Q&A: Brew by Numbers

We’re featuring Brew By Numbers this month. We visited the brewery in Bermondsey to catch up with founders Dave Seymour and Tom Hutchings

You’ve been going four years and to great success – what was the ethos you started out with?

Dave: The main thing was making the beer as good as we could, all of the time. One of the catchlines we had since the beginning was exciting and forward-thinking beers with a focus on quality and drinkability.

You’re known for pale ales and saisons in particular. Did you set up the brewery focussing on these?

Tom: We were looking forward to trends happening elsewhere. America is quite a good reference point and several years ahead of what is happening here. We were looking at new things, also we were fortunate in some situations; saisons, for example, had a big year. Other breweries were doing specials with

Q&A: Brew by Numbers

We’re featuring Brew By Numbers this month. We visited the brewery in Bermondsey to catch up with founders Dave Seymour and Tom Hutchings

You’ve been going four years and to great success – what was the ethos you started out with?

Dave: The main thing was making the beer as good as we could, all of the time. One of the catchlines we had since the beginning was exciting and forward-thinking beers with a focus on quality and drinkability.

You’re known for pale ales and saisons in particular. Did you set up the brewery focussing on these?

Tom: We were looking forward to trends happening elsewhere. America is quite a good reference point and several years ahead of what is happening here. We were looking at new things, also we were fortunate in some situations; saisons, for example, had a big year. Other breweries were doing specials with them and so the yeast would get passed around. I think we got it on the fifth generation or so after it had been around several other breweries in town. We started playing around with it and really liked it.

Dave: Up until that point, a lot of our ideas came from taking traditional English stuff and putting a new twist on it, but in hindsight, it was a little gimmicky, but it was fun at the time. Then we went to Belgium shortly after brewing our first saison for the Festival of Spontaneous Fermentation and we were out there for five days in total, and that was when we started drinking lots of witbiers, lots of saisons, gueuzes, all these different things and that changed our focus totally. We started looking far more at Belgian styles and wild yeasts.

What drives the recipes now? For example, you’ve a mustard and sea salt table saison.

Dave: The sea salt and mustard beer was a collaboration we did for BrewDog Collab Fest last year. It was BrewDog Norwich, Norfolk, and we looked at ingredients from that area. Colman’s mustard comes from there and sea salt in that part of the world too. That was looking at the terroir. A lot of our inspiration comes from food. Different food combinations and flavours can translate nicely into beer.

You made a beer with quince which is a natural combination with cheese, how did that come about?
That was almost a happy accident the first time around. I was chatting to Kai [Knutsen] from England Preserves just down the tracks and we were looking to get some fruit. He said he didn’t have anything but he said he was making membrillo and he’d have some stewing liquor left over, it’s just a by-product for him. So we had a look at it and a sniff and it smells like quince and it’s got some sugar in it, so we thought we can stick it into a beer. It’s become a yearly thing since then.

Did you plan your mixed fermentation programme from the beginning or did it develop over time?

Tom: One of the first beers we produced from the basement was a Brett saison so we were already playing around with those things. It’s something that’s very complex and it’s taking a lot longer to get our heads around and understand it fully – we’re still working on it. It’s a big area to look into but we’re really enjoying playing around with it and it’s another new region to explore. And that’s another thing with the food; saison is a great alternative to white wine and so it works from a restaurant standpoint. It’s something that can be paired with food and looking at things that will work well in the beer itself. The yeast has been a really good canvas for putting different things onto it. It goes with so many different things; we use it in a number of different styles too.

And what about hops? You use Huell Melon for example which isn’t widely used.

Dave: It’s quite new and developed in Germany in the last year or two. We try to keep an eye out for the new ones; something that brings something we haven’t tried yet. If you have a single hop beer, you get to know that hop, but it’s only when you start blending that hop that it starts reacting in different ways. There are lots of different options and unexpected flavours.

Which breweries are you enjoying at the moment?
Tom: Thinking back to some of the festivals from last year, I think De Garde was one of the stand-outs for me. They do a lot of mixed fermentation beers but they taste very clean. I was amazed by what they were doing.

Dave: Fonta Flora were pretty incredible. Trillium Brewing in Boston make one of the best IPAs I’ve ever tasted. They’re not shy on the ABVs either; their lowest ABV pale ale is 5.8%.

See our range of Brew By Numbers beers here