Byron Knight founded Beavertown Brewery in Duke’s Brew & Que (RIP) having previously done a bit of home brewing and now after a hiatus running restaurants he is back with Deviant & Dandy brewery.
His plan for Beavertown was to have a number of US-inspired barbecue restaurants – in the template of Dukes – that sold home-brewed beers and for this he had a plan. But he needed some money and a bit of publicity for it to take off.
“I’d put word around among my friends that I needed money and a B-list celebrity. Logan had quit his band and they found him. He joined me and we both had passion to grow the business. I’d home brewed but I was not a good brewer, I was just okay. We made lots of mistakes and so we got James Rylance via Evin [O’Riordain, founder of Kernel],” recalls Knight.
A five-barrel brewhouse was constructed at a cost of £30,000 and six fermenting vessels were housed at the cramped Dukes. The move was then made to a lock-up and then onto a site in Hackney Wick via the founders of Truman’s Brewery where 12 vessels were used. But Knight says it was “very labour intensive because it was cobbled together”.
This meant it was operating unsustainably, according to Knight, who says brewing is a volume game but if you’ve not invested in the equipment then your labour costs are out of kilter. This makes the enterprise potentially unviable.
Once the site in Tottenham Hale was found Knight says there was a “parting of the ways” with Plant because of their divergent strategies: “The brewery was subsidised by Duke’s, which was at the top of the barbecue phase in the UK. We were putting all the cash into a loss leader like Beavertown rather than into a chain of [potentially successful] restaurants.”
After the transition to the new site Rylance also departed and Jenn Merrick moved into the head brewers’ role along with many other positions she took on whereby she was arguably wearing “all the hats” while Plant was out successfully spreading the word about Beavertown and building a very strong brand around the world – aided by Nick Dwyer (who is one of the very few early employees to remain in the business).
Knight is also extremely keen on powerful branding – and this will be fully reflected in Deviant & Dandy – but he does not believe it should be placed above any company’s number one asset: its people.
Even though he brand-focused and is employing a designer who produces rock posters (Adam Pobiak) to create the D&D artwork, Knight is intent on running an inclusive brewery: “I’d not care about the branding if creating it meant the people here hated my guts for it. You’ve got to be fair with people. I’ve brought in people here who bring something to the table. If there is no one on a par with you [in your business] then you’re working with blinkers on.”
Knight has co-founded D&D with Ben Taub who will handle all the marketing while Knight gets to grips with brewing at the site in Hackney Central (next door to the original Pressure Drop brewery site that will soon re-open as its tap room).
Until now D&D beers have been produced by Knight at the Enefeld Brewery in North London whose new £2.5 million kit will be available for contract brewing. From now on the focus will be on building up sales of beers produced on Knight’s new equipment – with the output deemed to be either Deviant or Dandy beers.
The former will be what Knight calls Punk Rock beers such as one of the first he has in tanks – a Chartreuse Chocolate Porter – while the latter will be seen as Psychedelic beers with more of a heritage aspect that he says do not push the envelope so much. These will include the existing Strange Brew, which is a Cream Ale.
With new brewing kit to experiment with and some clever branding to play with Knight is very happy to now be doing what he enjoys most: “I love brewing. Food and beverage is what I do. I like creating stuff and I like getting people drunk.”
Glynn Davis, editor, Beer Insider