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The Craft: Insights from the Wimbledon Brewery

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Established in 2014, the new Wimbledon Brewery is a revival of a 19th century brewery which was destroyed by a fire in 1889. The brand new 30-barrel brewery, founded by Mark Gordon and designed by Head Brewer Derek Prentice, blends tradition with innovation: it shares its predecessor's passion for making cask conditioned ales using the finest ingredients, including Maris Otter barley and classic English hops, but the team also experiments with seasonal and contemporary creations.

The taste:

'Medium-deep copper-coloured American Pale Ale, bursting with aromas of orange peel, sweet spice and blackcurrant leaf. The aroma has fantastic definition with vivid freshness and complexity and the bright and exuberant palate is led by notes of red fruits and satsuma. Delicious.'

Society Beer buyer, Freddy Bulmer.

Wimbledon Brewery Group
Wimbledon Brewery Group

1. You really emphasise the importance of 'Englishness' to the company, from the ingredients to the traditional brewing processes. What inspired you to create an American style pale ale?

Wimbledon Brewery - Bravo American Pale Ale
Wimbledon Brewery - Bravo American Pale Ale

The brewery's roots are English; cask conditioned ale is England's national beer and is at the core of what we do. The original brewery that burned down in 1889 produced cask conditioned beer and our Master Brewer Derek Prentice has, over almost 50 years in the industry, specialised in producing excellent beer in cask format.

That said, this is the most exciting and innovative time in brewing history. The range of malts and hops now available to brewers present great opportunities to be creative. Bravo is a good example of a beer used to showcase new world hops: it's named after the Bravo hop variety which brings a floral aroma and blackcurrant and tangerine flavours.

2. Mark Gordon's (founder of TWB) ambition in founding the company was to re-establish a base for brewing in his home district of Wimbledon. Had you anticipated the phoenix-like resurrection of the UK Brewing industry in general, and has this made it hard to carve a niche in an increasingly crowded market?

Our first goal is to be a source of pride for the people of Wimbledon – the local connection is very important to us and we support local charities and sporting teams to enhance that association. It is undoubtedly a competitive marketplace, with over 80 breweries within the M25 and around 1,800 in the UK as a whole!

We focus on what we do best, which is brewing well-balanced beers with a wide appeal. The fact we are 'Wimbledon' Brewery, coupled with our understated but premium branding, also gives us something of an advantage; we have a lot of interest from foreign distributors and international expansion is something we will move towards in the next 12 months.

3. Cans of beer used to be seen as a bit 'cheap and cheerful', but appear to be enjoying resurgence, as in the case of your American Pale Ale. What are the benefits of canning as opposed to bottles and draughts?

The negative associations with canned beer started in the 1970s with the likes of Watney's Red Barrel and Party 7. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the canned format, in fact it's quite the opposite, but of course only if the beer inside is good!

Cans are airtight (more so than crowned bottles) and don't let light in, so provide a more stable environment for the beer, keeping it fresh for longer. It will take a few more years to rehabilitate the format and see it more widely accepted, but it's worth noting that the supermarkets are very keen on canned craft beer and the format will undoubtedly grow.

4. American-style craft beers are enjoying an extended spell in the spotlight – what do you see as the 'next big thing' in the craft industry, and will this affect the kind of beers you choose to make next?

We want to produce beers that have longevity. By definition, fads come and go, but we will remain focused on styles that have stood the test of time. With our flavour profiles, we aim to be on the right side of interesting without venturing into challenging.

5. Finally, describe your perfect way to enjoy Bravo.

For me the perfect environment for a Bravo is being in good company – so perhaps a barbecue with friends, with a can straight from the ice bucket poured into a tulip glass. Cheers!

Members' Comments (2)

"They have some front to dismiss "fads"; that is exactly what so called Craft Beer is. Instead of producing a quality real ale some have realised that they can increase margins by adding gas to beer to bot preserve life and they can charge more in pubs at the same time. It is a shame to see so many new producers shunning real ale just because it is somewhat trickier to get right. Maybe the Wine Society will be championing Champagne in cans next?"

Mr Anthony Brown (27-Feb-2018)

"Mr Brown, thank you for your comments - we have been in touch with Wimbledon Brewery for their thoughts on this. The majority of their production is cask-conditioned beer and their head brewer has been producing cask-conditioned ales for over 50 years. The organisation CAMRA are currently balloting their members with a view to extending their own remit beyond real ale to also include craft beer recognising this as a source of typical and... Read more > excellent-quality beers and this is also reflected in the trade movements as a whole.

We are committed, as a business, to working with brewers producing quality beer first-and-foremost and this is not limited to cask and bottle-conditioned ales and we offer a broad range of styles to showcase the exciting brews available from across the UK; and because, as a co-operative, our margins are lower than much of the rest of the trade, we are able to offer excellent value across our range of beers (and wines) too.

A note on cans as a format: it is felt by many that “they are better at keeping beer fresh as they do not leak oxygen and keep the beer free from light which can taint the flavour. Beer bottle crowns leak air and overtime the beer will become stale”.

I do hope this helps to explain our approach to our range and the breweries we choose to work with and that you continue to enjoy our excellent and ever-changing range of exciting beers. – Freddy Bulmer, Buyer
"

Freddy Bulmer (02-Mar-2018)