Beak Brewery - Top of the Pecking Order
The formerly nomadic Beak Brewery has found its permanent home in the cliffs near Lewes town centre. Creating ingenious, complex brews that sell out within hours of release, Beak Brewery now has a taproom and space to expand, secured with the help of Locate East Sussex.
We were expecting our latest brew, Parade IPA, to sell-out in around two weeks, not to sell 90% in the first hour! It’s phenomenal!Daniel TapperBeak Brewery
We visited the brewery at a busy time as preparations were in full swing for its launch party, with builders digging up the front of the unit for essential maintenance, a pallet delivery of fresh grain arriving, and even a carpenter coming by to double-check the final specs for the new taproom.
The team was also creating the second-ever brew onsite, and while the atmosphere was easygoing, they were not leaving anything to chance, though Beak Brewery is already listed as one of the Top 35 best micro-breweries in the UK by beer reviewing website, Untapp’d (September 2020).
‘I literally do all night, every night, lie in bed thinking of new things (to do)’, says Daniel Tapper, owner of Beak Brewery, while anticipating the long-awaited launch. ‘We are going to have six taps with different beers on rotation along (the back of the bar) …. and we will have room for ten tables of six with social distancing’.
Daniel’s passion and excitement become evident as he gives us a tour, especially since things were not so certain a few months ago when he received the keys to the unit just before the national lockdown.
Before settling in Lewes, Beak Brewery was a solo project by Daniel Tapper, who as a top food journalist had previously worked with the likes of The Guardian, Channel Four and Waitrose Food Monthly, reporting on what was behind store shelf favourites and travelling the world to meet engaged producers and innovative makers. The idea dawned on him, instead of interviewing creators, why not become one?
‘I was inspired to produce food myself, not just write about it. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, and from only being a homebrewer’.
Inspired by travels through small American towns with hidden taproom treasures, Daniel picked up tips and tricks from other brewers, becoming a self-taught brewer and developing his own signature brewing style that soon gained an enthusiastic following. As a ‘cuckoo brewer’ (a brewer that uses other breweries’ equipment), Daniel collaborated with the best craft breweries across the UK, including as Beavertown and Northern Monk, and created bespoke beers for the likes of Borough Market and Tate Modern.
Does Beak Brewery have a particular style? ‘All styles are on the table, but now it binds into the quality and growth into the brewery,’ Robin Head-Fourman says. Now Head Brewer at Beak Brewery, Robin seeks to combine tradition with great flavour, having previously worked for Burning Sky Brewery: ‘When someone buys a Beak, they will get a Beak ‘house flavour’. We like to layer it, and we want to create flavour profiles without any additions.’
Beak Brewery pulls out all the stops for excellence, from its processes to its choice of hops, with its method of making more akin to winemaking than brewing. ‘There are craft breweries that do wacky styles, but we are interested in flavours that combine well with food’, Daniel explained.
With the introduction of the taproom, Beak Brewery wants to become a destination brewery, offering experiences with different food offerings from top vendors: ‘We will be having a different street food offering every Saturday. Instead of just inviting anyone with a van, we are going to curate it carefully to complement what’s on tap.’
Finding a home
Lacking capacity, and with demand outstripping supply, Beak Brewery needed a permanent space.
‘I lived in London but didn’t want to open a brewery in London. I didn’t see myself there in the long term,’ continued Daniel. At this point, he contacted Locate East Sussex for help to find the perfect location, Daniel found that:
‘Lewes is the perfect place. People are open-minded and willing to try new things.’
Locate East Sussex assisted the brewery in bridging the growth gap early, supporting its application for funding from East Sussex County Council’s East Sussex Invest programme. This helped Beak Brewery to hire three employees from the start, future-proof the business with a 22-hectolitre brew kit and fit out the premises to precise specifications, including a new mezzanine level, cold storage, a grain auger, and a spacious taproom.
All of this was planned to be ready for March 2020. However, with the arrival of lockdown, Beak Brewery’s plans had to be adapted dramatically.
Beer In The Time of Covid
According to Daniel, ‘We had to change our business plans overnight’. Part of the build was delayed for two months, wholesale orders went down to zero, forcing the growth journey to take a detour, but Daniel’s ingenuity allowed him to pivot.
Without the new brewing facilities, Daniel managed to establish a rare collaboration with fellow East Sussex brewery Burning Sky, as he explains: ‘We did quite a big marketing drive for the first beers we brewed together. We are both known for quality’. With beer brewing, both breweries focused on the future, ‘We created a marketing campaign with perks such as tickets to our launch party, signed print by Jay Cover and bespoke food pairings’, which proved a timely success.
A new webstore was launched earlier than anticipated, which allowed Beak Brewery to revise its previously wholly wholesale model to a more direct to customer approach. From arranging its own promotions and national distribution, it was a blessing to not just to survive but also learn more about its growing and enthusiastic customers.
The result has been consistently sold-out pre-orders, and popularity not waning as lockdown measures were being relaxed. Daniel explains: ‘The beer wasn’t even ready; it was all pre-orders. It gave us confidence and a guarantee. People were willing to wait weeks for the beer, just to be a part of the brewery!
There is so much demand, we literally have not had a can of beer onsite for these past few weeks’
This popularity continues even now with Daniel adding: ‘Recently, we were expecting our latest brew, Parade IPA, to sell-out in around two weeks, not to sell 90% in the first hour! It’s phenomenal!’
Having built a following of thousands over the lockdown period, wholesale orders have increased, as well as supporting local businesses with a personal touch. From hosting local art for Artwave Festival, to its innovative Dis-Loyalty scheme, offering beer for building at other independent retailers, Beak Brewery wants its brewery to be a diverse and supportive space.
‘We feel fortunate to be welcomed into the town by the locals, and by fellow breweries. Harvey’s has helped us by storing some of our beer and Burning Sky lent us some much-needed equipment.
Having this collaboration and help from two of the world’s best breweries is amazing. Lewes has a great brewing heritage that we hope to contribute to and to continue’.
With its investment already looking promising, Beak Brewery is increasing the amount it is brewing and continuing to explore, creating new brews such as the Pina Colada-inspired ‘Strangers NEIPA’, which uses a unique blend of big bouncy flavours of pineapple, white grape, lemongrass and grapefruit. In terms of the future, Beak Brewery wants to grow but to also to innovate, looking at purchasing a fermenter for wild yeast and experimenting with using wine barrels as a part of the brewing process.
In the meantime, Beak Brewery will be welcoming visitors with social distancing, with bookable spaces available on their website to try out new street food offerings every Saturday.