It’s one of Brixton’s many hidden corners with a story to tell, yet people stream past it everyday without even noticing. But look up through the trees near the railway bridge at Coldharbour Lane, with the Barrier Block estate looming behind you, on the side of Carlton Mansions, and you’ll discover a fading piece of Brixton’s incarnation as a hotspot of murals and political street art.
Nuclear Dawn, the mural, and the namesake of our newest beer, a botanical sour, was finished in 1981 by the artist Brian Barnes. The evocative image of a giant skeleton draped in US and USSR flags gleefully dropping bombs over London is damaged by time and obscured by graffiti. The London Mural Preservation Society says, “It represents our history of a shared experience and a reminder that war is not something we want. Sometimes when we don’t have a voice and we can’t shout loud enough, the murals speak for us.” The message Nuclear Dawn conveys feels uncomfortably current these turbulent days.
We’ve always been fascinated by this skeletal spectre of death and destruction, as a piece of art, and as a reminder of Brixton’s long and strong activist streak. When we were thinking of Brixton based inspiration for our latest brew, it came to mind. We got in touch with Brian Barnes, and it’s a huge honour that he was happy for us to use the graphics in our label design. He painted it, with help from the residents of Carlton Mansions, including Dale McCrea, who came up with the idea as part of efforts to re-build following the Brixton riots.
Sometimes things come together on so many levels that they seem almost pre-ordained. This feels like one of those times. We’ve long wanted to do a collaboration with Bates and Miranda, the family behind Duration Brewing. We actually first met Bates about a year before the brewery was born at a beer event, realised we both lived in Brixton, and kept in touch. Then when we were picking up our operations in the early days, we asked Bates to help us out. His extensive brewing knowledge and passion for beer was just what we needed to scale up and keep putting out consistently great beers. That wasn’t forgotten and we knew we wanted to work together again.
Bates ended up in Brixton via South Carolina, but Miranda moved here as a child, and is a true local girl. Her uncle was active in the street art scene of the 70s and 80s, and has an extensive slide archive of Brixton’s murals, which Brian Barnes’ assistant was trying to locate for a research project on Brixton murals of the 70s and 80s. Miranda put them in touch. Connections within connections…
Nuclear Dawn Botanical Sour is packed full of tropical fruits and botanicals from Brixton Market and is much anticipated as our first ever kettle sour, a beer style that uses lactobacillus bacteria to produce a characteristic tangy flavour.
For Bates and Miranda, Nuclear Dawn’s flavours are tinged with bitter and sweet; this brew marks their farewell to Brixton as they get ready to leave for Norfolk, and their new farmhouse brewery. They’re giving up the life of urban gypsy brewers to set up in an ancient priory site on Abbey Farm, West Norfolk. Follow their founding story and read about their range of pre-release beers, including Nuclear Dawn at www.durationbeer.com and across social media @durationbeer.
Brixton Brewery x Duration Brewing Nuclear Dawn launches Saturday 28 October from 12pm til 8pm at Brixton Brewery, Arch 547, Brixton Station Road, London SW9-8PF. There will be art, artists, music and brewers. Join us!