We recently spoke to Nick Dwyer, Creative Director at Beavertown Brewery about their success as canning craft brewers. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about Beavertown
We started in the back of Duke’s Brew and Que in Haggerston, though at the beginning ‘we’ were just Logan plus whoever arrived at the door with enough enthusiasm to help with the brews! Eventually Logan was joined by James and from there we started adding to the original range (Smog Rocket, Neck oil and 8 Ball) created to pair with the BBQ food at Duke’s.
Growing involved a lot of trials, testing and experimenting; and a lot of feedback! Luckily we have had a consistently incredible brewing team, eager to learn from the get-go.
Now Beavertown is well known for its artwork, but back then we were a blank slate. James approached me and offered the opportunity to design the first couple of bottle labels, (that eventually led to designing cans) and I accepted, not realising where it would take not only me, but Beavertown in general.
Why did you start canning?
There were a number of reasons, but first and foremost it was because of the incredible quality benefits our beer enjoys as a result of being in a can.
Previous to canning we were hand bottling, hand labeling and bottle conditioning the beer ourselves. When the beer was first ready it tasted fantastic, but we were finding it was a different beer two weeks down the line. This was due to light penetration and oxygen getting into the bottle. Using a can alleviated both of these issues for us; the consistency we get from canning means that when we release a beer we deem great, it stays great all the way to its final destination.
It’s also great to have an item to put artwork all over; the scope for design is much greater with a can
We take cues from the American craft beer world. Logan is regularly over in the USA, chatting to breweries like Oskar Blues which are almost 100% canned, learning as much as possible from them and bringing his knowledge home. We also had a lot of advice from Camden who started canning just before us – we are lucky to exist within an incredible community of craft breweries.
What have the toughest challenges been?
Maintaining the perception people had of us when we were still 8 people, sharing couches as work spaces and working across a totally-non-health-and-safety-compliant mezzanine in Hackney Wick. It’s a perception that ties to the workd ‘craft’.
Unfortunately, as you grow people assume your quality will dip – which is not unheard of, so the attitude is understandable. For us craft is about keeping everything in-house and communicating everything to everyone. Twitter has been great for that. They were baffled at the canning factory when I wanted to show the world our prototypes via Twitter, but being inclusive is proving the way forward. We would never try to ostracise or be exclusive to anybody.
What has been your biggest highlight?
Honestly, they have been so frequent it’s hard to pin point one. Every time we can a new beer it’s like our village hero has returned from a successful conquest. We’ve won a few awards which is very rewarding… but I just have to go the cheesy route and say that every day something pretty great happens.
What lessons have you learned?
Far too many to list; hopefully our learnings show in the consistency and quality of the beer we create. In general I think one of the biggest lessons we can share is that when things go wrong, put your hands up and sort it out the best way that you can. People are so incredibly supportive when you are honest, but can grow defensive, quickly, if they think you are being evasive.
What advice would you give to start-up breweries?
Again, be as honest as you can.
If you are in charge of something / heavily involved in a project, then speak up when you don’t like something. There has to be a balance and you need to demonstrate your personality in everything you do, not just ask yourself what other people want. More often than not, people will sense and gravitate towards the more personal choice.