Two Tribes chief: 'The stronger breweries will survive'

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

From DJ decks to beer barrels: Justin Deighton reflects on his career
From DJ decks to beer barrels: Justin Deighton reflects on his career

Related tags Beer Two Tribes London

Justin Deighton has friends in high places. A career spearheading the 90s club-culture revolution as a DJ accumulated a punchy contact book of artists, musicians and chefs.

His words of wisdom? “Sometimes it’s not what you know it’s who you know". Deighton founded Two Tribes Brewery in 2017, drawing on his network to create a brewery that inspires creativity, pushes boundaries, and champions authenticity.

And these are values that ring true to this day. August 2023 was Two Tribes’ biggest month to date. The brewery sold 400,000 pints in the first two weeks – more beer than it sold in the whole of 2019. In the past few years, it has also partnered with brands including Virgin Atlantic, Eurostar and the Standard Hotel. In 2021, it launched a taproom, Campfire, in Kings Cross, north London.

Event space: Campfire opened its doors in 2021

This is where I meet Deighton for a drink. Located in the music hub of Tileyard, the outdoor events hub centres around several firepits, with a sleek DJ booth framed with 60s pop-art. “It’s a destination and it’s a community space,” says the founder.

Emerging and established DJs play an eclectic range of genres, from afro-house, to disco, to funk, creating chilled-out vibes throughout the week and in sunset sessions at the carpark-turned-taproom.

Creative history

The venue also prides itself on fire-cooked barbecue food, spearheaded by Sam Deighton. Two Tribes has teamed up with chefs to run cooking, foraging and open fire workshops. “Chefs are similar to DJs,” says Deighton, “they’re all completely mad.” Genevieve Taylor and Michelin-ranked Ramael Scully have ‘guest cooked’ at the site. “These guys are working in kitchens that have state-of-the-art equipment, and they come here and it’s about lighting a fire and cooking on a grill. They love it.”

And, of course, craft beer is key. There’s the Classic premium lager and Metro Land NYC session IPA, but it’s the Dream Factory pale ale​ that’s the bestseller. Named after a Prince and the Revolution album, like everything at Two Tribes, it is influenced by the founder's passion for music.

Deighton launched his own record label aged 21, performed around Europe, before joining his wife’s business manufacturing record sleeves, working with Adele, Radiohead and the White Stripes. It was only then that he turned his hand to hospitality.

Setlist: DJs play an eclectic range of music throughout the week

The craft beer boom reminded him of the club renaissance​ a decade prior: “I found it really exciting that people were brewing beer in their backyards, and doing different styles and doing stuff that was not normal, but was obviously creating a movement.”

He learnt the tricks of the trade at a Brighton-based brewery, and a mate asked if he’d make an IPA for Island Records. Following its success, he pulled together the idea for Two Tribes. The rest is history.

Sparking inspiration

He’s influenced “massively, all the time”. For instance, the brewery bagged ‘Innovation Award’ at the British Business Awards for stamping Shazam QR codes on beer, and also snapped up ‘Silver’ at the World Beer Awards.

Deighton’s proudest moment? Working with four-day Dorset-based festival We Out Here. “They really aligned with the brand and complement each other very well,” he says.

Pictured: We Out Here is a four-day festival in Dorset

Sometimes, running the business, he craves more of a creative element in his work. However, nine times out of 10, when he sits down with his long-time friend and collaborator Leo Zero (who, he throws in, has produced for Madonna), it doesn’t take long to get into a groove.

But there must have been ideas that missed the mark? “Loads,” the former DJ​ admits, “but I’m a big believer in things just flow. The universe just takes over sometimes. You kiss so many frogs, and only some of them turn into princes.”

And one thing’s for sure: any setbacks haven’t knocked his faith in the brand. Looking to the future, he’s very confident.

'It's an evolution'

Much of the brewing sector is struggling due to soaring costs and staffing issues, with the number of craft breweries going bust more than tripling​ in 2022. Luckily, Two Tribes has dodged many of these problems as it has “really good buying power” thanks to rapid growth.

It’s unfortunate that many breweries have fallen by the wayside, Deighton reflects. But he believes this makes really good breweries even better, with customers valuing authenticity and provenance when choosing where to drink.

Looking forward: Deighton feels confident about the future of trade

“It’s just an evolution,” he explains. “Things go through cycles. But the stronger will survive.”

Justin Deighton is in the right place. In some ways, taking the craft beer industry by storm is a far cry from the early days of making music in his bedroom. But he’s still putting on parties and hanging out with his musical mates, so it also seems like nothing’s changed at all. “If I wasn’t making beer, I would be doing this anyway,” he says. “This is just what I do”.

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