It took me a while to think of an exciting subject matter beginning with X. And there was nothing in the craft beer glossary of much help either. But last week I had a moment of inspiration when I realised that the X was right in front of me. Collaboration. Specifically, collaboration within Craft Beer.
I’ll come back to this moment of inspiration later on.
An x in the wonderful world of brewing, as it does in many forms of art or business, signifies a collaborative effort between two or more people, artists or businesses. For example, one of Toby’s favourite Bowie tunes is Under Pressure - Queen x David Bowie. Or the co-branding venture between Spotify and Starbucks. Cool idea, right? Well, the collaborative nature of the UK craft beer scene was something that really struck me when I signed up to Friendship Adventure 2 years ago. It takes many shapes and forms too.
First of all, there is a genuine passion and love for what everyone here is trying to achieve; make great beer and get as many people drinking it as possible. It doesn’t matter where it was brewed or who by. Everyone’s really excited to see that you’ve started (yet another) craft brewery and that you’re bringing (yet another) tasty session IPA to the table. We all want to see each other succeed.
Second of all, I was never actually supposed to be writing this blog; Neil was. But the lovely bloke has just had a daughter and couldn’t find the time, so asked me to write the X blog in exchange for the Z blog. I said yes. Collaboration right there, if ever I’ve seen it.
Back to the matter at hand…
Friendship Adventure, as with most craft breweries, got started by contract brewing our beer in other people’s breweries. Those instances of collaboration have not only produced all the delicious beer we sell, but it has also led to some great new friendships. Shout out to our most recent brewing partners By The Horns and Signal!
We collaborate with breweries by bringing our live comedy nights into their taprooms. Shout out to Mondo for letting us host some wicked comedy nights in their awesome taproom!
We even got started as business through means of collaboration with our good friends Smoke & Salt and Phil Juma! Brewing beer to pair well with their delicious food offerings.
The next, and most important part - the brunt of this blog you might say - we haven’t done yet, (this is because we haven’t opened our brewery just yet), but breweries often collaborate by brewing beers together! Which brings me back to my moment of inspiration for this blog…
Last week I was in my lockdown bubble with my friend Tom, and we’d picked up a small collection of craft beer cans from my local shop Guzzl in Brixton Village, and we stumbled upon a very tasty number by Northern Monk x Millward - a 7% Tropical IPA which, frankly, might be the nicest beer I’ve ever tasted. I knew then and there that this, collaboration, was my piece.
I hadn’t heard of Millward, so I set to googling them. This was when I realised that I’m an idiot and that Millward isn’t a brewery and that this isn’t a collaboration between two breweries. In fact, Drew Millward is a very fine illustrator from Coventry. It turns out that the legends that are Northern Monk have created, and some time ago now, a Patrons Project. Patrons Project is a series of beers that we brew with Northern Legends (of which Drew is one) in order to collaborate creatively all whilst supporting the community, from Tattoo Artists, to Photographers and Outdoors enthusiasts. Very cool and seriously worth checking out.
While this moment of inspiration wasn’t the particular kind of collaboration I was talking about, it still epitomises the wonderful spirit of camaraderie within the craft beer industry.
The kind of collaboration that I was talking about however, a real example this time Oats on Oats by Siren x Kings & Daughters, not only creates some incredibly good, premium, limited edition beer, but it also takes advantage of both breweries’ capabilities and fan bases. It opens minds to new ideas and techniques of brewing from different schools of thought.
Where collaboration takes us further afield, outside of the UK even, it’s a chance for beer drinkers to sample at home some of the skills of foreign breweries that we wouldn’t normally be able to. Not to mention the cool new artwork that normally comes with it. It is far more than just a marketing tool.
“But Ed, aren’t craft breweries in direct competition?”. I’m glad you asked. The answer is yes, but the answer is also no.
Yes, we are competing for the limited number of taps that a lot of pubs assign to “craft beer” (those that serve craft beer). But no, we are not competitors, because we, the craft breweries, are competing as one to make that limited number of taps less limited, and to get more craft beer in more pubs.
We are competing with Fosters. We are competing with Peroni. It’s the classic David and Goliath, only we are not just one David. We are the collective Davids, we’re all mates and we’re trying to compete with those brewing giants that dominate most pub lines. Don’t get me wrong, Peroni is a nice beer, but it’s not the only beer.
In 2019, only 9% of the beer sold in pubs in the UK was Craft beer, according to Mintel, and that was an increase on the previous year. We’re all working together to increase that number even further.
Now that we’re in our new home in Loughborough Junction (or about to be!), we’re looking forward to making friends and working with those breweries closest to us. We’re also looking forward to making friends and working with all the local businesses, charities and neighbourhood initiatives.
Collaboration has been at the centre of everything we do and it will continue to be as we enter an exciting new phase in our development. We can’t wait to share it all with you, our friends, when you come and see us.