Big Smoke Brew Co
The Esher based company added an eighth pub to their estate in February. This is the White Horse in Mill Lane,
Welwyn, Hertfordshire (AL6 9ET). It is a Grade II-listed 18th century former coaching inn that features a large secluded garden. The pub is being renovated in readiness for reopening when that becomes possible.
In 2017, Heineken took a 49% interest in the company, which financed Brixton’s move from railways arches to a purpose built site, still in Brixton, with new kit that allowed them to just over double their production capacity. It was announced on 1 February that the Danish multi-national had acquired the remaining 51% from the four founders, Jez Galaun, Libby Galaun, Mike Ross and Xochitl Benjamin. Ms Benjamin told the Brixton Blog website, “We honestly can’t believe how far we’ve come, from home brewing to launching a small brewery, to building a highly recognisable community-based brand, with a larger new brewery and taproom. It makes us want to dream even bigger for the next seven years.” The four founders will remain in change of the brewery’s operations and creative direction, seeing this as an opportunity to ‘secure the future of Brixton Brewery for our team, our families, our community and fans of our beers’. The company employs some 25 staff, pays the London Living Wage and remains committed to the local community, although their beers will now be marketed nationally.
Five Points Brewing
Some good news. For a while it looked as if we might lose Five Points but I’m pleased to say that they have now found new premises and remain in Hackney, their home for the last eight years. This also gives them the opportunity to consolidate their brewing, sales and distribution operations on one site in Mare Street. There will also be room for a large taproom featuring a large outside area which they hope to have ready in time for the reopening of outdoor hospitality.
The Pembury Tavern will continue to operate as before, as soon as opening is permitted. Managing director and cofounder, Ed Mason, said, “The past twelve months have been incredibly challenging for independent breweries, as they have for all small businesses. So it is incredibly exciting to be able to look to the future and place the company on a secure footing with a new brewery and taproom, in our Hackney home. I cannot wait to be sharing pints in the sun in our new outdoor taproom this summer,”
Five Points retain their commitment to their Charity Partnership Scheme, which supports local charities and organisations. Their 2021 Charity Partners are mental health charity Mind in the City, Hackney & Waltham Forest, and the Hackney Food Bank. Since the start of the first lockdown, Five Points have donated £1 to charity for every order placed through their on-line shop.
Fourpure Brewing Company
Fourpure, part of the Lion Little World Beverages group, have been reequipping their brewery in Bermondsey. They have installed new kegging and canning lines at a cost of £2.5 million. Their Supply Chain Director, Frank Markham, told the Morning Advertiser, “The demand for our canned beer has doubled since the beginning of the COVID pandemic and the improved facilities mean we can fulfil this increase in sales, while still meeting world-class hygiene and safety standards. Carrying out this update in current times has obviously brought its own challenges and I am incredibly proud of the excellent safety standards our team met throughout. We were also really happy to be able to support a number of contractors during this process, many of them smaller businesses and many brewing-specific.”
It was assumed that when they closed their brewery Mechanic had stopped trading. That was wrong. Owner and founder Olga Zubrzycka has contacted us to say that the company remains very much a going concern and, in due course, still intends to be active on the London brewing scene. I have apologised to Olga for the misunderstanding.
I ’m grateful to Dave and Gill Morgan, the joint Brewery Liaison Officers, for these notes. For obvious reasons, this has been an unusual year and particularly challenging for those with children like Park’s owners, Frankie and Josh. They have however weathered the pandemic well. As well as starting to can their beers, as previously reported, Josh has continued to experiment and new brews came on stream, included the very popular Schone Eiche (Marzen Amber Lager). A successful crowdfunding campaign raised double the initial target and will be used to fund extra tank space, marketing and much needed staff. The brewery also received a Lockdown Hero award from CAMRA’s Kingston & Leatherhead Branch to acknowledge their hard work in supplying all their customers, local and national, with exciting beers.
Portobello are about to lose one of their two original pubs, the Hack and Hop in Whitefriars Street. The pub is part of a large site just off Fleet Street which is being redeveloped to provide new court buildings and a police station. Contrary to some reports, the pub is not a listed building. However, a building in nearby Salisbury Court, which is Grade II listed, is being remodelled to include a ‘drinking establishment with expanded food provision (sui generis)’ and hopefully Portobello will be given first option on it.
The new brewing kit has been installed at the Ram Brewery site in Wandsworth, following the arrival of the conditioning tanks. Test brewing has already begun with production not far behind. Work on the Heritage Centre has however been delayed because of supply chain issues. Once this has been completed, work will start on the taproom.
Solvay’s ‘pay it forward’ fundraising campaign in January was successful and they should by now have moved into the railway arch next to the one that houses their taproom in Leytonstone. Their brewing operations will then be moved in from Ilford. In due course, they plan to turn the taproom into a brewpub and install a canning line. Roman Hochuli, their founder and head brewer, said, “We’re really happy to hit our target and so grateful to everyone who has supported us so far. With the money people have pledged, we’ll be able to fund the move, buy a new tank and upgrade the brewhouse so we can continue to churn out fantastic modern Belgian beer.”
Wild Card Brewery
Wild Card are opening their first tied house. It is the Tavern on the Hill in Highams Hill (E17 5RG). The pub was formerly called the Warrant Officer and was, coincidentally, where Solvay Society first brewed. Wild Card are looking for someone to provide the food. The main requirement is that they must be able to turn out a ‘cracking Sunday roast’.
Times are hard for small breweries and so they can do without the organised theft of a vital and expensive asset, their casks. A gang has recently stolen casks from brewery yards in several parts of London. It is believed that the stolen casks are being sent to Eastern Europe, presumably as scrap metal. So far, some 240 casks and kegs of different sizes worth over £18,000 are missing. The Kegwatch organisation is aware of the situation and is liaising with the police accordingly. If you see casks being loaded into an unmarked van, especially late at night, a call to the police might be worthwhile, but don’t put yourself at risk.
Truman’s Brewery redevelopment
Although no beer has been brewed at the Brick Lane site for many years, it remains an iconic part of London’s brewing history. Sadly there are plans to seriously change the ambience of the area. The excellent Spitalfields Life website reports that a large area of original granite paviours and setts in the large yard east of Brick Lane has been removed. You can see photos of what has happened on their website: https://spitalfieldslife.com/2021/02/07/wilfuldestruction-at-truman-brewery/. The Spitalfields Trust has reported this to Tower Hamlets Council’s Planning Enforcement Team, pointing out that what has happened far exceeds being the repair work that it is claimed to be. The Trust has asked the Council to order the reinstatement of the paving, something that they are empowered to do if it is decided that the works were illegal. Planning permission is being sought for the construction of a shopping mall and offices on the corner of Brick Lane and Woodseer Street and this may be connected with that. The Trust have also objected to that project.
Time to Party Again!
The answer to the puzzle on page 4 is that it is a tap for a Watney’s Party Seven can. I apologise if I am making anyone (myself included) feel old. These devices, powered by a soda stream bulb, cost £3.75 which, at the time, was a small fortune. Consequently, screwdrivers, hammers and the like were more usually employed.
This isn’t just a stumble down memory lane. Watney’s Party Seven has made a comeback in the form of a five litre mini-keg with a proper built in tap. It is much more stylish than the original, which was a simple cylinder. The name Party Seven incidentally referred to the container, not the beer inside. There was also a Party Four. The beer in the new mini-kegs is 4.2% ABV (see their website for tasting notes) whereas the contents of the original version were only 3% ABV. It was rumoured to be Northampton brewed Watney’s Starlight Bitter, a beer so dreadful that, on its own, it justified the formation of CAMRA. In my recollection it was certainly worse than Red Barrel.
The Watney brand was revived a few years ago by the Brands Reunited Company which licensed the rights to the brands from Heineken in 2014. Cask versions of various beers have previously been available, brewed under contract by various small brewers. The company changed its name to Watney’s Party Seven when they decided to concentrate on canned beer during the COVID crisis. The beer, along with some interesting merchandise, can be purchased through their on-line shop: https://party-seven.com/collections.