Kew Brewery, Botanic
Based less than a mile from, and inspired by, the world-famous gardens at Kew, founder David Scott says that Kew Brewery has one simple aim, “to make great tasting beer as sustainably as we can”.
When we say “founder”, we also mean head brewer, delivery driver, cleaner, head of sales… well, everything really. Yep, with the business only just having turned two years old, he’s still the sole employee.
So, how did he get himself in this pickle? “I was an avid homebrewer to start with.” David explains. “I thought I was making real progress with my recipes and decided it was worth a more serious look. I managed to wangle an unpaid year off work to work on my brewing, and in that time managed to land a job at Weird Beard Brew Co. for 6 months. That was obviously great experience. I also helped out at a couple of breweries in Kent (Old Dairy, and Canterbury Brewers) to get some more experience. Then I had to return to the day job, but the seed was sown and I started looking out for premises, equipment and so on. Eventually, after the usual planning niggles, Kew Brewery was born in May 2015”.
A couple of months later Kew Brewery won beer of the festival at Ealing Beer Festival with Kew Green (& Black), their wonderful chocolate milk stout that we featured in the 2016 ‘Ones to Watch’ box.
Talking to David, you soon sense this endeavour is about much more than great beer. “one of the things I’m most proud of is that we donate 5p for every pint sold to the World Land Trust, who save rainforest and other threatened habitats acre by acre. As of the end of March, our donations had saved over 48 acres of rainforest, which makes me happy and will hopefully make your subscribers happy as they drink as well. Each 5p donation saves 21sq ft of rainforest, so they’re helping save the planet one pint at a time”.
There is also a strong focus on local ingredients and reducing food miles.. “It seemed mad to be shipping hops around the planet when we grow them in the south of England. So I made a decision that we would brew modern, hop-forward beers, and other interesting beer styles, but with only English-grown hops and malt. The danger was always that we could look a bit too ‘traditional’ to some – the old ‘English hops are boring’ thing - but the aim was always to achieve a form of English hop rehab, to try and show people that actually if you use the right hops and in the right quantities, you might be surprised by just how much flavour and aroma you can get from them.”
We asked Dave about this week’s beer. “Botanic is our session amber ale and it's pretty well-balanced between the malt and the hops. In keeping with the name, it seemed it should have some sort of ‘botanical’ in the beer, in addition to the hops. So I opted for a little juniper infusion, at the end of the boil and again when the beer is cold conditioning. Juniper berries can be quite bitter so I have to be careful about how many I use – just enough to get a hint of that characteristic citrus tang. There are some crystal and chocolate malt in there, to add a bit of body given the low ABV, and then it is aroma and dry-hopped with lots of UK Cascade hops. So drinkers will hopefully get something easy drinking and nicely aromatic. It isn’t our ‘blow your socks off’ beer. It’s one you would hopefully want to have several of”.
So what does the future hold for Dave? “Well, expansion and world domination would be nice, obviously! Realistically, we are looking for new premises as our current space is so small that we struggle to brew more than once a week. The problem, of my own making, is that through the name of the brewery, I’ve tied it to one of the most expensive parts of the country, and a place where there are few, if any, warehouses or similar. So the risk is that to find affordable space we might have to move so far from Kew that the name no longer feels legitimate. Perhaps I should have thought of that at the beginning! So that’s the dominant thing at the moment. That and to keep making good beers of course!” We just hope he gets some help in the brewery soon and we start to see more of Kew’s beers being drunk far and wide. There are some rainforests to save, after all.