We continue our pilgrimage through the world of micro-brewing and craft beer. After starting in the countryside of Malvern with Friday Beer Co, and then heading back to the capital to chat with new and booming Crate Brewery, we now talk to Andy Moffat, the man behind Redemption Brewery. At three and a half years old this micro-brewery is a bit of a granddad of the now explosive beer scene in London. This Holborn editor, being from Tottenham, excitingly took a bus journey down memory lane to head up to the brewery, based on an industrial site just east of White Hart Lane Stadium , to get a few pearls of wisdom from this experienced brewer.
So how did Redemption Brewing get started?
We started three years back, first brew day was January 2010, though we started building the brewery back in September of the previous year. Before that I had been working in a bank, and had got fed up with the world of banking and wanted to run my own business. Setting up a brewery was perfect: combining my desire to run a business with my love of beer. Though while at the bank I spent a year doing my research and trying to convince myself to do it. Back then there weren’t many breweries in London, unlike now, and back then it did give me reason to worry about the idea as I asked myself, if it is such a great idea, why haven’t more people done it? Now from so few there are over fifty breweries in London. With those numbers I don’t think I would set up a brewery now.
Well, I wanted to run a North London brewery, since moving to London I have always lived in the North. At the time we set up we were the only brewery in the whole of north London, though today there is still only us, Camden Town Brewery and Little Brew in North London. As far as Tottenham goes it just came to be since this kind of property, to run a brewery out of, is hard to find. So we had to go a bit further out to find the right size and shape for the right money. My only regret with this unit is our lack of ability to have a brewery tap and have a few people up here on a Friday night.
Where did you interest in brewing come from?
Just drinking good beer and giving home-brewing a go, I think it’s a very natural path for a lot of people in the industry. Some people say, ‘oh I started a brewery because I couldn’t get a decent pint in my local,’ that’s not true anymore, there is so much good beer out there, and such a variety. Starting a brewery these days is more about being part of that great beer-making community.
What’s it take to be a great brewer today?
It’s about making great beer, as good as is out there, and there are some fantastic brewers. And then being a bit different, be it your branding, the service you offer, the kind of brewer you are. That’s what we have tried to do. There is a spectrum in the brew world, brands like Kernal doing big ABV beers, real American beers, a lot of people have gone down that route. Then at the other end you have got people like Sambrooks, making great session bitters, more like a traditional Young’s beer. We see ourselves somewhere in the middle of that. Making good session beers, really drinkable beers but with a lot of interesting flavours , they may not appeal to the drinker in the Dog & Duck who wants a pint of Greene King IPA, but will appeal to those who are out there tasting some of the really good beers like Dark Star. We really look up to Dark Star here. So really big flavours but still designed to be drunk in pubs; for instance with our beers, we haven’t started bottling, and we’d like to, but been too busy with the cask business as it is our main market.
We have worked really hard on the beer, I always say you can have the style but if you haven’t got the substance you won’t survive. So you can be gimmicky in the early days but if it is not good enough landlords quite quickly won’t be re-ordering. So I three years on still have quite an operational role in the business and focus a lot of my energy on the quality of the beer.
We have of course grown from doing one beer to a now wide range of beers, when we started we used to brew once a week, now it’s four or even five times some weeks. We have learnt a lot along the way and from quite an amateurish starting point we have grown into a real professional outfit.
We have won a few awards along the way. Our 3%ABV Trinty Beer has picked up a number of CAMRA awards and is considered to be the best beer in its category out there. We worked really hard to pack as much flavour as we could into a low-strength beer. A number of other beers have often picked up regional awards for the South East, hopefully we can pick up more national awards soon.
How does it feel seeing your beer being drunk in pubs and people enjoying it?
One of the best things is when I am in a pub and I know the landlord and when someone orders a pint he’ll point at me and say, ‘oh that is the guy who makes it.’ Then they come over, and they say how much they like the beer and we talk about it. Sometimes we get emails from people saying how much they like it. It gives you so much satisfaction when people take the time out of their day to tell you they like what you make. It is the big difference with my old job where in the end there was no real product. It is so much better to work in a job where you are creating something you can smell, taste and touch.
What’s your opinion of the industry at the moment?
There has never been a better time for drinking beer in the UK. And the locality, everywhere really in the country has a micro-brewery nearby, a beer that can be called relatively local. Also there are so many great beers to be trying abroad, the American Craft Beer scene is great, so many good Belgian beers. That global strength also makes us UK brewers up our game, as you are not only competing with British brewers. And though beer sales overall are still falling, the market for craft local beer is still growing and companies like ours still continue to flourish as the big boys lose more and more market share.
The future for Redemption?
Still in Tottenham, maybe a bit bigger but not much more, we want to be the brewery for North London. But we want to stay true to making good tasty drinkable beer, which people enjoy and becomes part of the occasion.
MHG & AM