Nestled at the base of Gipsy Hill, in South London, we brew full flavoured, moreish brews of the highest standard.
Every decision we make is led by improving quality, pushing innovation and engaging with our community
Charlie and I (Sam) met at craft beer institution The Rake in Borough Market. We’d both heard from a mutual friend we had the same plans – to build a brewery. We shook hands, drank some beer, got to know each other and penned a plan to put our stake in the brewing world.
We put all our cash together and leased a unit in Gipsy Hill, Charlie’s backyard. We pulled in Simon in April, stainless steel tanks arrived in May, and we started brewing half batches in July. We started with Southpaw and were 90% cask from the start. By September we had introduced Beatnik.
It was a crazy time. We wanted to make the best beer we could and learnt the hard way how difficult it is. Everyday we pushed ourselves, we changed how we brewed and we listened to our loyal customers. Every day we got better. Quality became one of the daily mantras we built into how we operate.
We opened our brewery taproom and started welcoming people into our brewing home. Community began to build itself into the fabric of what we do at Gipsy Hill.
We started to hit our brewing stride. Dissident and Hepcat were introduced. Hepcat proved to be a hit and is still our bestselling beer. We got a bigger bottling machine and began to move into small-pack, getting Gipsy Hill bottles out far and wide.
2016 was a rollercoaster. We opened our first bar, The Douglas Fir; we got our second unit and moved warehousing out of the brewery. Then we were struck by crisis – our original brewery floor gave way and began to rot. In the face of new tanks arriving we made a bold decision to pull out our entire brewery, stop brewing for 7 weeks, and re-lay a new production floor. One that would stand the test of time.
This decision really hurt our financial results, sales momentum and a bit of pride at the brewery, but it also paved the way for a new era. One of investment in quality, in staff, in good machinery that would ensure that we were brewing and packaging beer in the best possible way we could. It was an inflexion point from us, a moment where we choose the harder path of quality and putting, instead of efficiency and scale, the beer, first. We have never looked back.
We more than doubled our brewing capacity this year, giving us the potential to get up to 10,000hl in our Gipsy Hill home. We got 2 more warehouses alongside our existing ones and built a separate packaging hall from the brewery. Once we’d done this we also invested in a canning line. We stopped producing bottles and moved entirely to cans – a huge move for us, but it turned out to be the right thing for quality, efficiency, the environment and our long term goals of getting better as we grow.
We also upgraded our brewhouse by doubling its size, allowing us to keep a smaller, better trained and nimble team. Instead of shift brewing through the day and night, we only brew once a day. We built a proper lab to analyse our beer. We built one of the largest cold stores for packaged beer in South London, again, a crucial move to back-up our intentions for quality beer with action.
2018 was another pivotal year for us as we opened a fully accessible tap room, so our customers and community can enjoy our beers on site, getting the freshest Gipsy Hill beer you can get anywhere. In total, we brewed over 50 new special beers outside of our core range. We built a pilot brew kit so that we can trial small batches of beer onsite before putting them through the big brewhouse. We started a barrel-ageing program with 4 beers so far racked into a variety of barrels.
We did some soul-searching and refocused our vision on three core principles: 1) Quality, 2) Innovation, 3) Community. Everything we do here bears those three elements in mind in the purest way we can. We’ve started to collaborate with interesting and different partners who will help us emphasis these goals, as well as help us explore and expand our knowledge in beer.
2019 was a really interesting year for craft beer in London. Some of the biggest craft players had been sold over the previous 18 months, leaving us as one of largest independent breweries in London. By volume, the amount of craft beer brewed by independent business had dropped from 100% in 2015 when we were founded, to ~circa. 20%. The importance of being a leading independent player in that field was not lost on us. We had to continue to improve our beer to show that independents do make better beer than macro-owned breweries.
This was a consolidation year for us, where our growth was put on hold to make way for improved process, a re-brand (or re-freshed branding), investment in further equipment to support our quality and making sure we were providing the kind of customer service we should be.