How, when, and why Brick Brewery were founded?
It is actually quite a long and winding journey! I was an avid home brewer when I was younger and whilst I took some time out of brewing whilst I lived in the USA (my university swim team didn’t take too kindly to drinking!), it had always been something close to my heart. Having moved back to the UK in 2005 to a job in data marketing, it wasn’t long before the Stewart family entrepreneurial spirit arose and I started a Mexican Taco business in my spare time out of an airstream caravan, doing the markets such as Brick Lane and ad hoc events. I think I was a bit ahead of the curve for the demand for great street food. It was so tough, the margins were poor, and the wastage of non-packaged goods was a challenge to manage. It was at one of these ad-hoc events that I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. I’d been able to bring along beer to sell so dragged along my mate to help. As I worked so hard serving up taco after taco, he was there flipping the lid off the bottle and inserting a lime wedge. He sold 10 times as much as I did! The street food business wasn’t for me so the Taco business was folded. A plan was starting to formulate for what I was going to do next. My then to be wife bought me a homebrew kit for Christmas and after it sitting in the cupboard for 6 months, I decided to give it a go again and it just escalated from there! The shed in my back garden in Peckham became a brewhouse and the vessels I used just got larger and larger, our friends were enjoying the beer so much I couldn’t keep up and it was then that I started to realise that this is truly what I wanted to do. A lot of research, planning and discussions ensued and in 2013 Brick was born under a railway arch in Peckham Rye, where our award winning Taproom still is today. Ever since then we have been building an independent and family run brewery in South East London.
How things have changed since you started out?
Things have changed a lot in the past 7 years! I now have 3 kids, a wife and after expanding capacity at our arch under Peckham Rye station several times between 2014 and 2016 as demand continued to rise, Brick expanded to a much bigger production site in nearby Deptford at the end of 2017. But despite the growth, our values still remain the same. We remain true to our roots and as a community that helped build us, we will share the good word and keep investing back. We have managed to achieve some great things including working with Peckham based initiative, Into Art, through art installations and sponsorship for exhibitions. Last year we donated to 5 charities through collaborative projects including Galop, Peckham Platform, Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue, Fix the Fells, Start up Stirling, and we started 2020 with a community beer, called Extra Mile with Runhead, to raise money for Westminster House Youth Club. All our team also get 1 day off a year to volunteer for a local charity/initiative. Now more than ever we all need to be pulling together and helping each other and we constantly strive to work out how we can do that. We have come a long way, but we wouldn’t be here without the support we receive from our customers and so thank you to everyone who have helped get us to where we are today.
How would you define your approach to brewing?
We have quality, innovation and choice in our heart and whilst London is our home, the world is our inspiration and our beers are inspired by the many travels of the ever-growing team and the creative and cultural surroundings of South East London. We have a solid Foundation range of five core beers at the centre which is surrounded by various seasonal, experimental and one-off specials, including our Sour series for which we have become very well known for, especially in terms of some of its unusual adjuncts. By producing a broad range of beers, we feel we have a beer for everyone and for every occasion, whether that’s a picnic in the park, dinner at home with the family or celebrating a special occasion; Right beer, right time.
Our beers have gone from strength to strength and are uncompromising in our approach. One of our brand promises is to always innovate, never settle and that is exactly what we have been doing. We have a fantastic and varied beer calendar already in place for 2021 and as well as a continuation of our Sour Series, we have a programme of more hop forward specials on the cards, plus some more blended Barrel Aged beers. And what is great about this is that everyone has input in what we produce. It is absolutely a collaborative affair and makes everyone feel a part of every beer we produce.
What can you tell us about the beers we’re featuring?
Well originating in Peckham Rye, we couldn’t not do a Rye beer, the name was already there! But fundamentally, we wanted to create a beer with a more complex malt profile and Rye malt adds a dry and biscuit quality to the beer, whilst the hops add a bit of pine, citrus and spice. It was originally introduced to be a complimentary beer in the existing range and it is definitely that, we have some very avid fans. This beer goes very well with cheese or BBQ’d meat and so perfect all year round.
We were one of the first London breweries of our size to do a lager and with the additional capacity at our new site, we were able to play to our strengths and work on a gluten free helles style lager. And so our Peckham Helles was born. It wasn’t an easy journey to get to where we are today but we are really happy with it. A soft bitterness with light, fruity esters and herbal spice from hallertaur mittelfruh hops, this beer is refreshing and moreish with a clean and crisp finish.
Can you tell us about your cocktail inspired sour range?
Our Sour Series started in 2017 with our Rhubarb Sour. It was such a hit we decided to do a whole series of sours. Launching a new beer every 4-6 weeks, we are always coming up with new ideas, with unusual adjuncts, the use of in season fruits and where we can and locally sourced produce. Our cocktail inspired sours was something we did 18 months ago as we looked to evolve the sour series with beers that would have added complexities such as wood ageing or inspired by cocktails of old, or both, creating a depth and twist that complimented our Fruit Sour Series. The first releases in this series were two vermouth cocktail-inspired beers; Manhattan Sour and Martini Sour.
Manhattan Sour: Styled on the classic cocktail, the Manhattan Sour blends sweet cherry with a dash of bitter orange. Cinnamon and Ginger create a warmth alongside rich, sweet and fruity notes from ageing on cherry wood. This dark sour harnesses the classic recipe made famous by New York’s speakeasies
Martini Sour: White grape, peach and lemon peel provide a delicate contrast to the dry base of this sour. Added chamomile, coriander seed and cardamom bring a level of complexity that defies expectation. Classic, balances, refined. Olive not required.
We didn’t release them all and put some away to be aged in barrels for a new depth in flavour. Launched in bottle on 23rd October in a fantastic twin pack gift box, here is a little more about the beers themselves.
Interview by Claire MacDonald