Signature Brew: Because Great Music Deserves Great Beer
Words: Laura Randall
Craft beer’s having a moment. Ok, it’s had its moment. Now it’s having more of a prolonged and filthy love affair with Londoners who leave their once beloved cans of a-pound-a-can-Stella in the bottom of the fridge, behind that rotting pack of lettuce that’s started to produce slime, while they sneak out on a crusade for a £7.50 pint of IPA in Bermondsey.
It’s an epidemic - only a ruddy tasty one that leaves you with a very expensive hangover - and the onus lies with the whopping 1,285 breweries in the UK today. In fact (and here’s a stat that will make you proud to be British) we have more breweries per person than anywhere else in the world!
So, if you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ve been looking at the recent beer-boom thinking, “You can make ale for a living? Where do I sign up?”. Well, three men who like their lager found the elusive sign-up sheet and, sick and tired of supping on weak, mass-quantity-produced beer at gigs, incorporated their second love into the mix while they were at it; music.
4 years down the line, and the trio have cemented themselves as beer-brewers with a difference. Not only do they mix wheat, barley and hops, but they create each brew under the guidance and collaboration of some of their favourite musicians; creating branded beers for some of the biggest bands and artists on the gig-circuit. Everyone from Dry The River to Professor Green has had a go, turning their endeavor into a boundary breaking first for the beer and music industry.
So guys, what happened to make Signature Brew go from a pipe dream to a reality?
It just started off as an idea down the pub, we brewed a few beers, and it went from strength to strength! Before I knew it, it was my full time job!
What made you decide to collaborate with artists and not just create your own beer from the beginning?
We were tired of drinking insipid industrial lager at gigs, and the idea was to bring about a change by working with the artists themselves. Later on we wanted to have some original beers that could be sold alongside collaboration beers, so that the artists could have as much freedom as they wanted to create some really progressive and exciting beers - Black Tongue, our collab with Mastodon, is a double black IPA clocking in at 8.3%.
You’re a group of close friends, has collaborating on such a personal level been a challenge?
In some ways it has been a challenge, but in others it has helped. Tom, the head brewer, is my cousin so we've known each other since we were kids, so it’s about as much like a family as you can get.
The idea of setting up your own brewery sounds like a dream come true for many people. Can you shed some light on the headaches, drama and stress that comes with it? I’m sure it’s not just beer-o-clock from morning till night… or is it?
Paperwork, cash flow, customers paying late, faulty equipment, parking tickets, its a long list. Every business has its foibles, but at least we can enjoy the fruits of our labour at the end of the day.
It’s no secret that craft beer is having a moment in London right now. Did you guys anticipate the industry kicking off as much as it has?
Craft beer was already starting to gain momentum in the UK when we started in 2011, but I didn't quite imagine the focus would be on London quite as much as it is.
Has the competition been a good thing for the business or has it made things harder?
It’s great for driving up the quality of the beer, but it can make it harder for new drinkers to decipher all the different brands. But more choice has got to be a good thing!
It seems like every man and his dog is jumping on the home-brew/micro-brewery wagon. Do you think the accessibility of the industry these days is a good thing? Or is it affecting the quality?
You've mentioned two separate things there; new breweries and home-brewing. The growth in home-brew is brilliant; brewing without commercial constraints pushes the boundaries. I believe new brewery openings will start to slow this year, but the quality will only increase.
Who would be the dream collaboration? Alive or dead.
For me it would have to be The Clash. But the rest of the guys would have their own ideas too.
How much taste and quality control do you have over the beers your artists decide to make? Surely if it was all left in their hands, we could end up with some deadly and bizarre brews on our shelves?
A huge amount, but it is definitely a collaboration so we always put our spin on things too. The artists come at it from different angles so it’s always a really exciting process.
Which brew stocks your beer shelf at home?
Founders All-Day IPA is one of my favourites right now. As well as our very own Backstage IPA.
It’s gotten to the point in London that seeing the standard European lagers on display is the sign of a bad pub. Which watering hole has your favourite selection?
Pubs are now having to cater to a wider audience with a bigger selection of products, but I'd have to say my favourite pub in London right now is either the Three Johns in Angel, or Leyton Technical!
Signature Brew are now seeking investors to help them grow their business and establish their own production facility in East London. Find out how you can donate: https://www.crowdcube.com/investment/signature-brew-17434