At a time when purse strings are tighter than ever, happy drinkers are still raising a glass to Britain’s flourishing real ale industry. Bucking the trend of the recession, beer sales are creeping upwards thanks partly to a new generation of young and female drinkers.
Now the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is taking matters one step further by ensuring we are drinking a perfect pint from breweries on our own doorstep.
Members of CAMRA have joined forces with local breweries and pubs to launch the LocALE scheme.
The idea behind LocALE is to encourage small local breweries to supply their beers to pubs within a 30 mile radius. This in turn reduces ‘beer miles’, ensuring the freshest, most unique pint.
This is just the latest scheme from CAMRA, a collective of beer-loving volunteers who campaign for quality ales stocked in traditional pubs. Despite their efforts, tasteless lager bought in bulk from supermarkets is still favoured over the great British pint and CAMRA’s work is more important than ever to protect the dwindling numbers of local pubs and family-owned breweries.
Microbreweries are popping up around East London, and once off the ground are going from strength to strength. A number of pubs are also enthusiastically supporting the scheme.
John Cryne is head of the North London branch of CAMRA, which covers the Hackney area. He says the initial success of the scheme is a good sign that the real ale industry in London is on the up. “Brewing has started at grass roots again. So far the news has been good.”
Despite a tough economic climate and competition from large brewers who supply the thirsty lager drinkers, small breweries serving the East London area have flourished in the past year.
One such brewery is Brodie’s, based in the ‘heart of East London’ at the old Sweet William brewery in Leyton. Brodie’s is a family run enterprise that is so new, it only just celebrated its first birthday – with an ale festival, naturally – at the beginning of September. James and Lizzie Brodie turned the derelict space into a working brewery last summer and have churned out 15 real ales since.
James Brodie is in full support of LocALE and says it has played a part in Brodies’ success. “LocALE is of huge benefit to local breweries and pubs,” says James.
“Since we supply such local pubs, they can call on us to deliver within a day. This is a refreshing change to going into a pub and seeing that they stock the same three beers as every other pub in the country.”
Further afield from Hackney, Sambrook’s brewery in Battersea is another independent business that has been propelled to success in less than a year.
It is run by a couple of old friends who are relative amateurs to the real ale profession – one of the partners, Duncan Sambrook, hung up his suit and career in accounting to become a brewer in less than three months.
“For a number of years now there has been a resurgence in real ale,” says Duncan.
“LocALE is a fantastic scheme and CAMRA have really pushed to make sure that local brewers are recognised. LocALE has already been a success in helping us stock our beer throughout London and educate consumers. We’re really going from strength to strength.”
CAMRA is delighted that not only has LocALE encouraged the growth of Brodie’s, Sambrooks and other breweries located in London, but also that new breweries are springing up in response to demand from thirsty ale enthusiasts.
The Redemption brewery is a proposed venture from Andrew Moffat. He plans to start producing beers in November, in Tottenham. “I picked Tottenham largely because I wanted to be considered a London, and specifically North London, brewery,” says Andrew.
“It’s about time us North Londoners had our own brewery, especially when there are so many pubs serving great beer in our area of London.”
Such pubs provide the next link in the chain that makes LocALE a success. There are a number of traditional pubs in the Hackney area that are official supporters of the scheme.
The Wenlock Arms in Hoxton has a good range supplied by local brewers and The Scolt Head in de Beauvoir (N1) recently changed ownership from a corporate brewer to a private buyer, meaning they have complete freedom over what ales they stock.
The Duke of Wellington in Dalston played host to the launch of the scheme in Hackney and is officially classed as a LocALE pub since Sambrook’s Wandle ale is permanently on tap. Beers from Brodie’s and other local breweries such as Meantime, Crouch Vale and Tring regularly appear as guest ales.
Steve Taylor, assistant manager and cellarman for The Duke of Wellington, says LocALE is a great opportunity to celebrate what makes Hackney’s locality stand out. “LocALE is about reducing beer miles, but it’s also about supporting local breweries and creating a sense of community,” says Steve.
As more pubs in the area are stocking local ales, and independent breweries are struggling to keep up with demand, LocALE seems to have quenched the thirst of Londoners who are keen to sample something other than mass-produced beer.
John Cryne says Hackney’s efforts are inspirational, but are just the beginning of something massive.
“LocALE is growing as we speak,” says John. “Drinkers should keep an eye out and watch this space.”