Earth Station will be based in east London’s Royal Docks, close to the new Elizabeth rail line, and focus on producing “fresh, hoppy beers” on a 20bbl kit designed by Gravity Systems, which is also a business partner in the project.
The brewery will seek to provide “community and infrastructure” in the Stratford area, and will work alongside local arts charity Create London, which owns the space where Earth Station will operate.
It will also aim to give opportunities to women and other under-represented groups, thereby “improving diversity and modernising the brewing trade”.
Speaking about the motivation behind the project, Merrick told The Morning Advertiser: “I really wanted to do something that is hyper local and that really feels like part of the community. We are really excited about being able to be a cornerstone and play a role in the wider vision for the area.
“I visit the high street in Stratford and there are people holding banners protesting social cleansing and gentrification,” she continued. “There is a lot of change and discord, and I would like to be a positive force in terms of social cohesion.”
The brewery will also part fund a social enterprise scheme called The Pipework Project; an apprenticeship scheme and community education program that will work with breweries, educators and government to develop a brand new brewing apprenticeship standard across the industry.
“One of the great privileges and responsibilities of being an employer is what you owe to your employees,” Merrick added. “There is a lot of room for growing up and maturing in the craft beer industry in the UK and, as an employer, breweries can take it to the next level and be even better places to work. I want people to think of brewing as an occupation or a trade for life.”
The brewery will break ground later this month, and Merrick hopes to be operational by late summer 2018. The former Beavertown, Dark Star and Meantime brewer hopes to be heavily involved in the brewing process, but will also seek to hire staff to help run the training side of the brewery.
“Because I want us to be a training brewery, I am going to need to have a team of people who I trust who are good qualified brewers with the right levels of skills and patience to do teaching,” she said. “But I also want to be really hands-on. Part of what happened at Beavertown as they grew was that my role really changed from being involved in day-to-day brewing to running a lot of everything else.
“I'm already working with Sarah Elkins who was my head of finance at Beavertown and has since worked with Redchurch and has been around the beer scene in London a bit,” she added. “I'd love to hire people who are experienced in things that I don't have as much experience in like maybe lager brewing because I'd like to be able to offer a wide range of kit and training.
“To be able to have every type of beer brewed on premises and have hands-on experience is ideally what I want to be able to give to people.”
Urban location key to beer focus
Merrick added that the location of the brewery was a key factor in deciding what kinds of beers to initially focus on brewing.
“Getting local beers from local brewers into the drinkers' hands is something the UK has always been very good at, and that is the sort of thing you can do with a city on your doorstep that you can't really do if you're up in the wilds of Scotland,” she said.
If completed on time, it is thought that Earth Project will take the total number of breweries operating in London to 110. On the subject of how the brewery would seek to survive in a crowded marketplace, Merrick said: “I am really familiar with the struggle of finding sites in London, and I spent a lot of time when I was with Beavertown trying to find the space for its next expansion.
“A big part of that is built into our plans for the future; we have an agreement with Create that we will be able to build a second building on-site, and we have plans for our own longevity.
“One of the things I see the London brewing scene really needing is access to more experienced and skilled staff, and I really want to see London be the world brewery capital that our great history of brewing deserves.”