Reunion Ales Sam Gibbs tells us how the brewery came to be, their approach to brewing and why sessionability is at the heart of everything they do…
Let’s start with an easy one – when and why did Reunion Ales come to be?
Our founder Francis Smedley set Reunion up in 2015. He’s a straight-forward, plain-talking sort of guy and his ambition was simply this: to brew Modern Session Beers which would bring artisan beer to all kinds of people and to do so sustainably. The aim has always been to create beers, using hands and human smarts (not machines), which are interesting and well put-together but easy going, sessionable and therefore accessible by everyone out there. He wanted Reunion to appeal to both the seasoned craft aficionado and the mainstream drinker waiting for the right time to convert! Alongside that clear brewing ambition sits our desire to limit our impact on the planet as we grow and develop. We’ve never put spent grains or hops into landfill and today every pint of beer we brew actually makes renewable energy!
What was the first beer you ever brewed?
Put our range side-by-side and the name might give this one away. Opening Gambit was the first beer to roll out of our cold store. It’s now our number one session bitter and was a finalist in the Champion Beer of Britain contest. By launching with Gambit we were demonstrating to the drinking public that we know what we’re doing – there’s no super-dark malt forwardness or in-your-face hop bombing to hide behind so you’ve got to be able to brew well to pull it off. With Gambit we were saying “We are Reunion and we know how to brew quality, consistent beer, please come and try it!”
Unlike so many modern breweries, who chase high ABVs and crazy flavours, you put sessionability at the forefront of your beers – what inspired you to take this approach and what challenges does it present (if any)?
That’s right and there are a few reasons for this. First and foremost we want to be inclusive. By stripping back the marketing noise which surrounds the craft beer scene we are striving to make beers with branding and packaging which is as easy to understand as our beers are on the palate. We won’t shy away from using unusual ingredients (in fact one of our core beers is brewed with coriander seeds) but if the outcome isn’t easy and pleasurable to drink then frankly what’s the point? There are some loud voices out there in the craft beer world and, you’re right, high ABVs and whacky, out-there ingredients are often the route to getting noticed. We’re trying to take a step back from this. We believe that the majority of drinkers see beer as part and parcel of having a good time with friends, family and colleagues. It’s supposed to be fun and ought to be easy. Being very frank, if all you have as a brewer is a succession of rabbits being pulled from hats then you’re going to struggle in the long-run. We want to be brewing into our old age so it’s important for us that there’s a real market for our beers and that they will go the distance.
We’re delighted to be featuring all four beers from your can range this month – what can Flavourly members expect from them?
Regardless of your preferences (be they hop-forward, malty, dark or pale) we hope you get some easy-going, relaxed pleasure from all four of the beers. They are very different from one another in many respects but all share one unifying theme – they are quaffable, light, well-balanced and therefore very easy to drink.
If you could only brew one Reunion beer forever, which would it be and why?
I’d have to say the lager. Not only are we super proud to have created a lager we think will stand the test of time, with six weeks maturation time we’d have time to rest between batches. If we were brewing forever we’d need some down-time to recoup and enjoy reunions of our own!
What does 2020 look like for Reunion – any big plans on the horizon?
Yes, 2020 is going to be a defining year for Reunion! This year we will be significantly investing in and focusing on our sustainability credentials, setting ourselves high targets and genuinely thinking about how we can implement practices that are more than just fads and will allow others in the beer manufacturing and related sectors to follow. While this has always been a big area of focus for us (our spent grains and hops are used to create renewable energy and fertilizer!) we think we can do so much more.
We take this very seriously and hope to be announcing some exciting plans in Q2!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to tell the Flavourly community about Reunion Ales?
We have a saying in the brewery: “if a second Reunion doesn’t follow the first, we’ve manifestly failed.” A shiny brew-house and award-winning beers is all very well but real customer feedback, what you like and where we can do better (both from a production or sustainability perspective) is really important to us. So above all please let us know your thoughts, they will always be gratefully received and reflected on.