3rd July 2020

Culture / Featured / Food / Small Beer Brew Co.

Business as a Force for Good: Small Beer Co.

46 7 mins 0

JJames and Felix, the founders of the Small Beer Co. describe how they had the idea to create a low alcoholic beer company and how they took that idea and turned it into reality. Small Beer Co. is a small business who put sustainability and care at the forefront of all that they do. They joined us at The Good Life Experience 2019, where much to the crowds’ pleasure, they explained how we can drink to our heart's content with their low alcoholic beers.

Humans’ ten thousand year relationship with alcohol has been fraught with dilemmas. Its merits clearly lie in its ability to act as a social glue. And yet, picture yourself at a dinner party: one drink too few and you may feel you’re not taking part; one too many and you’ve made a fool of yourself, vowing never to overdo it again…

Beer, our longest ally in this relationship, has established itself, I believe, as the most refreshing drink in the world. In fact, I would challenge anyone to come up with a drink that has the universal thirst-quenching ability as a crisp Pilsner-style lager served ice cold on a hot Summer’s day.

James and I had met working at Sipsmith gin distillery in West London. He headed up the sales team, I the operations and we worked our socks off to make Sipsmith the global brand it came to be. James had a background in wine, and I had spent my adult life brewing, both as a career and a hobby. One evening, as we stood at the bar, we found ourselves scanning the pump clips for something that would hit the spot without knocking us for six. We had been burning the candle at both ends and wanted nothing more than a celebratory pint at the end of a long day. Little did we know that our unspoken frustration would lead us to an idea that might change our lives and those of so many others for the better.

Our idea of a beer around the two percent mark was born out of the inability to find a beer of moderate strength that truly delivered on flavour. It kept us busy for many evenings, weekends and early mornings and we set to work developing recipes, hunting down expert advisers and drawing up a game plan. Gradually over time, our little dream became more and more of a reality.

Reality definitely hit the day we were given the keys to our brewery site. At five and a half thousand square foot, it was a cavernous space and the two of us felt dwarfed by its high ceilings as we set up base at a small garden table and chairs. We immediately got to work laying a new floor, painting the walls and applying for the all important brewer’s license. Many months before, we had placed our order for the brewing kit which I had specifically designed for the purpose of brewing Small Beer. But the kit not due to arrive until later that year and we had orders already flooding in from the likes of the Savoy’s American Bar which had recently been heralded World’s Best Bar, so we set up a pilot brewery to satisfy demand.

We believe in a strong, honest and open working environment, where we value everyone’s opinion equally and don’t tolerate blame or disrespect.

Felix James, Co- Founder of Small Beer Co.

Central to our dream of Small Beer Brew Co. was a set of ethics which have helped define what the brewery stands for today. We believe in a strong, honest and open working environment, where we value everyone’s opinion equally and don’t tolerate blame or disrespect. We strongly believe that what we do as a business should benefit our community and the environment and in recognition of this, we have since been awarded B-Corp certification, the highest accolade in environmental and social responsibility.

Nearly three years on and we have found a phenomenal collection of individuals to join us on the journey. More importantly though, when they come together something magical happens. We all spur each other on, lending our individual strengths to create something much greater than the sum of our parts. The Small Beer team is one we are immensely proud of and grateful for and without them we would never have come this far.

We were fortunate last year to hire our man in the field, another James, who introduced us to the magic that is The Good Life Experience. For us, it was an immediate match made in heaven. Everything we stood for seemed to be incorporated into this one-of-a-kind event: a balanced lifestyle, care and craftsmanship, a journey of flavours and pursuit of that blissful experience of spending time with friends and family. We relished in its beauty and were carried away by its adventurousness. We spend every day in anticipation of our next encounter.

And every day when I go into the brewery, I feel duty bound to a cause which stretches far beyond just brewing beer. Because we don’t just brew any old beer. We brew world class beer which, just like it’s historic namesake, hydrates you as you drink. It’s low in calories, vegan, gluten free and crucially, provides thousands of people with an opportunity to have sublime social occasions without ever causing them to disgrace themselves in front of their loved ones. It may sound far-fetched, but I also firmly believe we’re doing our bit for the NHS and emergency services who are overrun with incidents resulting from alcohol-induced blunders and providing an option for those who may be educating themselves or re-educating themselves in how to toe the line without going overboard.

In fact, there are very few moments in life when we seek to become truly drunk. For every other moment, when finding the right balance can seem a treacherous task, there’s Small Beer.

To find out more about our beers, our values and our methodologies, head to the Small Beer website at theoriginalsmallbeer.com


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Small Beer Brew Co.

Small Beer Brew Co. is the world's first dedicated 'small beer' brewery. The founders, ex-Sipsmith duo James Grundy and Felix James, are determined to transform the way we consume and think about beer, having reinvigorated the tradition from the 18th century to produce lower alcohol beers without compromising on flavour.

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