Introducing Good Company
7 November 2017, By Jonny Garrett
This article is in support of the crowdfunding campaign to raise money for our taproom, bottleshop and blendery in Hackney Wick. Invest today at get a £2 bar tab for every £1 you invest!
When we found the site at 99 Wallis Road we fell in love with it. The building is so imposing – rising so high that everyone pulling into Hackney Wick station can see it – and full of history that adding another chapter to it was too much to resist. It’s also a huge, airy and inviting space that gave us the room get enough taps and fridges for our huge beer range.
The only issue was that the landlord wanted a brewpub. Now, we have a few avid homebrewers in Beer Merchants and Cave Direct, but none of us had the experience to make a brewery a success and budgets were already tight. But if there is one thing we do know – thanks to decades of importing it – is lambic.
Lambic is a spontaneously fermented beer, which means rather than pitching a lab yeast into the fermenter, the wort (the sugary malty liquid) is exposed to the wild microflora in the air as it cools overnight. It’s then fermented in oak barrels for up to three years, before either being consumed, blended, or aged further over fruit to create a wealth of exciting, unique styles.
We’ve been bringing in lambic breweries like Lindemans and Cantillon since the 80s. Back then it would sit gathering dust on the shelves until someone in the know came along and usually bought the whole lot. Today, we can’t lay our hands on enough of it as our tastes get drier, funkier and more experimental. That’s fantastic news for the lambic brewers, as well as those inspired by their methods all over the world.
We’ve been to these breweries hundreds of times, met the people, tried the beers, even done a little blending ourselves, and there is no style that gets us more excited. When the idea of founding a blendery was first floated, we knew we had found the answer. It was a chance to revive the history of the original Belgian pubs who bought wort from lambic producers to age and blend themselves before serving direct to their drinkers.
Of course, loving and understanding a style of beer is very different to producing it and we have a lot to learn. Our shelves are now stacked with books on lambic, American wild beers, barrel ageing and technical brewing manuals – we burn the midnight oil as fast as the coopers torch their barrels – and we have a consultant on board who is going to make sure we do everything right. We’ve also arranged to spend a few days training with some of Belgium’s best lambic brewers to learn their trade and make sure we champion the traditions they follow.
That said, our blendery is going to be very different. For a start, we won’t be calling it lambic, or geuze, or oud. The lambic producers of Belgium have made it clear they regard those words as specific to their location, and we want to respect that. We don’t have a name yet, but we will find it, and we’re open to suggestions!
The second major difference is the wort we will use. Rather than buy it from Belgium, we’ll be using British liquid. Excitingly, several British breweries have recently acquired coolships, and we’ll be buying ours from them. Three breweries (to be announced!) have all agreed to supply us both their liquid and some expertise to get us off the ground. Grateful doesn’t cover it. With this beer we’ll be making traditional blends, as well as fruited beers using British produce.
So that accounts for one-third of our range, but we have two more exciting projects as part of the blendery. The second one is our 50/50 series, where we will age 50% British fruits and 50% 1-year-old spontaneous beer in oak barrels for around 6 months to produce a tannic, rich and fruity beer not a million miles away from a rioja.
Finally, we’ll have a row of barrels with all kinds of different beers imported from our partners overseas – already Lervig are happy to help out – which we’ll age over fruits, blend with other beers or simply age in a unique barrel to produce something wild, exciting and completely of its place in East London.
As you can see, we are working with a lot of different people to bring this together, so when it came to deciding a name for the brewery there was only one option. While enjoying a beer after a tour of 3 Fonteinen’s incredible new site, founder Amand Debelder raised a glass and said something that caught our imagination: “All you need is good beer and good company”. To hear a man who produces some of the most hyped, sought-after and indeed traded beers say something so simple and humble about his beer struck a chord.
In honour of all the people who are going to help us with this adventure, and in reference to all the great friends we’ve made in 40 years of importing and distributing beer, we have decided to call our little project Good Company Blendery and our logo will be based on the historic paint stroke once used to denote the different kinds of beer in Belgian barrels.
There is so much more news to come that we can’t wait to share, but in the meantime, please check out our Crowdfunder page here, and invest in the Beer Merchants Tap. For every £1 you invest, you’ll get a £2 bar tab to spend on drink in beers at the pub.