Blog :

Grainspotting: Brixton Brewery x Ritzy Cinema Present A Very British Ale

Grainspotting: Brixton Brewery x Ritzy Cinema Present A Very British Ale

What do you get when you take Brixton’s best-known brewery, its most historic cinema and its most innovative social enterprise scheme? If you add a good dose of all-British ingredients, and a name in no way inspired by A Certain Referendum you may have heard of… you get BRITZY XPA, our new one-off extra pale, extra British ale collaboration with our friends at the Ritzy Cinema, with proceeds going to the Brixton Pound’s community-focused Brixton Fund.

We started with an idea of seeing what we could do with all-British ingredients. The craft beer industry has been pretty heavily dominated by New World hop varietals and flavours, but we have been increasingly impressed by what you can do with what you find closer to home.

We’ve used Epic and Jester from hop merchant Charles Faram. Jester has an intense, punchy aroma of new world proportions, with flavour notes of grapefruit and tropical fruits. We’ve combined them with British ale yeast and our regular Maris Otter (Grand Cru) malt from Warminster Maltings, which has been producing extraordinarily high quality malts using a method virtually unchanged since it first started in 1855. For us, craft brewing is so much about sourcing the best ingredients and using them skilfully to extract the maximum flavour.

The result is a typically British mix of irreverence, dry wit and irony, with undertones of misguided colonial nostalgia. A pint is probably best enjoyed on a disappointingly rainy summer picnic on a windy beach, during the blitz while you and your friends sit around Not Grumbling. But a sunny day on the Ritzy terrace, overlooking the action in Windrush Square would be a close second.

We’re so pleased with this exceptionally flavoursome, very pale and slightly hazy brew, that we can’t resist a little New World-style shouting about it. We took our time perfecting the recipe, and nearly as long cracking each other up with terrible film-inspired punning name possibilities – a pint of With Ale and I or Yeast is Yeast anyone? – before sticking with the straightforward combination of Brixton and Ritzy, with the pleasing symmetry of Br-for-British also sneaking in there.

You can get Britzy while it’s cold and available, on tap exclusively for a limited time at the Ritzy Brixton from 8 July. All proceeds from our side, plus an optional point-of-sale donation from tap sales at the Ritzy will go directly to the tireless community work of the Brixton Pound’s Brixton Fund.

Brixton Brewery Tap Room is open Fridays from 6 til 10 & Saturdays from 12 til 6.

 Brixton Brewery is proud to be an accredited London Living Wage employer.

Four seasons under the arches

Four seasons under the arches

In some ways, running a brewery has a soothingly timeless rhythm to it – the daily same-ness of making beer, testing beer, packaging beer and selling beer. In other ways, the quality of the beer and character of the brewery itself are shaped by the rhythms of seasons. We brew our beer in an arch under a railway line, very much open to the elements, and to the life of Brixton Station Road. It’s easy for people to stop by, stick their heads in and see what we’re up to – and many do. Usually they walk away with a few bottles to try. Conversations often start “I was just walking past and…” The openness makes it easy for us to keep in touch, to get to know regular customers, and to make new connections. We love the space, even as it has its layout challenges and size limitations.

We’ve been around for over three years now, and every year we’ve grown, our beer has travelled further and further from Brixton, and our team has grown and changed as we have. This past year has been no different. We’ll start with autumn, because that’s the season in which we first started.

Autumn

Autumn 2016 marked our third birthday, and was probably the year in which everything really came together for us as a well-oiled brewing business. Things felt more steady and planned, and a bit less improvised as we moved out of the start-up years. We celebrated with the launch of Hurricane (link), our double strength Atlantic APA, a storming whirl of crisp hoppy energy that gained many fans. We had a special label designed for occasion, in which the B for Brixton became a 3. A surprising number of people wrote to ask for it as a souvenir for three-year-olds they know named Brixton. Happy third birthday to Brixtons everywhere. Hurricane will be making a repeat appearance at this time in 2017.

hurricane-birthday-web

A label detail from our celebratory third birthday Hurricane IIPA

Winter
Christmas is the season of our annual Megawatt Double IPA, crafted specially to take the edge off the winter chill and bring a little cheer to the early nights. We welcomed some much-needed new members to the brewing, office and events staff just in time for the manic Christmas season. Every hectic December working day, we took a moment to give thanks to our Meheen bottling and labelling machine, which is pretty much all of our Christmas presents come at once. Last year at the same time, we were hand bottling, capping and labelling every single bottle ourselves. We’ve long prided ourselves in our hand-crafted approach but we were pretty happy to let the robots take over the boring bit so we can focus on more interesting things. Like new recipes, and consistently top quality brews.

20161217_111223

One wise Megawatt (far left), Yoda and a warthog…

Spring

As the weather warms, our thoughts inevitably turn to lager. We started making our Coldharbour Lager in 2015 and it quickly became one of our most popular fine weather beers. Making lager can be tough for small breweries. They need to slow ferment in cold conditions, and the process takes around three weeks. Compared with just a few days for ales, this means that precious tank space is out of commission for a lot longer. Capacity has always been one of our biggest challenges – we mainly sell it as fast as we can brew it. But you can’t mess with seasonal drinking favourites, so this year we’ve managed to squeeze in a few more tanks and fermenters. Coldharbour Lager will be keeping you cool and hydrated in barbecue season 2017 and beyond.

20170216_165027

More tanks mean more beer! Increased capacity in Arch 547

Summer

Foodie destination that Brixton is, it was only going to be a matter of time before we sorted out a collaboration with a local chef. We developed the deliciously spicy Market Saison, subtly flavoured with green tea and Jamaican sorrel flowers, for Masterchef winner Tim Anderson’s brilliantly experimental ramen restaurant Nanban. For an extra twist of keeping it local, we enlisted the exuberant talents of resident designers Eley Kishimoto for the label. The Market Saison will be available again this spring with some new flavour combinations planned.

MarketSaisonLabel

Our Market Saison collaboration with Nanban, label by Eley Kishimoto

That, in a few short paragraphs, is a quick blast through our brewing calendar. We remain eternally grateful for the incredible support we’ve had from friends, family, the brewery team, Brixtonites, beer lovers, and our trade customers. It’s been a wild ride for us as brewers and business owners. We’re still growing and developing new recipes while keeping our core range of beers fresh and flowing. Brixton continues to be a great inspiration for us. We’re happy to be here, making great beer.

If you want to a chance to see the brewery, find out more about us, and have a unique night out, come along to one of our regular tour and tasting sessions (details and tickets here), or check out our Tap Room, open 12 til 6 every Saturday at Arch 547, Brixton Station Road.

New brew launch: Brixi Saison offers modern take on traditional worker’s brew

New brew launch: Brixi Saison offers modern take on traditional worker’s brew

We’ve collaborated with renowned Belgian brewery Brasserie de la Senne to create Brixi Saison, a modern classic saison-style beer. In a further celebration of all that is so exciting about Brixton and beer these days, the striking label design uses the Connect Brixton print designed by EleyKishimoto as part of Brixton Design Week 2015.

We first heard about Brasserie de la Senne through the hopvine as it were – it was recommended by friends as brewery as dedicated to flavour, quality ingredients and a local ethos as we are. We love their dedication to making truly distinguished and deliciously well-balanced beers. So we were pretty pleased when they agreed to work with us on a special collaboration of Belgium-meets-Brixton beer. Master Brewer Yvan came to London from Brussels to work with us on our limited run saison. Saison is a French-Belgian style farmhouse ale that was traditionally brewed in the winter to refresh seasonal summer workers, saisonnière, from whom the beer takes its name.

We learned loads from our crash course in brewing Belgian style and we’re proud of the result. We wanted to add a new twist on this classic beer style so we’ve used New World Galaxy and Vic Secret hops along with European Noble hops. The result is a beer that is dry, fruity and refreshing, with the slight spiciness characteristic of a saison. As with all of our beers, Brixi is bottle conditioned and un-fined (making it vegan-friendly).

A message on a bottle

We always like to add a bit of local history to your pint. Brixi Saison is named for the Saxon lord Brixi from whom Brixton takes its name. Brixton is derived from Brixtane, meaning stone of Brixi, referring to the boundary stone once placed here.

When fashion meets fermentation

At Brixton Brewery we’re well-known for our colourful and distinctive branding, based on exuberant African batik fabrics. International design company EleyKishimoto is also known for its fantastically eclectic patterns and has long been based in Brixton. So it was particularly cool to be able to use one of its motifs for the Brixi label. The pattern, Connect Brixton, was designed specially for Brixton Design Week 2015. As well as being on our labels, Connect can be seen painted on the pavement of the Brixton Design Trail street gallery on Ferndale Road and outside the Brixton tube station. The designers say, “the intertwined grid like pattern represents the spirit of Brixton in more than a single layer.” We say: it looks fantastic and is the perfect visual match for our beer!

Try Brixi Saison in our Tap Room at Arch 548 Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PF. We’re open Wednesdays & Thursday 5-10pm, Fridays 5-11pm, Saturdays 12-11pm & Sundays 12-6pm. Instagram:  @brixtonbrewerytaproom 

Naming our beers, Part 4: a Coldharbour in a heatwave

Naming our beers, Part 4: a Coldharbour in a heatwave

Our label design (see above) once again uses vibrant colours and takes African batiks as its inspiration. The zig zag lines reflect the facade of the distinctive brutalist-inspired Barrier Block estate on Coldharbour Lane

Our Coldharbour Lager made its debut just in time for Britain’s hottest June day on record. The heat wave was typically short-lived but the beer has staying power as a properly refreshing and crisp thirst quencher. It’s great for hot summer days, or for those times when you just want to kick back with an ice cold beer that combines distinctive craft flavour with the classic lightness of a lager.

Coldharbour Lager is a good-time beer, named for the freewheeling Coldharbour Lane, home to legendary drinking dens like The Dogstar, the Prince Albert, the now disappeared Cooltan Arts (Check here for a fascinating look at a piece of lost Brixton) and at least one club too underground to even have an obvious name. It’s not uncommon to be on your way to work while people are still wandering home along CHL on the morning after a heavy night before.

The street is the perfect inspiration for our Pilsner-style beer, with its Bohemian origins. With a heady floral aroma taken from noble hops, this is a lager with loads of personality. When the brewery was still something of a distant daydream back in 2011, Coldharbour Lager was the name of one our first theoretical beers, so it feels pretty close to our core.

WP_20150125_00_24_31_Pro
Brainstormed beer names from back in 2011. Two have made it to reality (so far).

Travellers to Central London once used Coldharbour Lane as a stopping off point to rest for the night – a coldharbour was a basic shelter where travellers could rest and find sanctuary from the elements. Crack open a bottle of Coldharbour Lager and take refuge from thirst.

Naming our beers, Part 3: A taste of Mexico made in Brixton

Naming our beers, Part 3: A taste of Mexico made in Brixton

V2-lupolo

This is the third in a series about the real-life inspiration for our beers, most of which are named for places around Brixton. Read Parts 1 & 2 here and here.

We were still pretty young as a brewery when the brilliant people of Wahaca/DF Mexico approached us about doing a special beer for them. The Lupulo was a bit of a departure for us, but it was one we were only too happy to make. Who wouldn’t want a chance to brew up a little taste of Mexico-in-a-bottle? The Wahaca team is known for being really supportive of their suppliers, and seeking out the best local flavours and colours wherever they can. It’s been a great relationship for us and challenged us to make the best beer possible to go with the bold, spicy flavours of Mexican food.

We chose Lupulo for the name because it means ‘hop’ in Spanish and we’ve concocted a feisty, hoppy brew that’s strong enough to stand up to the boldest of cuisines. If you can’t get on a plane and get to the real thing, you can head down to Wahaca Brixton or DF Mexico and at least have a taste. Salute!

Here’s Jez and the team , looking particularly good in soft focus, talking about the Lupulo, the brewery, and about our collaboration in this awesome video made by Wahaca.

They’ve got some other great videos in the series as well, looking at some of the other local craftspeople that contributed skills to Wahaca’s particularly striking Brixton restaurant. This one describes artist Jo Gibb giving chairs a new and beautiful lease on life, and in this one, the local spray paint artists who took on the job of making a landmark Brixton building even more distinctive explain their vision.