Innovation is brewing
Australian born Jasper Cuppaidge always had a passion for home brewing. After growing bored of the beer industry in the UK he brought a gastro pub in Hampstead, London, UK in 2006 and started brewing cask beer in the basement. However, when it came to the other taps on the bar, like the lager, wheat beer and pale ales, he couldn’t find anything he liked.
After quickly outgrowing the space, Cuppaidge decided to build a new site underneath the railway arches in Kentish Town in 2010. With Camden Town Brewery now born, he could finally start producing the beers he liked. It was here on Wilkin Street Mews that some of the brand’s most famous beers were brewed all year round, including Hells Lager, Pale Ale, Ink Stout, Gentleman’s Wit, IHL Lager and Pils Lager. The beers are now sold all over London in bottles and kegs, and are stocked in around 600 pubs, bars and restaurants. Outside of London, the beers can be found in Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Edinburgh and overseas in Sweden.
“I didn’t realise what I had in front of me,” recalls CEO Cuppaidge. “So many people were excited about beer but there was no output for them to go, and then over the past five years the craft beer revolution unravelled in front of us all.
“We opened the doors for people to come in and we have been out of space for some time now. For the last two or three years we have been contract brewing in a number of facilities in Europe, including Munich and Belgium.”
Securing a new site
In 2015 Camden Town Brewery was purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) and quickly began searching for a new brewery space in Camden, but there was nothing available.
Cuppaidge discusses the largest investment to London’s brewing industry for 30 years: “We found Enfield after we were running out to see Beavertown Brewery. We secured the site 18 months ago and convinced the landlord to build all the things we wanted in a brewing facility that were in line with our aspirations.
“The site was brown dirt when we first arrived, we kept the same standard structure but everything else is bespoke to us, along with the floor, drainage, roof and frontage. All our gas and energy uses have been streamlined to make this brewery as efficient as possible from a humanitarian viewpoint. We have a huge water processing plant so everything is sent back to Thames Water. With everything being recycled we can be very effective in how we impact the environment.”
The team has been on site for 12 months and started installing equipment just before Christmas. Brewing is planned to start on 22 April and be in full production by late June. The new site will allow the brewery to start expanding its range of beer. “All the core beers will be produced here,” explains Cuppaidge.
“Hells is our main beer, everything else fights for space. 65 per cent of our overall production is Hells, it is the reason we started. We were desperate to get our capacity constraints removed, giving room to other beers that customers wanted that we had to turn down.”
With the support of AB InBev, the workforce has grown 50 per cent over the last 12 months; by the time the brewery opens, a total of 110 people will be employed. “We have been reserved because while we focus on quality and consistency, we have never had the capacity to play with in the path we took,” he comments. “Finally we have a playground and are able to collaborate with our other local partners. There is excitement coming out of our brewery.”
The flooring was laid first, comprising of 300,000 tiles approximately 20 millimetres thick. “If the floor is terrible then the rest of it will be too. We used hexagonal tiles that can withstand a higher impact compared to traditional rectangular ones,” says Cuppaidge. Inside the brewery, six 300 hectare litre and three 600 hectare litre bright beer tank (BBT) holding vessels have already been installed. The tanks can hold up to one week’s worth of beer that is ready for market.
This allows the company to resolve any issues with the beer before it goes to market and is transferred into glasses, minimizing the chances of product recall.
In addition to the motion censored LED lighting, within the brewery there are three 100 hectare litre, three 300 hectare litre and 22 600 hectare litre fermentation tanks. “The biggest tank we have at Camden is the smallest tank we have here,” he adds.
Innovating for the future
It is evident that innovation is the driving force behind the build. Cuppaidge continues, “Our vapour condenser that condenses heat and steam gets turned into energy, meaning we don’t have to heat water. Effectively, we are using 20 to 30 per cent of the energy required to boil water. This is a big piece of brewing innovation. Brewing itself hasn’t really changed over the past 100 years, but technology has.
“We have also installed five 18 hectare litre concrete eggs, which will be used to ferment and condition our beer to see what new flavours we can generate. We will be blending with our Hells range in keeping with Camden to reach an approachable AB InBev level. Our brewers need to have an output, craft beer is exciting and we are giving our team a platform to do exciting things.”
The brewery plans to open a visitors’ centre, which will be open at weekends for the public to learn about the brewing process. “The brewer’s deck will drive the brewery, it will be full of computers and provide an overview of the whole brewing process,” says Cuppaidge.
“People will be able to sit, eat and drink in the brewery. They will be able to come up and take a tour themselves. We want everyone to be a part of what we have been doing here.
“We will have drawings on our tanks explaining what is happening. It will be a lot bigger than what we currently have at Kentish Town. We will open it slowly in the summer, we don’t want to rush it as we want to get it right.”
The brewery hopes to advertise and employ among those who live locally, putting community at the heart of the project. Construction work continues to be made on the scientific laboratory: “A huge amount has been spent on the laboratory work. Every beer has between seven and nine checks done externally. Part of the team will move out to the Enfield site permanently, and we will also be installing research and development hot desks – all part of a pioneering movement.” The brewers will work different shifts than they currently do at the Wilkin Street Mews site.
“At Camden we brew for 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Here, we will work three shift patterns, only five days a week,” explains Cuppaidge. In the future, the company hopes to collaborate with other American brands in the AB InBev network. “It would be great if we could send brewers out to learn about crops. If they think the brand needs to be crossbred somewhere and will work in a marketing process, then we can take that market as it seems fit,” he explains. “Being part of that network we get to discuss what’s right and what’s wrong.”
With the brewery preparing to start the brewing process in the coming months, it has announced that a new beer will be launched from the Enfield site. “The new beer will be an extension of its own type. It is currently in development so I don’t want to give too much away,” he concludes