, make sure you launch fully formed with consistently good beers. The market is so crowded these days that you’ll likely not get a second chance if you stuff it up. Don’t go chasing a huge schedule of specials until you’re certain every one of those beers is going to hit the mark. Get your basics right first – I’d far rather enjoy three rock solid core beers than a dozen dodgy one-offs.

In fact, as much as I love drinking in-demand specials and innovative one-offs, there’s no greater joy than when I order a core beer and it’s been brewed perfectly. I had a pint of Brick Peckham Pale at our local pub the other week and it was so good it brought tears to my eyes. Never underestimate the power of your core!

Brewers encouraged to apply for grant funding

People working across the brewing industry are being encouraged to apply for grant funding.

A major grants fund for scientific research and education in the brewing industry has begun inviting applications for funding in 2019/20.

Through the Brewers’ Research & Education Fund (BREF), applicants have little three months to submit their bids, with a deadline for funding applications of 31st March 2019.

The BREF supports vital research into projects of potential benefit to the brewing industry, such as improving brewery environmental footprint, dispense hygiene surveys and developing new hop varieties, as well as a range of educational activities.

Full details of the applications process can be obtained via the British Beer & Pub Association website.

The fund was created through proceeds from the sale of the BBPA’s original headquarters in Portman Square, central London. The Worshipful Company of Brewers acts as Trustee and administers the fund, with the BBPA promoting the fund and providing the secretariat.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, explained: “The Brewers’ Research & Education Fund has supported many important projects over the years and is an important legacy from the Brewers’ Society and the Institute of Brewing. I’m delighted the fund is open for another year and look forward to receiving applications.”

Michael O’Dwyer, the Clerk to the Brewers’ Company, added: “The Brewers’ Research & Education Fund is a great example of the Brewers’ Company’s focus on investing in the future of the brewing industry.

“As the Trustee of the fund, the Brewers’ Company looks forward to awarding grants to another selection of valuable industry research projects and the opportunity to further education in beer and brewing.”