Saturday, 16 November 2019

Changing your Signature

It's all change at London's Signature Brew following an oversubscribed crowdfunding campaign last year - new brewery and taproom, new logo and cans, and even a few new brews - new to me, at least.

The launch party at the new site is taking place this weekend, and there’s lots of shiny stainless steel on show. Given the brewery's history of collaborating with bands to create one-off beers, of course there's quite a bit of live music too.

There’s already a Signature Taproom in Haggerston, London E8, so the new site’s drinking space is instead called The Brewer’s Bar. For this weekend’s launch there’s also tables and benches in the yard outside and on the open area in the brewery proper - I’m told these will also be out once the Brewer’s Bar is open regularly, which is set to be Friday/Saturday evenings and Saturday/Sunday afternoons. At this time of year, the open areas are a tad chilly, but the bar itself is enclosed and warm!

Inside the bar there’s various mementos on the wall of the brewery’s history and its musical collaborations, from its origins in 2012 when it contract-brewed, to 2015 when they got their own brewkit, which they outgrew within four years.

I had a chat with Chris, one of the assistant brewers, who filled me in on some of the changes. Although the actual ‘brew length’ hasn’t changed massively - the new brewkit is 32hl (20 barrels) where the older was 24hl - the new one is much more modern. In place of a manual two-vessel system, they now have a four-vessel system with lauter tun and whirlpool, so brewing is easier and faster.

Alongside a set of 32hl fermenters, they also now have six 120hl (75 barrel) fermenters for core beers such as Roadie, Backstage IPA and Studio Lager - big enough to get three brews into each. They’re currently brewing three days a week, two or three times a day. One of the advantages of upsizing your brewkit is quite simply that you can produce more beer in a shorter time and with less effort!

The venue is family-friendly, too!
As for the beers, as I discovered when I first met them they’re quality brews. Alongside the regulars I found an excellent 3% hoppy modern bitter - they badge this as a Table Beer, but to my mind it’s more of a Pale Ale ‘light’, a gorgeous Bretted lager (sadly a very limited production run), and a modernist Farmhouse/Saison.

Then there’s the collaboration they did for the recent Brewdog Collabfest, which aims to cram a cream tea, complete with cucumber sandwiches, Earl Grey, scones and raspberry jam, into a hazy IPA. It sounds ghastly, but it’s actually complex and fascinating. They also have a cask containing some of the very last of their original Anthology 10% Imperial Stout, now two years old and tasting quite gorgeous.

Technically the weekend event is ticket-only, but I’m told there should be room for some extra visitors if you’re looking for things to do tomorrow! It’s an easy walk from Blackhorse Road station. Also in the area are the Wild Card brewery, although sadly that’s not open tomorrow, and the intended site of Exale Brewing, which is the new project - again, crowdfunded - from the former Hale Brewing team. Ex-Hale, yeah…

Many thanks to the Signature crew for inviting me over - cheers!

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Charity beer festival goes London-wide

The popularity of Craft Beer Cares, the volunteer-run Hackney beer festival where all the beer is donated and the profits go to charity,  has struck a chord with the London Brewers Alliance (LBA) and the Society of independent Brewers (SIBA). The three organisations are collaborating to run a new charity festival next February near King’s Cross, called Love Beer London

The aim is to get as many as possible of London’s 100+ breweries taking part and donating keg beer. The proceeds will go to The Benevolent, which is the drinks industry’s own charity, supporting needy current and former employees and their families.

Taking over as festival organiser is Jaega Wise, who is head brewer at LBA member Wild Card Brewery and also an elected SIBA rep. “With Love Beer London we are bringing together all of the best breweries from across London and the South East into one huge new beer festival, serving a broad range of beer styles of the highest quality in an amazing event space just behind King’s Cross station,” she declared.

“It’s the first time that SIBA have partnered with the London Brewers Alliance and we’re hugely excited about the broad range of craft breweries and beer styles that will feature at the festival, so as well as modern hop-forward IPAs and Pale Ales there will be lots of traditional bitters, porters and stronger English ales, as well as speciality and mixed-fermentation beers. It genuinely will have something for everybody.”

The festival will run across five sessions, with the first on the evening of Thursday 13th Feb and the last on the evening of Sat 15th Feb. It’s actually in Barnsbury, but King’s Cross isn’t far.

The one thing that I’m a bit surprised by is that the tickets, at £12 per session, include a glass but no beer tokens – the beer prices are the same, as £2 a half for most and £3 for some, but the Craft Beer Cares tickets included your first £10-worth of beer tokens. Now, I know the latter were a bit too cheap, but jumping straight to GBBF-level pricing seems a tad steep. Then again, maybe it’ll work, even if getting there means hacking out to the vicinity of Pentonville prison!

Anyhow, it’s all in a good cause. To find out more and buy tickets, visit the event website