Redemption: a decade with local fans

For most of us, 2020 has not gone to plan but that is doubly so for Tottenham’s Redemption Brewing Company because they were supposed to be celebrating their tenth birthday. CAMRA London couldn’t however let this important milestone for one of London’s longer running breweries go without acknowledgement.

The brewery’s history started when Andy Moffat, a bond trader and home brewer, decided he wanted to do something for himself. Sam Rigby, his partner, said, “It all came to a head when we were on holiday and Andy seemed to spend a fair portion of it walking up and down the beach on the telephone with work.” Andy decided to think about setting up a brewery, although Sam was not so keen. They agreed that he should spend time researching the market and particularly the reasons to say no. After many months, Andy was still of the opinion that there was a market for another microbrewery in London; at that time there were just ten. Sam continued, “Despite Andy’s enthusiasm, I was not convinced. I had a good job with the BBC, which I enjoyed, and didn’t want to give it up”.

Sam and Andy

Andy went ahead and set up a 12 barrel brewery, using second hand kit from Staffordshire brewers, Slaters. Based on the Compass West Industrial Estate, Andy was helped by David Smith, the owner of Brewing Services Ltd, and who has worked with some 200 different breweries. From the beginning, Andy was working 5am to midnight and although Sam helped at weekends, doing the accounts, she felt she was never seeing him. After 18 months, she agreed a six months leave of absence from the BBC; she never went back.

After five years, bigger premises were needed and they moved around the corner and upgraded to a 30 barrel plant. Another brewery, One Mile End, moved into their old premises. Further investment meant the installation of seven fermenters of various sizes, which enables a flexible approach to brewing. Sam commented, “If I want to remind myself where we have come from, I just look at one of the original small fermenters.” The new premises include a tap room, meeting room and a micro lab. This has become essential to determining how often they can use their yeast before it needs refreshing. Their house yeast, in use from the beginning, was originally from S&N and had then been used by York Brewery. They store their original yeast sample at Brew Lab’s yeast bank, from which they were able to get a new sample after reopening post lockdown.

COVID has had an impact on sales. Normally there would be up to ten staff including two brewers; at the moment, they have six and just one brewer, Jacob Hobbs. Jacob’s background is less than usual, he also started as a home brewer but he trained in contemporary dance! Jacob commented, “I freelanced for a while and then got a ‘proper job’ in bank sales, a comic book store and then offshore, landing helicopters where I trained in health and safety and ISO processes.” He was then made redundant and that’s when life completely changed, “I saw a Brew Lab advert saying ‘Quit your job and do this course to become a brewer’, so I did. It lasted three months and once I finished I started applying for brewing jobs whilst working in bars such as Mother Kelly’s. I was really fortunate that Redemption took a chance on me.”

The brewers at work

The first beer that Redemption brewed was Pale Ale, followed by Urban Dusk. This was followed by Trinity (brewed first for the London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival in 2011), Rock the Kazbek, Big Chief, Fellowship Porter and their best seller, Hopspur. Latterly, these cask beers have been joined by two keg beers: Solar (American hopped pale ale) and Rhinelander, in the Kolsch style, which is lagered for five weeks. Before the lockdown, cask represented 70% of their production with 20% keg and the rest cans, bottles and mini kegs. Although most of the bottling is done off site, the porter is done by hand at the brewery.

Jacob said, “We are lucky to be part of the beer business. We brew good beer and we want our keg to be of the quality of our cask.” Sam added, “Our commitment to quality is at the core of a Redemption pint. For that reason we still call on David Smith. Cask beer is our English heritage and we like to do our bit at Redemption to keep it alive.” With regards to the current situation, Sam said, “My view is that 2021 is going to be a tough year. Let’s get over COVID and support pubs again; they are the fabric of the community and Redemption needs to play its part to get people back in pubs. We started in a recession. These are rocky seas and we are holding on to the lifeboat but we will survive.” And that is likely to be the case and it will no doubt be helped by Jacob because, after all, he has a certificate to drive lifeboats!

And what about the birthday celebrations? Sam replied, “Eventually, we want to have an enormous party to say thank you to pubs, people and drinkers who have supported us. I think we have the most loyal fans in the whole wide world. One said to us ‘You don’t own Redemption. We own Redemption. This is our North London Brewery’.”

For the beers’ tasting notes, see the full article in the brewery section of the regional website: london.camra.org.uk.
Christine Cryne