Speaking to The Morning Advertiser, co-founder Jez Galaun defended the decision to sell a 49% stake of the brewery business to Heineken UK, but insisted the deal wouldn’t guarantee they get their beer in Heineken’s managed estate of pubs.
“First and foremost we are looking to have our beer on tap in more places,” he said. “As a small brewery we have always focused on small pack, and that has allowed us to grow our brand, but I'd like to get our beer in more pubs.
“When we started the brewery we loved going to pubs. We met as founders over a pint; that is how we bonded. We love that social and human interaction you get in a pub. So that's what we will be focusing on initially.”
Supply to Star Pubs not guaranteed
When asked whether partnering with Heineken would mean Brixton beers appearing in Star Pubs & Bars, Galaun said: “We haven't had that discussion yet but we will be having that discussion with them. That is one of the attractions of partnering with Heineken is they can get us access to their pub network.
“However, at the same time I think we have had a lot of interest from customers we haven't been able to supply in the past due to volume, so they are the customers we will reach out to first.”
“The pubs that Heineken have get offered a menu of products and they are not obliged to take any one beer, so it will be up to the individual pubs to decide if they want our beer in there,” he continued. “This partnership can put us on the list but equally it may create opportunities for other breweries in pubs we are currently supplying as well, so I think it can work both ways.”
Co-founder Xochitl Benjamin said a desire to stay in Brixton was the primary factor behind the decision to partner with Heineken.
“It was always non-negotiable for us to stay in Brixton; it was so important to us and even if that for the moment prescribes our size and capacity then so be it,” she said.
'Nailed to the Brixton mast'
On the subject of how the brewery’s customers and fans had reacted to the deal, Benjamin said: “We tried to explain really clearly our reasoning and emphasise how much we wanted to stay in Brixton and at the head of the brewer, and I think people really understood that.
“I think most people saw it as a success story, which we hope they do. We are really proud of what we have achieved in just four short years.”
Galaun added: “People know us and trust us. What we are doing is fantastic, not only for us and our team, but also for Brixton. Other breweries have had to cut ties with their original homes and radiate out to the edge of London whereas we have firmly nailed our flag to the Brixton mast.
“We are a community business and we are making a big investment to this area. We also think people can see how well Heineken have worked with Lagunitas [A US brewery bought by Heineken in May 2017] so maybe that has reflected people's perception of our partnership.”
Camden comparisons dismissed
The investment from Heineken will enable Brixton to move to a new 15,000sq ft site just 600 metres away from its existing premises, and expand capacity from 2,500hl to more than 20,000hl a year.
Galaun insisted the brewery was not trying to grow too fast, and dismissed comparisons to Camden Town Brewery, who moved into a new, much larger facility earlier this year, after being bought by AB InBev in December 2015.
“We aren't looking to grow too fast; we want to do it in a very calm and controlled way,” he said. “We are going to have the same brewhouse as the likes of Beavertown, Five Points, Redchurch, Magic Rock, Wylam etc.
“It is very different to what has happened at Camden Town; they have gone from where they were to a brewery that can produce 400,000 hl. It is very different to that. We will still be a relatively small brewery.”