Super Saturday saw London’s social scene begin to buzz again. City A.M.’s Andy Silvester took in the sights, sounds and the taste of Beavertown Brewery’s taproom in Tottenham and the Brick Brewery bar in Peckham – all in the interests of journalism, of course.
Over a cold pint of Beavertown’s Bloody ‘Ell IPA – in a glass, poured out of a tap – the brewery’s founder’s enthusiasm is infectious.
“One of my favourite things about the brewery is coming to the taproom,” Logan Plant tells me, as we survey the scene in Tottenham on the first day drinkers are allowed back onto the site.
“Having 400, 500 people outside on a busy weekend coming in, the whole place gets packed, music’s playing. That was my dream and that’s why I wanted to create a brewery in the first place. It’s about having a good time, stimulating people, giving them an experience. Beer does that – it’s the lubricant of life,” he tells City A.M. with a chuckle.
There aren’t quite 500 people here this morning, but the place still has an undoubted buzz. By 1pm there’s a queue to get in to this new version of the Beavertown taproom, with table service the norm and tables appropriately socially distanced.
Over the past few weeks the brewery pivoted away from producing kegs to cans, turning its Tottenham brewery over to off-trade production and fulfilling a huge uptick in online orders. But it’s clearly, for Logan, good to be back. They’ve even produced a ‘pub poem’ with Tim Key, which has been painted on to the floor of the car park in which we are now drinking.
“At the age of 19 or 20, when my mates and I were obsessed with beer, we dreamt about maybe starting a brewery. Not only did we love the local beer, but – and this is relevant for today’s situation – because we loved the pub, and everything it represented,” he says.
An epiphany in New York thanks to a combination of craft beer and barbecue led him, years later, to do just that. A small brewery in the kitchen of a De Beauvoir BBQ joint now sees him the owner of a small-scale beer empire, with the brewery in Tottenham now dwarfed by “Beaverworld,” a new larger scale operation in Enfield. The funding for that expansion came in part from a deal with Heineken, with the booze giant taking a minority share in 2018.
“Our main thing was keeping the direction, keeping the vision, employing amazing people and building the team,” he says.
It’s a passion that certainly seems mirrored by the punters here today, all of whom are ordering drinks via a wonderfully low-tech version of an ordering app: handing a slip of paper, complete with phone numbers for track and trace, to a waiter. Same same, but different.
It’s a similar story down south in Peckham, where Brick Brewery founder Ian Stewart is equally chuffed to be back serving customers again. Two open spaces, at the front and the back of the brewery’s railway arch taproom, are responsibly packed.
“I think if anyone were walking by that was a bit fearful or tentative, they’ll see what we’ve done I think they’d say ‘oh yeah, we can enjoy a beer there.’” he says.
“People have been really fair, too. It’s a booking system only this weekend. They haven’t said “we want a table from 12 ‘til 8,” they’ve said they want to come down for two hours, just want to come and hold a pint, have a pint and then give it someone else. It’s nice, it’s a good feeling.”
Like Beavertown, the brewery saw a huge uptick in sales of cans during lockdown. Both saw deliveries shoot through the roof – Brick even did free deliveries in local postcode. Like Logan, too, Ian is clearly passionate about what he does. There was never a question of whether they’d reopen as soon as they could.
“Once we got the green light, we knew that we could. It was obviously quite difficult to interpret the guidelines, and the guidelines were changing quite frequently,” he says of the past week or so – a challenging timeline to be sure, but one that both Beavertown and Brick have clearly passed.
The abiding feeling at both places is a sense of relief that a version of normality is returning – and that it is still possible to enjoy a sociable drink with friends in a way that doesn’t leave you fearing for your safety.
Times will be difficult for the hospitality industry over the next few months, particularly if the UK recovery is less V-shaped than hoped. Ian and Logan are both confident, though that they and the industry will get through it, as long as punters feel comfortable.
Logan offers one particular rallying cry.
“Everybody’s got to pull together. It’s really important now as a drinker that we go out there and we support (pubs). If we don’t, it’s going to be really tough.” So there you have it – a moral cause to go to the pub.
Beavertown’s tap room is open Saturdays and occasional Sundays: check beavertownbrewery.co.uk for details. Brick Brewery is open evenings except Monday and all day at the weekend. Book a slot at brickbrewery.co.uk