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Characters of Coldharbour Lane wins Guild of British Beer Writers Award

Characters of Coldharbour Lane wins Guild of British Beer Writers Award

We are absolutely thrilled to have won the title of Best Corporate Communications at the Guild of British Beer Writer Awards 2020 for our Characters of Coldharbour series.

The Guild of British Beer Writers is the organisation for beer communicators and represents some incredible talent. We highly recommend having a look at the list of nominees on the Guild website and checking out their work if you love great writing. 

If you’re a regular reader of our blog you probably saw some of the content from our series here over the summer. We highlighted some of the people and businesses along Brixton’s Coldharbour Lane, namesake and inspiration for our popular Coldharbour Larger.

The series featured portraits by local up-and-coming photographer Amari James, paying homage to some of the people who have made the street what it is today. From the architect of the building sometimes mistaken for Brixton Prison (which also inspired the zigzag pattern on the Coldharbour Lager cans) to the chip shop famous for its live DJs, Characters of Coldbarbour Lane was a celebration of a slice of time along this buzzing Brixton thoroughfare.

“We spoke to people who represent both ‘old’ and ‘new’ Brixton. Some who are running family businesses that have been on the street since the 1950s, and others more recently arrived. Despite their different stories, what struck us was how much everyone had in common: a deep respect for the local area, and a desire to serve their community as best they can. We also wanted to shine a light on businesses as they reopen after lockdown and the famous Brixton streetlife returns.” – Jez Galaun, Co-founder of Brixton Brewery

The photographs and interviews from the campaign were featured on our social media channels, and brought to life in print by Posterzine. The photographs are also on display Brixton Brewery Taproom (Arch 548 Brixton Station Rd, Brixton, London SW9 8PF).

Read the interviews here:

Brixton’s hip hop chip shop

Brixton’s hip hop chip shop

Chip Shop is based at 378 Coldharbour Lane, right at the point where the street crosses over Brixton’s bustling Atlantic Road. Its walls are spray-painted with the larger-than-life faces of some of hip hop’s biggest names: 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, Eazy-E and more. Why? Brainchild of MICHAEL LYTHGOE and partner CIDALIA RODRIGUEZ, the unconventional restaurant brings together their two great loves- fish and chips, and hip hop. A curious combination, that absolutely works.

As part of our Characters of Coldharbour Lane series celebrating the people behind the street that inspired Coldharbour Lager, we met with Cid to talk about her time in Brixton.

Q: Can you explain the concept behind Chip Shop, and how it came about?

My partner Michael is from Liverpool so he grew up eating fish and chips, plus he loves hip hop, so he wanted to open a business that combined his two passions. We do fish and chips, but we’re also famous for our music events. We’ve had very famous rappers in here performing: Klashnekoff, Ice T, loads. We had Cormega for our first event, and then people just started contacting us about performing here. We have capacity for 100 people – so when we have these big celebrities it creates a really exciting, intimate vibe. People go crazy, standing on the bar; it gives everyone goosebumps.

It’s not all about the celebrities though. We also do open mic nights which are great too. We’ve had people from Italy, Spain, rapping in Italian. We get lots of local young kids performing too, there’s so much talent in Brixton.

Q: How long have you been based in Brixton?

I’m originally from Portugal but I came over 30 years ago and since then I’ve always been in Brixton- I love it! There were five of us at home, all the same age, and it was just getting too much for our parents. My brother had already come to London to work and he suggested I come over too, so I did and I never left! I’ve lived here longer than in Portugal now and I feel like a Londoner. My children were born here. We just go back to Portugal once in a while for a holiday.

Q: What is it that you love about Brixton?

You can get anything here. Chinese, Polish, Portuguese. The market is full of fresh meat and fresh fish and it’s great quality- being Portuguese we love that.

Q: What about Coldharbour Lane itself? Has it changed a lot over the years?

I remember when I first came here there was barely anything in the market and lots of the road was boarded up. Then everything just exploded. To me, maybe because I’m a business owner, I think it has moved in a good way. People are safer and it’s thriving now. All of my staff, my meat, fish and vegetables are from Brixton- so we’re giving back to the community and supporting other local businesses. I know that people complain but we’re bringing awareness to Brixton, bringing people and money here.

Q: What beers do you serve?

We try to link our beers to the hiphop we play so we have one from Brooklyn, one from Chicago; but we wanted to support a local brand too so we’ve stocked Brixton Brewery ever since we opened. We even use it for the fish batter! It’s delicious.

Q: How has COVID impacted your business?

We used lockdown to fix up some stuff, paint the floor and all that. And we were on Deliveroo which kept me busy! Now that we’ve reopened it’s obviously different. We’re not doing events so it’s not as crazy before but that’s okay. Because we can’t have that many customers inside now you can connect more with all the people who come in, which is really nice.

Portraits from our Characters of Coldharbour Lane series will be on display at the Brixton Brewery Tap Room from 23rd September – 7th October or you can see them as they drop on Instagram @brixtonbrewery. Look for Coldharbour Lager at bars and bottle shops throughout London and beyond (or shop via our website here). Grab one and take refuge from thirst 

“I consider myself a custodian for this moment in time”

“I consider myself a custodian for this moment in time”

Walton Lodge is a beautiful red-brick Edwardian building which was built in 1904 to house a then-thriving family-run laundry business. After almost 120 years the laundry finally closed, but the building itself still stands proud at 374 Coldharbour Lane- only now it houses an all day bistro and wine shop run by New Zealand-born MELANIE BROWN. We went to visit Mel at The Laundry to talk about her time in Brixton so far, and what she’s doing to try and preserve the legacy of this amazing building.

Q: We’re a long way from New Zealand! How did you end up becoming a business owner here in the UK?

When I was 15 I dropped out of school. Even at that age I just knew that the hospitality scene was far more my bag than anything else, and I trained to be a chef instead of going to university.

Eventually I moved to London to work in the restaurant industry. Brixton captivated me immediately because it has such a dynamic cultural presence. I think it’s like nowhere else in London and when I moved South of the river I always knew I wanted to be part of the community here one day.

Then when Pop Brixton started I jumped at the opportunity to open a New World wine bar and shop there, which we crowdfunded to build.

Q: How did you come to be the custodian of Walton Lodge?

I used to drive past Walton Lodge every day on my way into work at Pop Brixton and I found myself drawn to it straight away. I thought that such a beautiful building deserved for somebody to do something amazing with it. So I’d been driving past it for about three or four years, totally captivated by it, and then I heard that the landlord was opening up discussions.

There were a massive number of people that were interested but I think the landlord was supportive of my application because he really wanted an independent business in the building rather than a big chain; and he knew what I’ve done in Brixton before so he trusted that Walton Lodge would be safe in my hands.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the building?

The Newland family owned and ran Walton Lodge as a laundry for 119 years. They also had satellites throughout South London and would wash all the linen for the big hotels in Park Lane. It must have been an huge operation for many years but in 2014 they couldn’t sustain it any more so they closed the doors. That’s when our landlord purchased and renovated the building.       

When I started digging into the history of Coldharbour Lane and the building and the people it really resonated with me. History and provenance has always been a strong love of mine and this building has so much of that.

I consider myself a custodian of the building for this moment in time and I hope I do everything that I can do to preserve its integtrity and the story within it.

There’s just this overwhelming energy about the building and I think that’s due to the amazing business that was run here previously. How many businesses run for over 100 years? An amazing family as well, some of them have come down to eat here and they were absolutely gobsmacked when they walked in.

Q: How has the history of the building inspired you?

We’ve created a collection of wines called New Press, produced in New Zealand with a prestigious winemaker in Marlborough, and the New part of New Press is from New Zealand and the Newman family, and the Press part is linen press and grape press.

The style of our menu was also inspired by the Edwardian era (during which the laundry first opened its doors), when a new more relaxed way of eating and dining with lots of sharing and platters was introduced by King William VII to the UK.

So we’ve created a menu of dishes designed to share. It’s all about the casual excellence of hospitality.

Q: How has COVID impacted your business?

The first few months were great, we were very busy over Christmas time, and everything had been going really well. Then COVID hit. Out of the blue, we were closed for three months.

We managed to pivot the business when we were able to reopen as a general store. It was a great way for us to try to reconnect with the community and think about how we could best support them in this crisis. We used that time to develop a reopening strategy with our locals in mind- they’re the people that sustain and drive us.

It’s been great to see it so busy again since we’ve reopened. We’re fortunate to have this prime position on Coldharbour Lane, and it’s helped that we have the terrace with plenty of outdoor seating.

Q: What do you think of Coldharbour Lager?

As a business on Coldharbour Lane, we couldn’t not stock Coldharbour Lager- we love everything about it! It’s fresh, bright, thirst-quenchingly delicious. Everyone loves it!

Portraits from our Characters of Coldharbour Lane series will be on display at the Brixton Brewery Tap Room from 23rd September or you can see them as they drop on Instagram @brixtonbrewery. Look for Coldharbour Lager at bars and bottle shops throughout London and beyond (or shop via our website here). Grab one and take refuge from thirst 

The miracle of Fish, Wings & Tings

The miracle of Fish, Wings & Tings

Brixton’s free-spirited Coldharbour Lane gave us the spark of inspiration to create Coldharbour Lager, a super-refreshing pilsner-style beer with Bohemian origins. Our content series, Characters of Coldharbour Lane, pays tribute to the people behind the street.

We sat down for a beer and a chat with Brian, owner of Caribbean restaurant Fish, Wings & Tings at the entrance to Brixton Village market on Coldharbour Lane.

Q: How did you develop your passion for food?

I grew up in Trinidad & Tobago. My grandma Tina was a huge inspiration to me, I consider her my personal Jesus. She was always cooking for the community back home, using her food to show love. As a teenager, cooking became my go-to pastime. There weren’t any clubs, so I would always be cooking with friends, cooking with family, by the river, by the sea, and so on.

Later I went to the US and trained with some top chefs who taught me classical French techniques. Cooking is my world, it’s what I love to do.

Q: What inspired you to open Fish, Wings & Tings in Brixton Village?

I consider that Fish, Wings & Tings came about by divine intervention. I was working on another project which fell apart midway through and I was in danger of losing my business. I got on my knees and prayed with conviction, tears and everything, like I was taught to do as a child when I found myself in a hard situation.

As I came into Brixton the following day I noticed that the entrance to the market was open. So by divine faith I went straight in and spoke with the market manager. I told him what I wanted to do. I’d already had the idea for the restaurant 25 years ago so it was easy for me to pitch it- good homemade Caribbean food, made with the passion of my grandma. Lots of bright colours and flavours: Brixton was the perfect place for that! He asked me to write him a proposal, and eventually offered me the space.

When we opened eight years ago, we were one of the first businesses to stock Brixton Brewery, back when you were just selling to the market and delivering by foot. It’s the source of all successful stories- doing the grind and being humble.

Brian and Jez (co-founder of Brixton Brewery)

Q: What do you think makes Brixton such a special place?

Brixton has always had this energy and this vibe, but it is the sense of community above all which makes it special. You come to work in the morning and people say hello to you. We buy 95% of our produce from the market. If someone comes to us with no money for food we give them a meal. It feels like home to me.

Portraits from our Characters of Coldharbour Lane series will be on display at the Brixton Brewery Tap Room from 23rd September or you can see them as they drop on Instagram @brixtonbrewery. Look for Coldharbour Lager at bars and bottle shops throughout London and beyond (or shop via our website here). Grab one and take refuge from thirst 

“If you love something you make it happen”

“If you love something you make it happen”

This interview is part of our content series, Characters of Coldharbour Lane, in which we pay tribute to the people behind the street that inspired Coldharbour Lager. Photographs by local legend Amari James, (Greaterbythehour).

AMA QUASHIE is one of the fashion industry’s most prominent nail artists. Rarely does a week go by when she’s not visiting somewhere far flung to paint nails for a high end photoshoot or runway show. Yet when deciding where to open their nail salon, Ama and fellow entrepreneur LATOYAH LOVATT both agreed that it had to be Brixton. Not long later, they opened AMA Salon, specialising in natural nails, at 340 Coldharbour Lane.

Q: Why did you chose to open AMA Salon in Brixton?

A: We set this place up nearly two years ago in November and it’s neither of our full-time jobs. I [Ama] do nails for advertising shoots, fashion shows, editorials. Latoya’s a florist and has her own bar [Ground & Grapes, Honour Oak]. But neither of us like not being busy. We went to school together nearby, and Brixton was really focal to our growing up, so we wanted to open a business together here.

Plus places like Shoreditch, and West London, they’re so saturated. South London has been lagging behind slightly, but we’re bringing up the rear. South’s the place to be now.

At the time when we were looking for a space Brixton was kind of on fire. We honestly didn’t think we’d be able to afford it. But when this place came up on Coldharbour Lane, it was a bit smaller than we wanted, but we thought we would be able to make it work.

It’s funny because back in our secondary school days, Coldharbour Lane was rough as hell. We were never allowed to walk down here. But it’s completely different now.

Q: How do you feel about the changes that have taken place in Brixton since you grew up here?

Gentrification is complicated. Change can be a great thing, but everyone needs to take responsibility for making sure that it has a positive impact on as many people as possible, rather than alienating people that have been here for decades.

There are a lot of ‘old Brixton’ people who wouldn’t even attempt to go to some of the new places here, because they don’t seem like they’re for them.

Q: What are you doing to ensure that your business has a positive impact?

It has always been important to us to provide a space that’s inclusive. In terms of our imagery and how we communicate the brand, we wanted it to be something that people felt welcomed by. We want people to walk past the window and see all kinds of people inside. It seems to be working, we have customers who live in Herne Hill, in nice big houses, as well as people from the estate coming in- all ages, all demographics and sexes.

We really wanted to offer the salon as a community space but eventually we realised it’s just too small-. But we’re planning to go back to our old school to do some talks and mentoring sessions with the kids there. We want to expose them to options that are less mainstream.

When I [Ama] graduated, all my A-levels, my degree, and all my early work experience were in media. So I got a job in advertising but I hated it. I trained in nails, just to spend time doing something I was interested in, and then everything spiralled organically. We don’t want to tell these kids; be a florist, or be a manicurist, it’s how you expand out of that. If you love something you make it happen.

Portraits from our Characters of Coldharbour Lane series will be on display at the Brixton Brewery Tap Room from 23rd September or you can see them as they drop on Instagram @brixtonbrewery. Look for Coldharbour Lager at bars and bottle shops throughout London and beyond (or shop via our website here). Grab one and take refuge from thirst