Brewers have appeared like the proverbial fungi (the one we like with a full English breakfast) all around the country. But one of the epicentres for the resurgence in producing beer is without doubt Bermondsey – where the increasingly infamous Bermondsey Beer Mile features a handful of top-notch (and some not so top-notch) brewers.
The good thing about the Mile is the presence of Kernel, Partizan and Brew By Numbers but the bad thing is too many people, too many stag groups among them, and not enough toilets.
Public conveniences aside, such is the draw of this place that we now have the next iteration in the UK’s brewing renaissance – brew-your-own using hired kit and on-tap expertise in the form of Ubrew.
This sort of thing has been done before and the questions about scaling them up remain. But this newcomer has thrown itself into two railway arches in Bermondsey and is giving it a crack. In the same way technology companies need to begin life in a garage every brewer worth their sugar needs to start life in a railway arch (ideally near London Bridge).
Ubrew are akin to an IT start-up in another way – they’ve not fully developed their revenue model. Yes, it is bringing in £50 per month in membership fees from its initial 114 members (50 more are being recruited) and it charges for ingredients and bottles etcetera but an on-site bar and bottle shop (run by Ales By Mail) as well as tastings and selling some of its members’ beers commercially are largely experimental initiatives to see what gains traction.
However things ultimately pan out it is a thing of beauty to see a room of mini 20 litre mash tuns and perfectly formed down-sized 30 litre conical fermenting vessels holding a whole variety of beer styles produced by out-and-out amateurs to more experienced brewers.
For Matthew Denham, co-founder of Ubrew, a key aspect of the model is to create a collaborative environment that brings home brewers together and potentially acts as an accelerator for beer brands.
Creating a hub for creative beer-minded people to come together and share their experiences is to be applauded but what the other brewers and retailers around Bermondsey think of this set-up is quite another matter.