london brewers alliance – why?

bringing a bunch of brewers together seemed like a fun thing to do, so we did it.

back in April, soon after I, (with Steve) took on a little challenge of brewing some beer for a central London brew-pub, I met Evin O’Riordain from the new Kernel Brewery, located nearby in Tower Bridge.  Hell, if I was going to sweat my ass off, I was going to have some fun doing it…

It seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do, bringing all my, then, fellow London brewers together.   I had seen the camaraderie that exists amongst the brewers in the Bay Area; the passions of John Tucci, Shaun O’Sullivan, Rich Higgins and Dave Mclean bringing things together for the SF Brewers Guild.    This is just going to be a little brain dump of a few reasons why we did what we did.

From the outset, it wasn’t solely to get where we’ve got:     My early ambitions were to start communications, just on a social level.  Bullshit between brewers doesn’t help anyone.    I knew that there were a good bunch, knowing a few of the brewers anyway.     The first evening, a dinner at the brewpub, the table was amassed with food and beer, and 15 or so brewers.  A little WOW moment.

Once that’d happened, I realised, this is a good thing, we need to carry on.    I gamely pitched further ideas, which I am sure are now on the burner for next year.    The energy in the room was amazing.     The passions from large and small for the industry and beer were so evident, amazing.    The journies that many had taken to get to their respective brewers,  from near, far and somewhat round about fashions.

Brewing in London, for the London market is a fickle game.  Land costs, rent, etc are way above the norms – many many pubs, bars and venues, but rare was it that London brewed beer was a celebrated product.     For the first time in a LONG time London has 13 breweries, soon to be 14.   It was high time we reminded people that what was happening under their noses.

Meetings happened, flaws in the plans were raised – people became active, core plans came about:  1, the video to get the word out (Simon Semigluss prompted that, made by Andrew Morgan of Lambic Films) 2, a nice focal effort, the brew.  3, and an event.

Making the Film:

Finding someone to make a film, 13 breweries filmed, all their brewers – stage fright, swallowing their words – being filmed isn’t something was 101 in brewerying – was a challenge.   He made this:

Why?   Well it was to get the message out to a larger audience.   It was tweeted and blogged about right round the world.

Making the beer:

Andy Moffat is a legend.   One of the most hospitable, charitable and hardworking men you’ll ever meet.   He has a brewery in Tottenham.   He gamely invited us all to come and make a mess.   His brewery, Redemption was the scene for the production of a collaborative beer, the first of it’s kind in the UK – a city wide brewers collaborative brew.   The right and proper thing was to produce a porter, with a twist.  We like hops, well, I do.   So, don’t let Derek, Evin and I near a hop sack – we’ll decide to make it a little hoppier.    The recipe was an amalgam of an heirloom porter recipe, with brown malts, with a dash of Munich and dry hopped with American liberty hops.

why?    The opportunity for CPD (continuing professional development) is rare when you are running, owning and working in a brewery.   The opportunity to work with brewers of the calibre of those in the picture above, to hear their decision making paradigms was amazing; ask seven brewers a question about hops and you’ll get seven different answers.    Tom, a well travelled brewer, remarked that he’d not learnt so much in years.  Simon from Zerodegrees, learnt to single infuse mash, he’d never seen that before – working on a german lauter system for all his brewing career.  I believe that this helps make standards, where in London, you have to be as good as Fuller’s.  There aren’t two better brewers to spend the day with than John Keeling and Derek Prentice, who’ve both been in charge of a brewhouse longer than I have been alive!

The Showcase Event:

Considering we had just made beer, it would be rude to drink it all ourselves 😉

In all seriousness,  we wanted to meet people, tell them what we’re up to.  Tell them that there is great beer being brewed in the London area.    But, more importantly, we wanted to hear what people had to say about our efforts.  It’s easy for us, when running a brew pub, to be close to our customers – but the likes of Fullers, even the new kids on the block Camden (who’s helles is great!)  love the opportunity to interact.    Seemingly Camden beer was a hit, something like 5 kegs were drunk!     Oh, there’s a nice segue into another thing, there was every method of dispense, keg, cask and bottle.  Loved it!

There are better pictures out there than I took.   I got caught up talking to all and sundry.    Everyone was having a great time.   Much to my not in-considerable relief.

Why?  We did the showcase simply to meet people, give you the beer consumer the message about our beers, to you directly.   Of course we wanted to hear your opinions too.   Even brewers from out of county came along, not just the ever so passionate Eddie Gadd.

So, you can see why we did it.     2011, looks like it’s going to be fun one!

Here’s some links to other people’s thoughts on the Showcase evening:

Mark Dredge, "Pencil and Spoon"
Simon Saunders, "Boggle about Beer"
The Londoneer
Dylan Fuller "BeerViking"

For more information, see: the london brewers alliance facebook page, their twittery thing and their website.