The last six months have been busy at Beatnikz Republic Brewing Co. We've been brewing on some very different sized kits; we've increased our online presence through well known and start-up online retailers; we've tried our hand at crowdfunding, and have undergone some very large changes. We expect the next six months to be a period where we really find our identity as a brewery and I wanted to recap on what's been happening, what's currently happening and what we're planning.
We set up a crowdfunding campaign in September last year and sought £20,000 to put towards a new brew kit. The response was very positive and there were some very generous pledges (a massive thank you to those that pledged), but we only reached just over £11,000, so we didn't receive any of the pledge amounts.* Why did it fail? A couple of reasons: 1) We were offering small level pledges rather than equity. This meant that because the value of the pledges were so small in relation to the overall target, reaching the target was quite difficult. We should have also priced the rewards better from the start as some of them were too expensive; we reduced the cost, but it took the sting out of the initial launch. 2) It's also possible that there may have been brewery crowdfunding fatigue (at least for start-up breweries). There were some very well known breweries seeking funding at the same time, so it was a competitive market to seek funding.
Either way, we didn't get what we needed and went back to the drawing board. The reason we needed funding hadn't changed: we needed our own brewery to make the beer we wanted to make, the way we wanted to make it, without the capacity issues we found when cuckoo/gypsy brewing. We knew there would be knock-backs along the way and we weren't about to give up at the first hurdle. We put together a strong business case and eventually raised the required funding through the sale of equity to friends and family. I still retain over 75% ownership of the company (and have full say on all beer and business matters), and I'm very grateful to the people that have believed in the brewery so far - it's only through their support that the dream of opening a brewery has come to fruition.
AND ON THE SIXTH DAY...
We are delighted to announce that the new brewery will be in Manchester. Why move from London to Manchester? 1) For family reasons: my wife works in Yorkshire and has been commuting from London for the past two years which is a hell of an effort! Being closer to her work means she'll have a much better work/life balance. 2) I've always had a strong affinity with Manchester having lived in south Manchester in the early/mid-2000s during my student days. I've always visited as often as I could and the city was responsible for getting me hooked on good beer in the first place (Big Hands, Temple of Convenience and Sand Bar were stocking amazing US and German bottled beers which absolutely hammered my student loans). 3) Manchester's a hugely vibrant beer city and the whole region is absolutely awash with great pubs, bottle shops and specialist bars. Some of the beers that local breweries have been releasing have been spectacular - we're going to be in some very good company and I hope we can contribute to the local scene. 4) I've lived in London for ten years and fancied a change. I've lived in many different parts of London for the majority of my adult life and will always see it as one the world's great cities and visit frequently. The boom in microbreweries and taprooms gave me the insight and inspiration to begin my own beer journey. I love London, but it was time for a change. 5) More affordable unit rental: I find the current trend of commercial transparency of breweries very welcome and didn't want to gloss over this benefit. Despite securing funding for a new brewery, we are still a very small operation with modest means. We have secured a 1,600 sq ft unit (details below) in the up-and-coming Green Quarter; a similar unit in such an area of London would cost 4 or 5 times as much. With the level of funding we secured, our budget wouldn't stretch to a unit requiring this much expenditure.
GREEN QUARTER, MANCHESTER: OUR NEW HOME
I still have to pinch myself that we were able to get this unit! As you can see from the picture below it has more than enough room for what we're wanting to do, and then some. Yes, it's a railway arch; and yes, it's a clichè - but I don't care, I absolutely love it!
We will be able to brew 8 barrels on our new kit, which will be installed in late February. We are currently in the process of applying for a change of use as well as acquiring a premises licence for a taproom that will be open on Friday evenings, Saturday day and evening, and Sunday day. We plan to start with 4 taps and work up to 8 or 10 when we are up-and-running and will have options for take-away beers. We are lucky to be in good company as well: there's the Red Bank Co. a few units down that serve coffee, breakfast as well as an evening bar; the award winning Three Rivers Gin Distillery a few units away, and we'll be sharing our space with Manchester's newest coffee roaster and retailer, Mistress of Industry Coffee Co.**, who will also be serving coffee at the taproom throughout the weekend. The Green Quarter is a great area full of startups and only 5 minutes away from the Northern Quarter and Victoria Station.
We are in the process of having the drainage/flooring changed; the plumbing upgraded; electrics rewired, and giving the place a lick of paint. It's a big job that will take time, but we'll keep you posted on the work and when we're planning to open (hopefully mid-March).
CONCEPT & STYLES: WATER, MALT, HOPS, YEAST, AND...
The reason I started brewing was to recreate some of my favourite beers. I wanted to make my own version of Green Flash and Dogfish Head beers that I had tried in the US years ago and couldn't readily find in the UK (unlike today). Making these types of beers was amazing, but it was playing around with the recipes that really got the creative juices flowing - especially adding additional ingredients on top of water, malt, yeast and hops. This idea plays a large role in our brewing philosophy: using interesting ingredients to take beer in different directions. As much as we love hops (and we really do!) we think there are enough breweries specialising in hop forward beers; and if we can combine our passion for using other interesting ingredients whilst creating a USP in an increasingly crowded market, then all the better! As my favourite beer writer/recipe creator, Randy Mosher, exclaims, "Brew beer with meaning; brew like an artist; brew with balance; and brew with reckless abandon." To give you an example of the beers we'll be producing, these are the first four beers being brewed at the brewery:
FARMHOUSE HITCHHIKER | 5.5% ABV
New Zealand farmhouse ale infused with sauvignon blanc soaked oak chips
AFROBEAT | 8.5% ABV
Imperial smoked coffee porter with single origin Ethiopian Yirgacheffe espresso
BEACH BUM | 5% ABV
West Coast pale ale with blood orange and lime zest
KOSSAK KABOOSE | 9% ABV
Russian imperial stout with cherries infused with bourbon soaked oak chips
REBRAND AND REPACKAGE
We have made the decision to can our beers, instead of bottling; the benefits of canning are numerous and well documented. From improved beer quality (less light/air tight), to environmental issues (cans being 100% recyclable), to recreational reasons (less breakage, chills quicker and easier to transport), cans are by far and away our preferred choice. We have also decided to exclusively use 440ml cans. The market is of course dominated by 330ml cans, and as great as they are - I'm greedy. It's a personal choice and there seems no overriding consensus from beer drinkers as to which size is preferable; so in the face of market flexibility, I hope my personal can size of choice is well received. We will see! This size can also allows our extremely talented new illustrator more surface area to play with. As you can see from our new Beach Bum 440ml can design, the more space we can give him the better:
As we're undertaking a big change by building a new brewery and moving to Manchester, we thought it was the right time to change design to fit in with the change of profile. With a new logo (update soon), updated website (in the coming weeks) and can design, we hope to start-a-fresh in our new home. We will still be providing 30 litre key kegs to our trade customers with updated bar lens design.
SIBA ASSURED INDEPENDENT BRITISH CRAFT BREWER
We are a member of the SIBA Assured Independent British Craft Brewer initiative and will be using the logo on our new can designs. We are doing this because there are many people that choose to buy products based on providence and would like to support small independent producers that are not owned by larger companies. Using this logo is designed to assure customers the beer they are drinking has been brewed by a producer that has agreed to abide by SIBA's Manual of Good Brewing Practice, is independent of any larger controlling brewing interest, and is brewing less than 200,000hl annually.
There are many people that wish to drink beer because of its flavour, no matter who owns the company. We absolutely respect their position - this is just for those customers who would like to be informed that their purchases are supporting a small independent business.
As mentioned before, the unit will also house the coffee roaster and retailer, Mistress of Industry Coffee Co. Once this venture is up-and-running, we will be using and experimenting with lots of different roasts for our beers. Our Imperial Smoked Coffee Porter, Afrobeat (see new can design below), already uses single origin Ethiopian Yirgacheffe espresso, but we'll be looking to design more beer recipes with coffee included.
Expect lots of stouts, porters and browns, but also IPAs infused with zippy light roasted coffee beans. The taproom will have many one-off exclusive brews which will be experimenting with coffee; we will also be serving coffee in the taproom on Saturdays and Sundays.
The taproom will be hosting many events once open. We love the idea of pairing beers with different foods or drinks and we plan to experiment a lot. We will be hosting special events where we'll pair coffee infused beers alongside the actual coffee used in the beer, as well as pairing beers made with donuts (think strawberry jam, peanut butter & chocolate, and cinnamon) alongside a slice of the donut itself. We also love the NFL, so whether you're cheering for the Patriots or the Falcons in this year's Super Bowl, we'll be showing Thursday nights' game as a rerun before a live game at 6pm on Sundays come the new season in September.
We will also be travelling around the country to many of the amazing beer festivals taking place throughout the year. We look forward to bringing one-off releases and meeting as many people as possible.
Well, that's pretty much it for now. It's all been a bit of whirlwind with lots of moving parts and we'll be getting on with everything and keeping you up-to-date, so watch this space and hope to see you in the new taproom soon.
Thanks for reading.
Paul Greetham | Founder & Brewer | Beatnikz Republic Brewing Co.
* For the crowdfunding project, it was an 'all-or-nothing' campaign, meaning that if we didn't reach our target we didn't get any of the pledges made.
** I founded Mistress of Industry Coffee Co. as a separate venture and is based in the same unit.