Bottling up Brixton

Bottling up Brixton

Brixton Brewery is going through its fourth expansion in three years as it looks to expand across the UK. BQ caught up with co-founder Jez Galaun to hear what the future holds for the South London town's eponymous brewery...

Brixton Brewery is one of London’s most up and coming breweries, making beer in the heart of one of the capital’s most colourful and famous neighbourhoods. 

The brewery was founded in 2013 by Jez Galaun, a former IT technician at a leading fund manager and close friend Mike Ross, an accountant.

The duo first met at the old Hive Bar (now Craft Beer Co. Brixton) whilst dining with their partners, who quickly bonded over newborn babies.

“We met in the old Hive Bar back in 2008. I was there having a burger and a pint with Libby and so was Mike with Xochitl and their first child.

“The lady’s looked at each other’s prams and got talking. We realised we were neighbours and more or less lived across the road from each other. It was a chance meeting really.

“We became close friends and Mike and I began brewing homebrew together, one week at Mike’s flat then one week at mine.

“In time, we reckoned that every great neighbourhood deserves a great brewery, and we wanted to bring one to ours.”

The alcohol industry was going through somewhat of a revolution, spearheaded by craft beer, and the duo knew they wanted to get involved.

From 2013 to 2014 alone, it was averaged that a new brewery opened up in Britain every other day following the surge in popularity of craft brewing.

Jez and Mike decided to start drafting up ideas in 2011 and after two years of planning, the brewery officially opened its doors two years later in 2013.

“We were both into craft beer and could see what was happening with brewing in London. The city was at the forefront of the craft beer scene, there are other cities such as Bristol, Manchester and Leeds with real booming scenes but London has always been at the forefront.

“We started drinking locally brewed beer and got a real taste for it. We’re both extremely proud and fond of Brixton as a place, it’s such a unique town, and we just had this idea that we could bring a really great brewery to Brixton and that’s what drove us.

“If we didn’t do it, someone else would have. It was a case of either put up or shut up.”

Nestled in a railway arch just off Brixton Station Road, the brewery pays homage to the town that gave birth to it in every way possible.

Its colourful labels for example, which make it stand out on the shelves, are inspired by the African fabrics often found at Brixton market.

Brixton Bottles Box

The names of the beers are also inspired by the town, from Coldharbour Larger paying tribute to Coldharbour Lane all the way to their Electric I.P.A , influenced by the iconic Electric Avenue.

“What makes us stand out from other breweries is we have a story behind us that people can relate to. They know Brixton as a place, they know a little bit about it, and we kind of tell them a little more.

“Brixton’s a really vibrant, colourful and exciting place and we really wanted to celebrate that. Over the years it has been on the map for the wrong reasons, such as the riots and deprivation, and that kind of thing.

“On the side of each label we tell a little story about each beer and almost all of our beers are named after local places. You’ll notice most of the beers are named after landmarks, roads and buildings.

“We always look to celebrate the place and bring out the character of Brixton in not only the appearance and the branding but also in the flavour and everything else we do.”

Jez was quick to point out however that branding only gets you so far, and their success is largely down to the quality of the beers they produce and not just their design.

“The branding will only sell the beer once, in order to win repeat business you need a good product to back it up, I think we’ve worked really hard to get our beers to where they are now.

“When we first opened three years ago we came from a home brewing background and didn’t really know commercial brewing.

“You just work and work and work, repeat and refine and keep improving until you get to a point where you’re never 100% happy, you always want to improve, but you get to that 90% satisfaction with your recipe and that last 10% you’re forever tweaking and trying to improve!

Brixton Brewery Setup

“We’re not a massively experimental brewery. We never set out to kind of create anything too weird or whacky, we never set out to go for novelty factor we wanted to have a core range of beers where people knew what they were going to get when they bought it.

“When we design a beer we're always seeking balance. By that I mean the interplay of malt and hop, sweet and bitter and we want all of our beers to be drinkable and approachable first and foremost.

“We don't try and make the hoppiest or most bitter beers but aim for the balance of flavour that means you enjoy from first to last sip and the kind of beers that are versatile, go well with food and a good session in the pub!”

The company have also worked closely with the tight knit Brixton business community, which Jez sights as one of their key reasons for setting up in the town.

“Brixton is full of independent business and we all get what we’re trying to do. We all try to support and champion each other, that’s one of the reasons we setup business here.”

A perfect example of this was the launch of their Belgian Saison Ale, Market Saison, which pays tribute to the Japanese flavours of Brixton Market.

“We recently released a beer called Market Saison which is brewed using ingredients from the local market.

“The idea behind this was for us to source an ingredient locally and introduce it into our beer to once again reflect the character and the history of Brixton.

“It has proved a huge success and we’ll probably replicate this every year now going forward but with a different ingredient.”

Three years since its launch and the company now has six people on its payroll, alongside Jez, his wife Libby and Mike’s wife Xochitl, all of whom work at the brewery full-time.

This includes four brewers, a sales manager and one delivery guy. “There are six other members of staff apart from us three, all of whom are here full-time. Everyone lives locally so they’re right at the heart of everything we do.”

Jez is now set to embark on his biggest task to date as he gets set to head up the brewery’s fourth expansion in three years.

Brixton’s loudly-branded beers are proving a huge success and are quickly being snapped up by independent bars, restaurants and off-licences across the capital.

Brixton Brewery Delivery

Supplying around 200 stockists, the brewery has been running at full capacity for the past nine months and needs to increase its manufacturing capacity in order to continue growing.

This has led to Jez and Mike making the bold decision to expand their family-run community business by investing in the expansion of their brewery at the arches.

The expansion, which they hope will be complete in September, will see the reshuffling of the current set-up and increase output by 40%, totalling an extra 100,000 litres per year.

Jez hopes this will help the brewery expand its presence outside of Greater London, reaching new areas of the UK, and maybe even overseas.

“We’re currently going through our fourth expansion in three years which will allow us to break out of London and get our beer regularly into stockists in the Midlands, the West Country and the North.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from outside of the capital but we have never had the capacity to cater for the demand. With this latest expansion, we’ll be able to do so on a regular basis.

“I also think the expansion could potentially help us export as well as break into the rest of the UK. We get a huge amount of enquiries from all over the world; just yesterday we had an enquiry from Chile believe it or not!

“We get a lot of enquiries from Sweden, Italy and France in particular because they’re really interested in London brewed beer.

“I think London is quite lucky in the fact that London beer is a brand in itself; virtually the fact that you’re making beer in London gives you a head start. It provides a major boost to independent brewers like us.”

As the company gears up for the next chapter in its history, Jez and Mike and their team are gearing up for a celebration as they celebrate their third birthday in October.

“We’re set to celebrate our 3rd birthday in October. To mark the achievement we’re launching a new limited edition beer and having a huge party.

“We’ll be hosting the party at the brewery and will be serving the specially brewed beer fresh from the kegs.

“We’ll also be looking to barrel up and save some of it for our fourth birthday. The idea is we’ll put it in a rum barrel or something like that.

“There’s a huge West Indian community here so rum is quite popular as you can imagine – that’s where the idea came from. We’re a little unsure of what type of beer it will be just yet but we are floating some ideas around!”

It is these simple touches such as aging their speciality brew in a rum barrel which really underlines Brixton Brewery as a business, paying tribute to their roots in everything they do.

Fancy having a taste of Brixton? It could be sold in a bar near you very soon! Or if you can't wait that long, head over to their online store at brixtonbrewery.com!

Pint Of Brixton Beer