Bohem – staying fresh!

Like many breweries in London, Bohem has been able to take advantage of the growing interest in beer and, as a result, has grown steadily since they started brewing in 2017, until, of course, COVID came on the scene! The brewery was set up by Zdenek Kudr and Petr Scocek, both of whom are from the Czech Republic, hence the name of the brewery and the style of their beers.

These days, Zdenek runs the Bohemia House in West Hampstead. This was previously the Czech and Slovak Club but now the venue is open to all, hence the name change. Petr returned home last year. The Czech influence remains however. Petr’s place as head brewer has been taken by Matej Krizek, who had been brewing with them for a couple of years. Matej explained, “I began brewing at Brevnovsky Klasterni Pivovar in Prague and wrote to Bohem saying that I was a Czech brewer looking to come to the UK. The timing was just fortunate.”

Zdenek (right) outside the Bohemia House with North London Branch chairman, Colin Coyne

Having started as a tiny brewery and micropub in N22, Bohem moved to Tottenham in 2018, close to the Redemption and One Mile End breweries and the brewery expanded to a capacity of 36 hectolitres (22 barrels). However, from brewing to delivery, each of their beers takes between five and eight weeks because of the need to lager the beer. Glynn Davis, one of the shareholders, said, “This means we can’t react quickly, so producing one off beers every week, as some ale brewers do, is not really feasible, although we have done some collaborations in the past. Amos (4.9% ABV Pilsner) is the house lager in a number of outlets. This beer accounts for around 70% of our volume. Dark lagers are mostly sold as one offs through agencies such as Eebria but they do sell well in our Tap Room.” Glynn added, “We also have an amber lager, called Spartan. Most of the flavour comes from the malts and we find that cask beer lovers will drink it when we don’t have a black lager on.”

The Tap Room is run by Marek Prusa, who is another share- holder and a certified Pilsner Urquell Tapster. Bohem had started to look for another outlet but stopped when lockdown hit. “Our capital was all tied up in the beer” said Glynn, “but we hope to start the search again once things are back to normal.”

Fresh beer!

At the heart of Bohem’s approach is freshness and, although they did produce cans (including five litre kegs) during lockdown, it isn’t really key to their production. Glynn said, “It’s been almost a marketing exercise, keeping people employed and having something to sell with our name on it. We have been fortunate that One Mile End have been able to do our canning for us. We simply take our small wheelie tank and push it from us to them to fill. The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurised so there is a short shelf life.”

The ‘fresh’ approach is also true for their draught beer; anything older than five months is thrown away. Matej said, “Bohem is 100% about quality and we are paranoid about how our beer is stored.” For this reason, they tend not to use third party distributors because they can’t control the freshness. Glynn explained, “Controlling our own deliveries means that we can control the quality. We also found that we could supply outlets within the M25 cheaper than a wholesaler.”

So how did they fare over the last year? “The co-founders had a big stake in the business and it was run on very lean lines so we have been able to get through relatively unscathed.”

For a taste of the Czech, pop along to their tap room, it’s well worth the effort just to see a qualified tapster at work:

Christine Cryne

Note: the full address of Bohemia House is 74 West End Lane, London, NW6 2LX. It should not be confused with the Bohemia pub in North Finchley.