The best brewers have never cared much for convention.
They strive to produce beers that match their heady ambition and creativity, transcending race, sex, age and just about any other vaguely attributed aspect of our character. They’re the yin to the beer drinkers’ yang. They don’t just stroll in and get the job done; they redefine what the job is. Like a boss.
Meet the Boss, Sarah John, head of the multi-award-winning Boss Brewing, one of the UK’s only female-led breweries. Alongside her partner Roy, Sarah is redefining the beer we’re drinking and where it comes from. It’s all borne from a mutual passion for making the finest beers around and they’re doing an unbelievable job.
“We were avid home brewers and had been passionate brewers of beer for many years,” explains Sarah, who worked in sales before taking the leap into the world of craft. “I remember us going to a masterclass just before launching on how to start a microbrewery and the overarching message was “Don’t do it. There’s no money in it!” So, it was actually nothing to do with starting a brewery at all. We’re both really head strong and driven so it spurred us on more. We were determined to do it and make it a success and we’re so glad we did.”
The Boss Brewing brand matches this brave backstory. It’s about being fearless, not caring what people think and generally, doing things like a boss. They like to be tongue in cheek with their marketing, not taking themselves too seriously, and this comes across in the likeable and approachable nature of both the company, and their beer. Sarah’s ambition is for the brand to be associated with having a good time, making fond memories and, maybe, being a nostalgic throwback to beer aficionados countrywide in a decade’s time.
Sarah takes ownership of this direction and, like a true leader, is determined to stamp her own style on the beers Boss make, even if it isn’t flavour of the month with everyone.
“My own style preferences definitely come in to it. I’m a huge dark beers fan so perhaps it’s no surprise that our two awardwinning beers – Boss Black and Boss Bliss – are both stouts. I think with the craze still being for hop forward beers, dark beers are still massively underrepresented,” muses Sarah.
“That’s a real shame as it is far harder to make a really wellrounded stout than it is to chuck in a load of hops and this explains why you get the depth, layers and complexity from stouts that is quite unlike any other style. I will always advocate the humble stout – bring on the year of the dark beers!”
That’s why it’s so impressive that their self-confessed flagship, Boss Black, an absolute boss of a stout, has already racked up eight awards in two years – including the Society of Independent Brewers Gold Award just six weeks after launch.
Other beers in their range include Boss Bare, a 5% Munich Helles lager, Boss Blonde, a 4% pale ale, Boss Brave, a 5.5% American IPA, Boss Boss, a 7.4% Double IPA and Boss Beatle Juice, a 4.8% juicy pale ale. There’s even plans for gluten free efforts and non/low alcoholic choices.
Balance is also at the forefront of Boss’ thinking when it comes to beer. They want their beers to have “repeat drinkability,” not just be one-off, crazed inventions designed to be tried and left behind. The focus is on creating beers of superb quality that are accessible and approachable, and which stand the test of time. These are beer fans, beer drinkers, beer scholars doing their best to bring you guys at home the best brews they can. It’s not only admirable, it’s working. They’re even bringing the craft revolution to their hometown Swansea in West Wales.
“Generally speaking West Wales is a little more old school and trends such as craft beer usually come to us a few years later. That makes it all the more exciting for us though as it puts us in the privileged position of being able to introduce people to craft beer and convert them over,” explains Sarah.
“We opened our first brewery bar in Swansea called Copper in August 2016, which has been amazing for them. It’s the first of its kind (a craft beer bar) in Swansea and the reception has been amazing. People are keen to try beers unlike anything they’ve ever tried before. It’s catching on.”
From Swansea, Boss have spread their beery reach to every corner of the UK and beyond. In 2017, the brand exported their brews globally for the first time, reaching France and Canada.
Now, they’ve got European craft beer hotspots Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Germany in their sights.
At home they’re also making huge moves. Boss recently sealed the deal on a new brewery site, with work beginning on a space that is ten times the size of their current site. The idea is to bottle, can and label everything on site, and keep up with the demand for their beer. The new site will also house a taproom, their second bar in Swansea. They’re not forgetting where they come from either and they’re also retaining a vision and ambition to be much more than just beer manufacturers.
“There’s a huge yard too [at the new site] so we’re hoping to establish an annual craft beer festival there a bit further down the line, which will be a first for Swansea,” said Sarah. “It is a beautiful building with lots of character and history – it was actually a cinema during the First World War. So, an idea we’ve had is to also utilise the yard as a drive-in cinema, perhaps once a month. We’re just looking into the licence for it now – how incredible would that be? Plans are also underway for a third brewery tap, which I will be able to tell you more about in the near future.”
Boss Brewing is everything a modern brewery should be. Brave, bold, creative and ambitious; this positive, progressive attitude is sutured through everything Boss does.
In just two years, they’ve already left a huge, stouty mark on the British beer map, and they’ve never once rested on their laurels. Not only that, but there’s nothing conventional about the way Boss go about their business, not that they care.
In fact, they’re proud to be redefining beer in West Wales and beyond, and the image of who’s behind it. Like a Boss.
Originally published in Issue 10 of Flavourlys magazine. Written by Cameron Wills.