May 26, 2018
On today’s episode I’m joined by Jez Galaun and Xochitl Benjamin, two of the four founders behind South London’s Brixton Brewery. Six months previously, I had sat down for a brief chat with the same pair, before GBH broke the news that the brewery had sold a minority stake of 49% to Heineken. Now that the dust kicked up by that announcement has had the chance to settle I wanted to catch up with Galaun and Benjamin to find out how things had been going for the brewery post investment. Brixton was the latest in a string of acquisitions and investments that demonstrated an increasing trend in the interest in the London beer market from some of the industry’s biggest players. We saw SABMiller purchase Meantime Brewery back in May 2015, before it was subsequently sold on to Asahi following SAB’s merger with Anheuser Busch-InBev, a year later. In December 2015 AB-InBev’s ZX Ventures investment arm acquired Camden Town Brewery, before also investing in its purpose built £30 million brewing facility in Enfield, North London. Denmark’s Carlsberg also entered the fray in July 2017, when it purchased the struggling London Fields Brewery, in partnership with Brooklyn Brewery—the latter adding London Fields to its growing empire of international brewpubs. Heineken’s investment in Brixton a few months later only further served to demonstrate that London’s breweries are hot property. This investment means that like Camden, Brixton will be able to expand into a larger facility, although on nowhere near the same scale. At its existing facility under the arches near Brixton Station—which the brewery has called home since it was founded in 2013—it was producing almost 3000hl (around 2500 US bbls) per year. When commissioned later this year, the new facility will allow Brixton to produce ten times this amount annually. But this will still keep them under the volumes of several other London breweries, including smaller independents like Beavertown and Fourpure. The new site will also be located in the heart of Brixton itself, just 600 meters from the existing location as the crow flies. Galaun, Benjamin and I unpack the importance of this during the course of our conversation. We also discuss how the London scene is still undergoing dramatic change and whether or not that Heineken stake is evidence of an eventual path to control, as it was when they acquired Lagunitas.