If you walk along Queen’s Road in Hastings from the Priory Meadow to Alexandra Park, it would be hard to miss The Imperial. With its unique and distinctive coral and black exterior, this pub doesn’t hide away, but it’s also very different than your average local and not what you’d expect to find in this unassuming part of town.
It’s not just a pub, it’s a micro-brewhouse, serving craft beers brewed on site alongside the finest craft ales from around the UK. There’s the metallic gleam of brewing equipment right behind the bar set against a backdrop of smart, brick geometric tiles, and handmade copper beer pumps, and to the far right, you’ll find a wood-fired pizza oven.
A comforting malt aroma mixed with hops and melted mozzarella permeates around the pub, adding to its cosy feel. It’s the sort of place where you could see yourself happily propping up the bar for a few hours, sampling the impressive list of craft beers. With its warm and laid back atmosphere, Brewing Brothers at The Imperial is a modern, relaxed pub, which has grown an impressive reputation locally.
When we met one half of the Brewing Brothers, Ned Braxton, they were preparing a batch of their hotly anticipated 50/50 collaboration with Half Man! Half Burger!, another much-loved local independent with two popular burger restaurants in Hastings (St Leonards-on-Sea) and Eastbourne. When local businesses collaborate creatively, it adds to the spirit of the place and shows there’s a vibrant, close-knit community of independent businesses doing exciting things, which can only be good for the town and the local community. Ned agreed, ‘the more you do with collaborations, the more exciting it gets’.
The new American Pale Ale with its brilliantly simple and aptly named title, ‘Half Man Half Brother’, marks an exciting stage in both Brewing Brothers’ and Half Man Half Burger’s journey, and it’s said to be the Brother’s best brew yet.
‘You’re producing something that’s unique, you’re hands are in it’ said Billy Eriksson, Brewing Brothers’ Head Brewer and honorary brother. Originally a request by Rory Myers of HMHB to stock Brewing Brothers’ beer in its East Sussex outlets, it became a collaborative effort as they shared a mutual admiration for Mosaic hops and quality beer.
You’re producing something that’s unique, your hands are in it.Billy Eriksson Head Brewer & Honorary Brother
Launched in late 2015, Brewing Brothers was an idea that the Braxton brothers, Ned and Charlie, and Billy realised after a thorough investigation of the USA craft brew scene, so they set about their distinctive vision. They focus on quality and not quantity, reflected in their pizzas as well as their beers. It’s the kind of lifestyle that many young under-30s would be envious of, even if it is hard graft. Beer and pizza, what's better on a Friday night? They also run a nice line of Brewing Brothers clothing apparel too!
If you come on the right day, you can see the brewing in action. Running four fermenters, brewing twice a week, and with some 620 pints, it might be small, but that’s how they like it. Their pub serves their creations, all distinctive and named after different brothers, such as the Wrights (their first), Attenboroughs, Gallaghers, as well as serving revolving sets of other notable breweries such as Gun Brewery.
‘It was my interest’ Billy told us as to why he became the main brewer, after starting out as a keen home-brewer he climbed the ranks. Like many, you can study and gain a brewing qualification if you want to get into brewing, but it also helps to do brew days, as Billy did with other East Sussex breweries like Long Man (Litlington) and Three Leg Brewing Co (Broad Oak). He learned from their successes and learnt ‘to design (my own) recipes, figuring out what was going on inside regarding chemistry’, and writing notes in exchange for helping out. Ned added that brewing is an open industry when they face problems they seek out answers, ‘and people love telling (others) what they do and how they do (it)…but maybe not the recipes’.
What drew them to Hastings in the first place? ‘Value for money,’ Ned said, ‘Trying to start up, buy a brewery and refit a whole place is expensive, and the only way we could have done it is with a small rent.’ However, as a bunch of country boys who grew up in the Sussex Weald, they also saw Hastings as a lively place to be, and ‘more competition the better… without competition, there’s no improvement’.
While they consider opportunities to stock their brews outside The Imperial, they feel it makes sense to keep it back and do it justice, but there are always bottle ‘growlers’ that you can buy to bring home and refill. So if you are wondering how you can try their beer, ‘you have to come to Hastings’.
The Half Man Half Brother is stocked in both Brewing Brothers at The Imperial and Half Man Half Burger.
Having already taken over the Imperial Pub and converted it into a micro-brewhouse and pizzeria, proving Brewing Brothers at The Imperial successful, the Braxtons found that they wanted to create and increase production of their favourite brews. Whilst they were happy with one fermentation tank, to produce more beer they needed an extra three fermentation tanks and a keg washer. With Locate East Sussex’s assistance and East Sussex County Council business growth and loan scheme, they purchased the equipment they need and also increased their team by two. They are considering opening a new premise in the county and keeping the same successful formula.
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Image Credits: Caitlin Lock