Brick Brewery interview with Ian Stewart

Brick Brewery – Interview with Ian Stewart

Brick Brewery appeared beneath the arches at Peckham Rye in 2013 and as soon as I was told of its arrival I headed to straight to South East LDN. At the time, it was a warehouse-esque establishment with some benches outside and a few taps on a makeshift bar. The equipment lined the walls and most of the time that meaty, typical brewing aroma would surround you as you approached the bar. The beer was fresh and full of flavour – the big, hoppy American influence was clear.  And then, there was the Blenheim Black. At the time, it was the first black IPA I had been in the physical company of and it did strange things to my brain and phenomenal things to my mouth.

Birck Brewery Burger Bar

This is a haggis burger from Slow Richies

Brick Brewery gone big

Since 2013, Brick has gone big. It now has an outside bar on a front terrace with seating (and heating) and usually has an artisanal food station from @SlowRichies on the forecourt (the last time I popped in they were grilling burgers made from either boar or ostrich – I don’t really remember leaving so details are as dark as the Blenheim).

With an ever expanding selection of beers (and lots more to come) if you ever find yourself wandering on Rye Lane take a quick detour to Blenheim Grove and treat yourself to one of these great beers. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and will happily guide you through the different flavours and profiles of what’s on offer and (if I remember correctly) you can grab a growler, fill it up and stagger the few yards on your merry way back to the station.

With full disclosure, I have a real soft spot for Brick brewery, their set up and beers so I had to have a chat with Ian Stewart, the man that has made this all happen. So, here’s his take on brewing:

To start off – tell us a bit about Brick Brewery and what inspired you to start brewing?

I started home brewing some 9 years ago after my wife bought me a small home-brew kit for Christmas.  I took it the shed in June after a little nudge from her and was hooked on day on.  I was in marketing for 20 years and was looking for a way to work for myself.  I started a Mexican street food business before Mexican food was even on the radar here in the UK so it never really took off.  I did a private event for a group of Americans on July 4th and sold 10 times as much Corona as food making me think about producing beer instead.

The taps at Brick Brewery

All this beer is great

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?

I have so many home-brew recipes I’ve scaled up to the larger brews over the years but these have become more of the core range we offer.  We still tweak these ever so slightly usually dictated by the hops we have available.  I hired a full-time brewer in December 2015 and together with our assistant brewer and sales guy we bring in beers we find interesting for tasting sessions picking out things we like and dislike – I know, it’s a hard job!  We then go away and research the beer styles we like ultimately putting Brick’s twist on the final beer.  We still use my final home-brew kit which can put out around 90L of beer so we use it for pilot brews to get the beer right before we bring it to market.  The experimental brews are tested at the taproom as tap exclusives to gauge acceptance from some of our regulars and other beer fans who may not be as familiar with our range.

What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing at the moment and how are you managing it?

Growth is proving to be the biggest challenge.  We want to bring on new accounts and grow the business while not upsetting our loyal followers but we are always working to full capacity so managing who we work with and how much we work with them is a fine balancing act.  We tripled production at the beginning of 2015 and have now just ordered more tanks to double again.  We would love to make more seasonal and experimental brews but we need to hold true to our core range and ensure we always have available stock.

What should we be looking out for from Brick Brewery and your beers in the future?

As we get the new tanks online we’ll be looking to proceed 3 seasonal beers each quarter.  For the summer we are about to launch a table beer (2.7%), a Berliner Weiss (4.5%) and a Hefeweizen (5.5%).  On a broader scale we’ll be looking to expand our footprint across London, getting our beer to more areas.

If you had to pick your favourite beer from Brick’s selection, which would it be and why?

It all depends on my mood, which is why beer is so great.  On a cold wet day I can always turn to my Yorkshire roots and sink a couple of Kinsale Bitters; on a warm summer’s day a simple thirst quenching Archway Steam or Peckham Pils on draft sees me right.  I do look forward to the experimental brews and was blown away by our Dry Hopped Pils we did which had all the crispness of our regular Pils but the intense flavour and aroma of North American hops.

A brew with a view

A brew with a view

Is there any part of the brewing process you’re not a fan of?

From a brewery owner’s perspective it has to be paperwork!  I’ve gone back to a desk job!  Slight exaggeration as I always have the option of working behind my desk or mucking in on the shop floor, cleaning casks and kegs or mashing in the next brew.  From a brewing point of view it has to be cleaning.  Brewer’s are pretty much cleaners 90% of the time; brewers 10% of the time.

Where do you see the beer industry in the UK going in the next 5 years?

More and more smaller brewers will open across the country.  We are already seeing pockets of activity pop in the major cities such as Bristol, Manchester and Leeds and I think this trend will continue.  Right now the scene is very collaborative as we all realise, that together, we are producing something that is greater than the sum of the parts.  

Beer drinker palates are changing.  We are keen to try something different and not settle for the mass-produced.  We want flavourful and characterful beers we can sip and enjoy at a relaxed pace and I see this trend continuing.  Once you’ve had a craft beer can you really go back?

What’s your favourite non-Brick Brewery beer and why?

I’ve always been a fan of Stone Brewing Company Ruination and Rogue Farms 7 hop IPA – yeah, I like hops!  Back in the UK I’m a fan of Magic Rock’s beers and the forefathers of the UK craft brewing scene, Brewdog.

If you were trying to convince someone who “doesn’t like beer” to start trying it, what would your advice be?

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like beer!  At the taproom we often get people who are unfamiliar with flavours in beers so we encourage anyone to try each of the beers before buying.  The taproom staff are trained in taking people through the characteristics of each beer, building on each as you go.  Your only commitment is to have an open mind and try and forget what you remember your father drinking down at his local.

Massive thanks to Ian for his time!

Want to know more about Brick Brewery?

I hope you do. Well, you can find all the info you need at the following:

Brick Brewery Website

Brick Brewery on Twitter

The tap room is open on Thursday 5pm-9pm, Fridays 5pm-9pm and Saturdays 12pm-10pm with the beer flowing and the Slow Richies cooking up a storm.

Bottle selection from Brick Brewery

Mouth watering in 3…2…1

Drop us some thoughts!