On the verge of an epic crowdfunding campaign, By The Horns co-founder, Chris Mills talks to Flavourly about going from a homebrew kit in a shared house to a 2500 square feet facility, the future of the brewery and taking the London beer scene by the… Well, you know the rest.
Over the past six years, By The Horns Brewing Co.’s growth has been excellence in execution; a considered and well-implemented fruition based on demand, desire and damn good beer. But evolution is a slow process, one that can only take you so far in a short space time. In order to take the brewery to the next level, the team in Wandsworth have come to the realisation that it’s time to start a revolution. But first, allow us to take you back to this award-winning brewery’s humble beginnings.
Alex and I were living together in a shared house in Putney,” begins Chris Mills, By The Horns co-founder and porter enthusiast. “We were embarking on our graduate careers after finishing at uni in Bath. Whilst living in this house, Alex began homebrewing, first extract then all grain and I became very interested in the beers that were coming out, and the flavours and styles of beer previously unheard of.”
The fact that the best pints the pair were drinking were being brewed right there in the comfort of their home acted as a eureka moment for Chris and Alex.
“This was 2010 and you would struggle to get a decent craft beer in London,” continues Chris. “After becoming disillusioned with day-to-day work and both wanting to do something for ourselves, we looked at the logistics of setting up our own brewery. We loved what was happening in the beer world and saw a gap in the market with the low number of breweries in the UK, especially in London.”
And so, the By The Horns story began. Since brewing commenced in 2011, the independent South London brewery has gone from strength to strength, constantly and consistently growing both in terms of scale and range. Indeed, ‘evolution’ is proudly stated as one of the brewery’s core principles; they refuse to standstill, always on the lookout for new ways of improving or progressing their brewing methods, practices, processes and beer development.
As Chris explains: “We started with a five-barrel brewery with three fermenters in 800 square feet of space. We now have a 12-barrel brew length with nine in our tank farm. We have our own means of bottling and invested in equipment to filter and keg our beers. We now occupy around 2500 square feet across four industrial units with a dedicated tap room with 14 draft lines and fullystocked fridges of lovely beer.”
Despite more than tripling in size and capacity, this is merely the beginning for By The Horns who are hoping that their upcoming crowdfunding campaign is about to launch them to a whole new level entirely; evolution is set to become revolution.
“Our goal is to raise £450,000. With this, we intend to purchase a brand new, bespoke, shiny brewery and automated canning line. We will move production to a purpose-built site fit for brewing and packaging our beers all under one roof. Production will remain in London as that is important to us and who we are. We will keep our tap room where it is and install a small pilot kit for brewing experimental beers, and look to provide a food option for all of our beer-loving visitors.
“After a successful crowdfunding campaign, we will be in a great position to brew a lot more beer, gain access to a larger market and employ more beer lovers to help us on our journey. We can’t wait and hope we get some Flavourly subscribers behind us after they try our beers.”
All of this effort, expansion and (that word again) evolution would be in vain if By The Horns’ beers weren’t up to the job.
Fortunately for us craft beer drinkers, however, a passion for the drink and a focus on quality means that the beers are as strong as the ambition behind them. Five of these brews will be making their way to members of the Flavourly community up and down the country in craft beer club boxes this month, and Chris tells us what to expect.
Beginning with Stiff Upper Lip, this 3.8% pale ale was the first beer By the Horns ever brewed though, as Chris explains, “it probably tastes nothing like the first beer we ever brewed. It has been tweaked and changed over six years and we love where it has come.” Stiff Upper Lip is light, balanced and far too easy to drink.
Wolfie Smith, on the other hand, is as in-your-face as they come. “An ode to the 70s sitcom character, filmed just around the corner in Tooting,” Chris enlightens us. “A zesty amber IPA with a sweet toffee and caramel malt base jam-packed full of bitterness from US hops. Dry-hopped for aroma and a hell of a lot of whole flower hops in the boil means this beer is really full of flavour.”
Then there’s Chris’ favourite beer, their acclaimed porter Lambeth Walk. “It has won countless awards including Best Bottled Porter in SIBA Nationals 2015. Works so well on all formats. Chock full of flavour, expect cocoa, coffee, hazelnuts, smoke, dark berries.”
Sitting alongside these is their 2Tone Lager, a dry-hopped, unpasteurised beauty of a lager and their special release wheat beer One Arm Bandit, a hefeweizen with added grapefruit, lime and orange zest.
Again though, even with a wide range of styles and accolades under their belts, evolution is the name of the game. Chris says: “We love brewing different styles of beer. That’s what got us into brewing in the first place. I think you could spend your whole career brewing and still find new recipes and beer styles you haven’t brewed.
“We have a DIPA in tank we will be releasing for our Revolutionary crowdfund campaign. We will also be doing some more barrel-aged and darker beers once we get into Autumn. A smoked porter is a must for the end of 2017.”
While the story (so far) of By The Horns has been one of evolution, it all began with one giant leap and a four-letter name: “Alex’s second name is Bull and he always called the homebrew kit By The Horns. I loved the name and could see it working very well as a brewery. It really summed up what we were doing. Two 20-somethings taking huge loans, and giving up our comfortable day jobs and salaries, and taking life by the horns.”
Originally published in Issue 6 of the magazine. Written by Kevin O’Donnell.