Taking back the fine name of Caveman from Rob Kardashian, James Hayward, the brains AND brawn behind Caveman Brewery has answered a few of our questions. Caveman Brewery is based in Swanscombe, Kent beneath The George and Dragon. To give you a quick insight into what Caveman is like, I’m going to steal the intro from their website:
The more we discover about our ancient cave-dwelling ancestors, the more we realise how utterly civilised and tasteful they were. We’re simply walking humbly in their footsteps. Creating big, characterful and full-flavoured beers. And we guarantee no sharpened flint, twigs, animal skins or any other nasty stuff will ever creep into the process.
I’m hoping you will have already heard of Caveman Brewery – yes, they are local to me, but they’ve already taken home numerous awards for their beer and were asked to brew Shoppers Gold, the anniversary beer for the News Shopper. Alongside that, I think Caveman have one of the best and most consistent visual brands in the industry today. Here’s a selection of James’ labels:
And without further ramblement, I present to you, James Hayward of Caveman Brewery:
Interview with a Caveman
To start off – tell us a bit about Caveman Brewery and why you started brewing (and where the Caveman name came from)?
I started brewing initially out of curiosity, and then got a bit obsessed with it, next thing we had a 4bbl brew kit! I don’t really remember there being a stage where we weighed up whether it was a good idea or not.
About a mile from our brewery, on the other side of the village, the remains of a Neanderthal woman were found either side of the Second World War. At the time they were the oldest human remains found in the UK. Being as our brewery is based in a cellar underground, and being so close to the site of the discovery, caveman seemed to be a natural choice for the name (that and the fact that we look like cavemen!)
What’s your process for creating a new beer, what are your inspirations and how do you know what a really good beer will be?
It can vary from being inspired by a particular ingredient, like our Shatkora IPA, where the flavour of the ingredient leads you into building a beer around it; or having a gap in the range and having to fill it. Our Neanderthal came from my business partner suggesting we needed a best bitter. Initially I wasn’t for it at all as everyone in Kent makes them and they can all do it cheaper than us, but actually I’m probably as happy with that beer as any we make. Mostly it’s about the flavour, you start with what you want to taste as a drinker and build back from there.
What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing at the moment and how are you managing it?
Capacity is our biggest issue at the moment. We are brewing as much beer as it is possible to brew on our kit but it isn’t enough to keep up with demand. We have taken on an additional cold storage area to hold any stock but unfortunately it is getting to the point where our kit is just too small. We are looking to crowdfund a bigger brewery at the end of the year, hopefully moving to a 15BBL kit with a taproom.MFBR note: Let us know when you are open for crowdfunding!
What should we be looking out for from your brewery and beers in the future?
Hopefully the main thing with the new brewery will be that beers will be easier to find. Our capacity will more than triple, and this will allow us to get beer into small packs, probably cans, and will allow us to broaden the range too. We are currently working on some new beers for Keykeg, including a wheat and a saison. We have our Mogao chocolate and ginger stout returning later in the year and I’m working on a few other bits a pieces. I love red beers so we probably need to do a red at some point. The hardest thing at the moment is finding brewing capacity to brew anything new, they’re all restricted to my home-brew kit at the moment.
If you had to pick your favourite Caveman Brewery beer, which would it be and why?
My favourite is Cavedweller, it’s a beer style that I love and it suits our kit. The open top fermenters we use aren’t ideal for big hoppy beers and we don’t get the most out of dry hopping from them, but they are great on a big Roasty beer like Cavedweller. Our water profile suits a dark beers too so we don’t have to mess about with it too much.
What’s your favourite personal brewing story?
As far as things I’ve heard or things that have happened to us?
I guess our one is probably how I managed to buy a kit where the vessels were 1″ wider than the cellar access. Rather than drop them down the easy to access cellar hatch on the street we had to get a crane to lift over the pub to another, larger access hatch. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. That said I felt much better about it when I read Sam Calagione’s Dogfish Head book and how they started building a brewery without realising it was illegal to brew in Delaware where they are based!
Is there any part of the brewing process you’re not a fan of?
At the moment I enjoy it all but I think maybe when we get bigger ill get someone else to dig the malt out of the mash tun!
Where do you see the beer industry in the UK going in the next 5 years?
I think it will continue to grow. People often talk about it reaching saturation point, but at the moment I’m not seeing too many people going out of business so I don’t think it has reached that level yet. That said, on the cask side, we are
seeing some breweries offering ridiculous prices to gain sales. That won’t be sustainable. In fact what it may lead to is more brewers focussing on Keg beer than cask if they cant make an acceptable margin on cask beer. I really hope not because I love brewing for cask, but at the end of the day people have to make money.
I hope we start seeing more exciting UK hops coming into the market as well. It would be good to see acreage increasing and be able to build relationships with the hop growers. We are taking Bullion direct from Hukins Hops this year, which is the first time we have done that. Unfortunately the only other English hops we use are Goldings and Admiral, everything else being US, NZ or Australian hops as they have the sort of character which we need. It would be good to be spending more with our local hop farmers, but the hops need to have the character we are looking for.
What’s your favourite (non-Caveman) beer and why?
My favourite beer is probably Odell IPA. I love their brand, and they have amazing hop aroma in most of their beers. The UK has really caught up with the US in the last few years but back before I started brewing this was my go to beer. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale started my beer obsession, but then the Odell IPA just took that to the next level with its hop profile and crisp malt character. I still grab a bottle every now and then and its just as good as it always was.
If you were trying to convince someone who “doesn’t like beer” to start trying it, what would your advice be?
The thing for me is to figure what flavours they do like. If you’re a coffee drinker, then maybe a porter or stout will be relatable. If you don’t like bitterness then an IPA probably isn’t going to be your thing. Its fairly easy with so many pubs having a good range to try plenty of different styles and a decent pub will give you a sample so never be afraid to ask!
I just want to thank James for taking the time to talk to me about Caveman Brewery and if any of you are interested in finding out more about them use the links below: