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Brixton's new 50hl brewery: production capacity increased from 8,000 to 17,500 litres a week

Brixton Brewery moves into canned beers

Canned beers from Brixton Brewery are set to hit the market for the first time following the south London brewer’s expansion.

Italian manufacturer Comac is commissioning the 6,000-cans-an-hour line at Brixton’s new site this summer. Three core brands will be launched in the new format - Reliance Pale Ale, Atlantic APA, Low Voltage Session IPA.

As well as opening up export markets, cans will see Brixton’s beers at outlets that don’t take glass bottles, while the increased capacity will see the firm push into key cities as well as untapped areas of the capital, said Jez Galaun who began the business in 2013 with wife Libby and friends Mike Ross and Xochitl Benjamin.

Full-scale brewing began earlier in June on the new 50-hectolitre brewery housed only 600 metres from Brixton’s original home under railway arches. The three-vessel, steam-fired kit, installed by Gravity Systems, lifts production capacity from 8,000 litres a week to 17,500, with potential to increase that to 60,000.

The “quantum leap”, as Galaun described it, followed a minority investment from Heineken UK announced last November that has already seen Brixton’s beers appear in the brewing giant’s Star Pubs & Bars estate.

It was an expansion the co-founder believes was on the cards even without Heineken’s help. “That we would do something like this was certainly in our wildest dreams,” he said. “We knew we had a great product and a great brand, and our rate-of-sale was always really good.”

But Heineken’s input meant that when the step-up came, the partners could stay in Brixton, “which continues to inspire us”, rather than outsource production or move to a cheaper area.

“This is a great opportunity to create jobs locally and train people,” he added.

Six new recruits, including an assistant brewer, a quality technician and a ‘brewery ambassador’ will join the team by the end of this year.

Brixton will continue to operate its original site, producing limited edition and collaboration beers, and experimenting with barrel-aging, while taking out some vessels to extend and improve the customer experience at the tap room there. A short-run pineapple wheat beer is already lined up to mark the company’s thousandth brew.

“We’ll be able to flex our creative muscles at the old place – our brewers are bursting with ideas,” said Galaun.

He admitted that Brixton has been “a bit late to the game” with cans, “but we wanted to make sure we got the equipment and processes right first”.

Meanwhile, the new brewery will produce the core range not only on a larger scale but to higher standards, he believes. “I’d be surprised if quality didn’t improve. Brewing with steam is more stable than with electricity, and it’s little things like that which make the difference.”

Features such as a whirlpool mean pellet hops can be added at a lower temperature to maximise flavour and aroma, and all brews are vegan, unfiltered and unpasteurised.

Before expansion, some 70% of production was distributed within a few miles radius of the brewery. Now that will expand to more pubs and bars across the capital and into other cities “with a craft beer scene.”

Beers are already exported to Italy, and Galaun hopes to be sending cans to Sweden and France, too, “though the uncertainties of Brexit mean will shall be taking careful steps.”

Phil Mellows
6th August 2018

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