Five Points Brewing, XPA
Ed Mason knows a thing or two about craft beer. The former proprietor and one half of the names behind Mason & Taylor in Bethnal Green, he can probably lay claim to having owned one of London’s first craft beer pubs. So when he sold this back in 2012 to concentrate on launching his own brewery, there was good reason to be excited.
Partnering up with head brewer Greg Hobbs who had cut his brewing teeth at the East London Brewing Co and Doreen Joy Barber who heads up all things marketing, The Five Points Brewing Company launched on the London beer scene from under a railway arch in Hackney Wick in March 2013.
When we first visited the brewery back in 2015 it was clear that, in just a short amount of time, the team there were doing things right. Nothing said this more than the hive of activity we witnessed and the enthusiasm of everyone there. Teams win and the resulting small but perfectly formed range of core beers we sampled were testimony to this.
They were also doing the right things. Five Points had already established themselves as a Living Wage employer; started an apprenticeship scheme for 18-24 year olds in Hackney; sourced all their electricity for the brewhouse from renewable sources; and on top of this were committed to reinvesting 5% of their profits in local charities and community projects.
We asked Doreen what else they have been up to since we last featured them.
“Since the end of 2015, we've released three new beers to our core range [a Pils, a Brown Ale and this week’s beer the XPA]. There's been great noise about all three from the wider beer world that we've been really happy about!
We've recently released a limited run of our first Barrel-Aged Railway Porter in bottle, which was aged in red wine barrels. We're hoping to play around more with barrel-ageing once we get a bit of space next to our brewery arch, as we've recently received seven more red wine and seven white wine barrels from France. ”
Recently they’ve taken to making this week’s beer available on cask. This has met with widespread approval. Unsurprisingly really as it’s an eminently drinkable extra pale ale which is juicy enough to satisfy the most modern craft beer palette whilst quaffable enough to drink by the pint from a dimpled mug. This beer goes as well with some trendy street food as it does with a packet of pork scratchings.
It’s going down well at their sister venue, the Whitelock's Ale House in Leeds [no mean feat as we all know how particular the Yorkshire folk can be - Matt].
On the subject of sister venues, Five Points have opened a further venue in Leeds (The Turk's Head) and Mason & Company Hackney Wick (which is a bit closer to home). Both in the last 12 months and both worth checking out if you are in Leeds or London.
We also asked Doreen about how they were coping with demand given the challenges of operating from a small but strangely Tardis-like railway arch in Hackney.
“In October of 2015 around half of our team moved to our Warehouse space on Mare Street, which has helped clear space for our bottling and canning lines. But give a brewery space and they will eventually fill it. After quite a bit of negotiation, we'll be soon occupying a neighbouring arch next to our brewery which we're looking at having as a storage space, particularly a cold store space for our hops, along with setting up the aforementioned barrels to expand our barrel ageing project in earnest.”
With space in London at a premium, we wondered what made the brewery’s connections with Hackney so special to them.
“We love being in Hackney, and our brewery arch underneath Hackney Downs Station will remain in production no matter how we expand or where we expand to. It's important to keep your roots in the community, and East London is a wonderful community to be in!
We have gotten so much support through the years from pubs, venues, restaurants and bottle shops in Hackney and so much of our beer is still sold a stone's throw away from our two sites in the borough. Many of these businesses are independently-owned like us and we've sort of grown up together, in a way, so it's great to support each other.”
In fact, rather than move elsewhere in London to make their beers they’ve hit on a novel way of dealing with some of their growing pains.
“Late last year we made the decision to brew with an independent, family-owned Belgian brewery to alleviate production strain at our railway arch. We currently brew our Five Points Pils for draught and have done one brew so far of our Five Points Pale for keg there, all with our own ingredients, recipes and brewers. One of our brews at this Flanders-based brewery is equivalent to about four of ours on our kit, which is a huge help for an ambitious little brewery like us!
We hope when we find a new home to house a larger brewhouse and more fermentation vessels we can bring all of our brews back in-house again. Until then, we are really lucky to be able to hop the Eurostar and brew a beer we are very proud of and has been so well received by the beery community.”
We love watching breweries like this grow and go from strength to strength. It’s going to be great to catch up with them in another year or so.
With this in mind, we appreciate that many of you won't want to wait 12 months or so before we feature Five Points again. So we’ve put together this fab mixed case to help you sample some of their current range.