The London Beer Lab

BeerSaskia spoke to Bruno and Karl from the London Beer Lab about the opening of their micro-brewery later this month, and about exciting local beer plans with Brixton Buzz.

Why open a brewery in Brixton?

Bruno: When I moved to London I could not really find a wide variety of beer and I started to home brew. Back in my home town, in Lyon, it is possible to do home brewing courses. I was surprised to find that there were no brewing workshops in London, and I thought to myself “we should do this in London”. This is how it started. I use to work in finance, this is a bit of a transition for me. The first home brewing workshop took place in my flat last year. My entire flat got taken over by brewing equipment, so we decided to look for a place to open a micro-brewery.

Karl: We looked at possible sites across London, Brixton was the best location we could find. We are close to the Brixton high street,…

Bruno: …other businesses, and the community. The other possible sites were hidden in industrial parks. We are close to Brixton Market and the Tube, making it easy for people to find us.

Karl: We moved in February this year, in June we held our first brewing workshop here. The workshops have been great. People have been returning to bottle their beer and have been very happy. A couple brewed wheat beer especially for their wedding.

Bruno
Bruno

What type of beer will you be making?

Bruno: We just brewed some Bavarian wheat beer, and some amber ale. The brewing workshops we do every week will determine what we brew next. It can really be any type of beer, we will see what requests we are getting. In the fermentation room we have some Belgium styles, some altbier and pilsner. We want to experiment, that’s one of the guiding principles of the London Beer Lab. That’s why I wanted to open a brewery really, to brew different beers.

Karl: For the moment we will be focusing on bottled beer. We are also doing a collaboration with Brixton Buzz, they will crowd source the recipe for a beer from local internet forum Urban75. It is great how they get people involved. It looks like people are going for a medium strength pale ale, with something that gives it a bit of a buzz. Brixton Buzz will probably be available in local pubs from mid August. More will be revealed soon.

Will you cater mainly to the South London craft beer connoisseurs, or are you planning to win over a new audience?

Karl
Karl

Bruno: In fact we are planning for world domination.

Karl: It is not like we have different opinions… We both feel that people should not be drinking bad beer. We also don’t think that craft beer should be the preserve of the beard and sandals brigade or yuppies, it should be accessible to people and hopefully we can contribute to that locally.

Bruno: We will definitely cater for the beer connoisseurs, but also introduce beer to a new audience through our workshops. There are now in the region of 50 micro-breweries in London and we are planning to stock beer from other micro-breweries, for people to buy. Alongside that we will be selling our own beer. If we get a feel for the local taste, we may get local pubs interested.

Are you currently working with other local businesses?

Bruno: We are very much focused on getting up and running, and ready for our official opening later in August. We need to get some shelves, and cardboard boxes for the bottles. We are currently looking for a local bakery to work with. The spent grain we have left over from brewing can be made into bread. Do you know a local bakery?

Saskia: Sure.

To be continued. The London Beer Lab micro-brewery can be visited at Arch 41 Nursery Road (row of arches across the street from bar SW9). More information about the London Beer Lab brewing workshops can be found at http://londonbeerlab.com/

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Christmas traditions come home

Every year, on Christmas Eve, my family has pork pie for dinner. The tradition has been passed down from my mum’s family where they had pork pie for dinner on Christmas Eve because my gran would be too busy plucking and preparing the turkey to cook. (Yeah, yeah, grandpa could have been doing the cooking – let’s just say times were different!) I’ve never met anyone else who eats pork pie on Christmas Eve though mum was recently told it’s a Midlands tradition which makes sense as her family is from around Birmingham. Anyway, this tradition means I’ve eaten many pork pies in my lifetime. Mostly these have come from supermarkets. Marks and Spencers and Waitrose both sell reasonable pork pies, however, in 2010, I bought the Christmas pork pie right here in Brixton.

In early December I found out that Ian, at Cornercopia in Brixton Village, was making pork pies to order in a variety of sizes. These pies were handmade from start to finish, pastry, meat filling and apple jelly. I went for the 10-person pie, judging the size from baking tins Ian showed me. It was the largest pork pie I’ve ever seen (yet not the largest I could have had..). I put in my order and on 23 December I went to pick up my pie. It looked magnificent. A pie worthy of Christmas Eve dinner (and Christmas Day supper and Boxing Day lunch as it turned out!). I carried the pie to my parent’s house near Cardiff. My mum cut the pie. The meat filling looked like, well, meat. “That looks different” everyone said, then “That’s good!” when they tasted it. The pork pie of 2010 has set a standard all other Christmas pork pies will have to live up to. I’m just hoping that Ian will be making them again next year..

But the fact that the pie tasted good is only one reason (albeit a pretty good one!) why the pie was so special. I loved contributing the pie to my family’s Christmas and more than that, I loved that it came from the place I live, and that I knew the person who made it. Telling my family the story behind the pie was as much a contribution to Christmas Eve dinner as the pie itself. And with this I understood even more clearly how Makerhood can work. Buying a pork pie from Waitrose fulfills the need to have a pie for Christmas Eve dinner. But I never felt like I was involved with the pie. Buying my pork pie from Cornercopia felt very different. I was contributing to the success of an independent business in my local area and contributing to my family dinner at the same time. I met the people who work at Cornercopia, they make great pies and I want them to be successful – not least so I can get my pork pie there again next year. In return, they provided me with the best pork pie I’ve ever eaten and a personal, friendly shopping experience that gave me insight into someone else’s life in Brixton. If Makerhood can make experiences like this happen I’ll be more than happy!