Q&A with Five Points Brewing

Doreen Barber
Five Points Brewing

Please introduce yourself...
My name is Doreen and I work as the Events, Marketing and Communications Manager at The Five Points Brewing Company in Hackney. We have been brewing beer in our railway arch since the 9th of March, 2013, which also happens to be the first day I worked for the brewery.

The Five Points is the first brewery to be a registered Living Wage Employer in the UK. We currently have a team of 16 folks who work across both our brewery site where we began and in our new warehouse and office space on Mare Street, which is a 20 minute walk away from the brewery.

Where do you brew from and what's your set up?
We brew in a railway arch underneath Hackney Downs Station. Sometimes commuters along the platforms can get a whiff of the spent grain in our mash tun as we dig it out, or the aroma of hops as we clean out the kettle.

We brew on a 20BBL/32HL brewkit, and we currently have 12 fermentation vessels-4 10BBL and 8 20BBL-along with 2, 20BBL bright beer tanks from which we package from. We are expecting the arrival and installation of 3 60BBL/100HL fermentation vessels which will sit outside our arch early 2016, along with a canning line. We bought the bottling line from our friends over at Beavertown Brewery, which we've been using since November 2015.

What was your path into the world of brewing?
Our head brewer, Greg Hobbs, was working in a pub owned by our director, Ed Mason, when he went to go work for East London Brewing Company. Greg worked at ELB for around a year before he entered into talks with his former employer, who wanted to start a new brewery in Hackney. Greg has a background in chemistry, and he has a very methodical approach to the development of the range of beers we brew.

I joined the team after talks with both Ed and Greg and tasting some of the early batch of the Five Points Pale brewed on the small pilot kit before the original kit we started with was installed. I was previously working a lot in food and online projects, as well as doing a stint in a sales role for a beer distributor and behind the bar in a well-regarded craft beer pub, so I had a bit of a jack-of-all-trades background that was useful in the early days of the brewery's development, and remains pretty useful whenever something new or out of the ordinary crops up.

Whats the single biggest challenge facing the UK independent beer market?
I would be strongly inclined to say the pub tie system, which hurts publicans as well as independent brewers such as ourselves who can't sell our beer at knock-down rates.

Although it's getting easier for pubs to become free of tie, it can still be discouraging for pub owners and managers who have to deal with the system of wet rent and are obliged to buy boring beer at inflated prices.

What do you drink when you're not drinking your own beers?
We are fans of many other beers from other breweries. Locally we love Big Chief IPA from Redemption Brewing, Nightwatchman from East London Brewing Company, The Kernel Brewery's Bière de Saison, Beavertown Brewery's Black Betty and Earl Phantom.

On a national level, we've enjoyed lots of beer from Wild Beer Co., Cloudwater Brew Co., Mad Hatter Brewing Company, Magic Rock Brewing, Liverpool Craft Beer, Northern Monk Brew Co., Buxton Brewery, Fyne Ales, Thornbridge Brewery and Burning Sky among others. It's a great time for people who enjoy flavoursome, diverse and tasty beer!

Describe your brewery in six words...
We brew bold, deliciously distinctive beer.

Mike Hampshire