Meet the Brewer: Little Brew
The London brewing scene has literally exploded in the past couple of years – I have 17 breweries listed on my London Breweries page and I know I have missed a few as I have at this stage left out many brew pubs (they will be added in the future, trust me) – and it’s getting to the point when it’s difficult for even dedicated geeks to keep up.
For example, I just discovered that Camden is about to get its second brewery, Little Brew, a one-man project from brewmaster Stu Small (well, technically the brewery has already been founded, but the beers won’t be available for another month or so). Little Brew is a very small-scale operation that aims at being sustainable and anchored in the local community (one thing I like about the craft beer wave – besides the excellent beer – is that breweries are again becoming community businesses). I had a brief chat with Stu about his plans for Little Brew:
HO: Could you tell me a bit about yourself, your background, and what’s behind your decision to start a brewery?
SS: I got the brewing bug about six years ago when I had a large allotment with mature fruit trees, so I tried my hand at making cider and fruit wine. As a life-long real ale fan, it wasn’t long before I moved on to all-grain craft brewing at home. After a few years of playing with recipes and cooking up some great-tasting beers, I knew I wanted to share them with the world and try to make a career out of it. I was working as a sustainability advisor in soft drinks production so it made perfect sense for me to apply that knowledge to something I love doing and to work for myself.
HO: Are there any other people involved in the brewery except yourself?
SS: Right now, it’s just me. I have a one-barrel set up so it’s manageable on my own. For me, it’s really important that I can pay attention to every single detail and feel like each bottle is personally hand crafted. I’m definitely going to be focusing on quality over quantity with Little Brew.
HO: What particular difficulties have you encountered in starting a new brewery (e.g. permits, raising money, getting ingredients/equipment)? Was there anything that surprised you in the start-up process? Was anything easier than you expected?
SS: Well, I don’t want to tempt fate as I don’t have a product on the shelf yet but so far I’m enjoying every step of the process. It’s true that the paperwork for a brewery is onerous and seems never-ending, but you just get your head down and do it. It’s an important part of understanding all of your responsibilities as a brewer. The main problem I faced getting to where I am now was finding premises. I wanted to be in north London but close to the action of Camden and the West End. There are very few spaces around, especially affordable ones. So that took a long time but I couldn’t be happier with the current location – right in the heart of Camden town just around the corner from the Brewdog bar.
HO: London has gone from having only two breweries to having 15-20 of them in just a few years. How does Little Brew fit in with this brewing explosion? What makes you stand out from the other London breweries?
SS: When I first starting thinking about Little Brew, I only knew of four breweries in London – Fullers, Meantime, Redemption and Sambrook. I’ve definitely been inspired and encouraged by the rise of the London craft brewery scene and I’m proud and excited to be considered a part of it. The more people who appreciate good quality craft beer, the better it is for everyone. Little Brew will be a very small part of a very big market but we will be focusing on producing exquisite beer hand crafted in the traditional way and supplied locally using only the best British ingredients. Plus, we’ve got Lord Alephant cracking the whip and keeping standards high.
HO: When and how will your beers be available to the public (launch dates, will beers be available on bottle, cask, keg or all of the above)?
SS: Little Brew beers will be almost entirely bottled and naturally conditioned. I’m hoping to have the Pale Ale ready in around 6-8 weeks so taking orders now!
HO: Where do you draw your brewing inspiration from? Do you have any particular brewery “role models”? And what are your own favourite beers?
SS: I don’t have any specific brewery role models but I take inspiration from lots of local sustainable businesses – a butcher, a flower shop, a tearoom. Anyone who supplies the community with top-notch stuff and makes a thriving business from it. As for beer, I’m influenced by pretty much every beer, lager, cider or ale I have drunk, whether it’s good or bad. Like most craft brewers, I am massively inspired by the North American brewing scene and I am a big fan of German wheat beers. You can see some of my favorite beers listed in my Desert Island Drinks blog post.
Notes: Little Brew will in the first instance produce three beers: a Pale Ale, a Wheat Beer and a Lager. Their ABVs have not been finalized at the moment. Little Brew also has a presence on Twitter and Facebook.