We spoke with this years’ winners of the Indie Beer Can Festival Windsor and Eton to hear what they had to say about all things brewing.
How did you make it to where you are now?
Windsor and Eton started six years ago with my Dad – Paddy Johnson and three other partners. I joined three years ago as a brewery assistant; I quickly fell in love with both brewing and the industry. I have since been learning the trade on the job, and 18 months ago, started Uprising as a ‘Brewery within a Brewery’. I act as Head Brewer to produce a set of beers that suits the style of beers I drink.
What is it about canning that interests you?
I want beer drinkers to be able to enjoy our beer at events where bottles aren’t allowed, such as music festivals. The great thing about cans is that they allow us to drink great beer wherever we are.
What perceived benefits does it have for you?
Of course there are the flavour benefits as cans reduce the amount of ‘light strike’ on the beer. It also opens the doors to more interesting packaging designs. The best cans look like a piece of art, and this really give your beer its own identity. The endless recyclability of cans is something I also believe is very important.
Why did you enter the Indie Beer Can Festival?
We’ve had previous experience with the competition, with Windsor and Eton’s Republika Lager in the finals at the last competition – so we’re setting a consistent record! The canners did a great job with the beer and that opened our eyes to the quality that can be achieved, even on a small scale. The competition was a great opportunity to try the beers out in a can, testing our branding and the taste.
Do you have any advice for other brewers starting or considering canning?
Because, in general, you have less opportunity to test out small scale trials at your site, canning can seem a challenging area to get into; you have to really think through the logistics, costs and the market carefully. What’s great is that the number of mobile canning lines is increasing in the UK, so this is becoming easier.
The integrity of your product is the most important, and there is a lot that can go wrong if you don’t pay attention. You need to be really focused on your end goal to make sure that you get it right.
Have you had any feedback from customers on canned beer?
People at the Indie Beer Can final were the first to try the product, and the feedback was all very positive. Since winning the competition we’ve had lots of enquiries and we are hard at work making sure that it won’t be too long before people can get their hands on some.
How many people do you have in the business?
We have a lot of part time members in the team but we have 15 “Full Time Equivalents.”
What have the toughest challenges been?
It is difficult coping with continuous growth of the brewery and expanding consumer choice whilst keeping everyone supplied with the high quality standards we insist upon!
Biggest highlights so far?
Most definitely it has been Treason’s ongoing success. In just a year it’s won a gold medal at the International Beer Challenge and has now won Best in Show at the Indie Beer Can festival. I am also proud to see us stocked nationally in Waitrose.
What lessons have you learned?
There have been many in the time that I’ve been at the business, some steeper learning curves than others! Most importantly is to have fun along the way. Brewing is a fantastic industry to be involved in.
Is there anything unusual about your business?
Having a brewery within a brewery is very special. Windsor and Eton beers are designed by my dad while Uprising beers are designed by me. We are essentially a family brewery with a friendly rivalry going. A battle of the brewers, so to speak!
One quirky fact about you or the business?
Uprising has a very symbolic branding. The ravens bursting into flight represent the Tower of London’s resident ravens fleeing the towers. This is thought to symbolize the crown being overthrown. In the case of Uprising, the solitary raven carrying the crown represents the young brewer, me, stealing the crown from the “Old Guard” – my Dad. My two gold awards for Treason have hopefully set me on that path, but there is a long way to go.
Where do you want the brewery to be in two years time?
Hopefully we’ll be on our way to stealing that crown! We have just had a small pilot plant dropped installed at the brewery which will be commissioned soon – paving the way for some interesting experimental beers. Long term we want to stay at the front line of UK breweries.