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The band at Signature with co-founder Tom Bott in the foreground wearing black T-shirt

Signature Brew’s crowdfunding a smash hit 

Signature Brew has unveiled plans for a new 20-barrel brewery in east London after exceeding its £400,000 crowdfunding target by more than 50%.

Nearly 550 investors chipped in a total of £637,000, earmarked for a site not far from the company’s base in Waltham Forest where a fully automated four-vessel kit supplied by SSV will arrive next spring.

Production capacity is set to increase four-fold to 20,000 hectolitres a year and allow the music-themed brewer, named SIBA’s Brewery Business of the Year for 2018, to experiment with a more adventurous range of beers.

A new canning line, from ABE, will also be installed, along with an on-site tap room.

The crowdfund, on the CrowdCube website, attracted some “big sums” thanks to the “money-can’t-buy experiences” available to Signature through its music industry contacts, explained Tom Bott, who co-founded the brewery with Sam McGregor in 2011.

“But it was more important that we made this a credible and exciting investment proposition. People had to feel they were buying a tangible part in one of the most exciting breweries in the country.

“Now we’ve done the hard bit and we can move to a site where we can meet current demand and give the business long term sustainability thanks to the quality of the new kit and the capacity we’ll have to brew a wider range of beers.

“We’ll be capable of churning out our flagship beers in the quantities we want with a brew length and still gives us the flexibility to be creative and produce small quantities.” 

It will also mean that the 1,500 hectolitres a year of Studio Pilsner brewed for keg that’s currently contracted out to Cameron’s Brewery in Hartlepool can be moved back in-house.

Signature’s new home is more accessible to visitors and will feature a tap room on site to join the bar launched in nearby Haggerston three months ago, this with the help of £100,000 in funding from NatWest.

Signature Brew crowdfunding highlights:

Amount raised: £637,000
Original target: £400,000
No of investors: 549
Crowdfunders’ share of equity: 6.1%
Other rewards include: brewery tours, free beer, 10% discount

A third ‘tap’ will open elsewhere in Waltham Forest during the first half of 2019.

Brewing will continue at Signature’s existing premises in Leyton until the firm is happy with the results, “so customers will experience no downtime,” promised Bott.

A ‘running order’ for 2019’s beers has been drawn up that will see plenty of innovation in the second half of the year as the additional capacity comes on stream.

It includes a sour, a New England IPA and various iterations of Progressive Bitter, described by Bott as “a traditional English pale ale that we’ll be taking in different directions using hops we’ve not used before.

“We’ll also be reviving some of our ‘hits from history’ and doing more collaborative brews with bands.

“Music will continue to be at the heart of what we do without being gimmicky,” he went on. “We started the brewery seven years ago because we were tired of drinking shit beer at gigs and paying over the odds for it – and fundamentally that problem still exists.

“We set out to introduce venues to the idea that better beer is available and that the acts themselves can be a big part of that.

“It’s not a hard sell but it’s a different sell and it takes an awful lot of time. We have to convince them that with good beer and a nice bar they can get people in early for a drink rather than them going to Wetherspoon’s before the gig.”

Signature has enjoyed its most successful year, supplying small independent venues through to Birmingham’s NEC, where it sponsored a stage at the Slam Dunk Festival.

Turnover will reach £1.3million in 2018 and, with the opening of the tap room, staffing has increased to 21. 

While Signature looked at opportunities to expand outside of the capital, it decided to remain in Waltham Forest “because we’re quite tied to this area,” said Bott. “Most of the staff live within 10 minutes of the brewery, and it’s important they can stay with us.”

Discussions are already under way with other brewers about buying the old 10-barrel brewhouse, which is only four years old.

Phil Mellows
22nd December 2018

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