Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
"People." I'm currently sat opposite Andrew Reeve, founder of Honest Brew, looking every bit the Kiwi expat in shorts and jandals and I've just asked him whether it's the brewing or the retail side of his business that's more important to him. "People" he says "People are the most important part of Honest Brew."
Established at the back end of 2012 Honest Brew is made up of two parts; a brewing operation and an online shop. They spent much of their formative months brewing beers with their early adopters and developing their recipes on a Sabco Brew Magic which has simply been dubbed 'Frank'. This is a piece of brewing kit that is literally straight out of a home brewers wet dream and it resides within the Late Knights brewery in Penge. Once Andrew and his crew are happy with a beer its then scaled up to be contract brewed at RSM Solutions in Hartlepool on their 10bbl kit. Andrew's openness about this aspect of his business was a breath of fresh air. It's a pleasantly transparent attitude proves that his company are not just honest in name but also in nature.
"We plan to continue contract brewing and being completely open about it. It gives us the flexibility to try new things, with a great group of people, who are all passionate about brewing good beer."
The second part of the business is in beer retail which has really come into its own over the last 12 months as they've grown from a pop up shop into a fully fledged online retailer. As well as being able to order your own selection of beers from their website you can order an 'honesty box' and let Honest Brew do the choosing. You simply answer a few simple questions about what kind of flavours you like, select how many beers you want and voila, a box of beer hand picked by the Honest Brew crew arrives at your door. It's a simple idea but it's one that gives them a unique angle as an online beer retailer and adds an extra level of engagement with their customers which is what Andrew is all about.
"People are the most important part of Honest Brew."
As we part ways Andrew passes me a two bottles of their 'Straight Up Pale Ale' which describes itself as being 'fresher than Bel-Air.' The label design is much the same as that of their bright, clean and characterful website. The shade of gold this beer pours is just as easy on the eye and although it does produce a bubbly off white head this soon dissipates to become a mere halo of foam.
Putting thoughts of the Fresh Prince and Los Angeles suburbs aside I dive in for a sniff. On the nose are gooseberries, a little lemon rind and just a hint of crushed barley. The flavour is jammy as opposed to being juicy with marmalade and kiwi fruit underpinned by a citrus sharpness that's balanced by a sticky honey note.
It's not a beer to excite the hop squad but it is exceptionally balanced and easy drinking, it's a great example of a gateway beer. Modern in flavour but dialled down enough to be accessible. It's not trying to be anything its not, in fact it's as honest and transparent as the company that brew it and it'll get more people into good beer which is what it seems to me that Honest Brew are all about.
People, that word again. Beer is people . It is people that truly define what is craft beer. Andrew shares an attitude that resonates through the young, modern British beer scene. It may well be the case that beer is not going to get any better than it is now (I actually think it will get even better) but the way we're going we've got a bright future ahead of us.
Although I was given this beer for free I don't think that influenced my opinion of it.