7 questions with Russ Clarke, Amity Brew Co
With this week's Government announcement on proposed changes to small brewer's tax relief, new start-ups in our industry may become increasingly rare, and therefore it is important that we support and celebrate these businesses more than ever.
Last week we spoke to Russ Clarke, co-founder of Leeds based Amity Brew Co, the newest brewery on the scene who have boldly launched right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tell us about yourself
I’m the Co-Founder of the new kid on the brewery block - Amity Brew Co.
Amity stands for community, friendship and good beer. We make fresh, modern interpretations of classic beer styles, as well as experimenting with what’s new!
We are a group of friends who met on the craft beer scene having worked in the UK’s best breweries. I personally worked for BrewDog, Beer Hawk and North Brewing Co, and our brewer, Greig, also worked at BrewDog, and Buxton, where he was lead brewer bringing home the Top 100 RateBeer award for the team!
We are inspired by the US model of brewpubs, making limited batch beer on-site and getting it into the hands of the community fresh and fast.
Right now, we’re selling our core range (plus some seasonal specials) online and are aiming to open our North-West Leeds brewery and taproom in October 2020.
How long have you been planning to open a brewpub and what have been the biggest challenges to date?
This is something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time but real planning properly started since October 2019! It’s been a real challenge pulling together all of the various roles, skills and experiences I’ve built up over the years and putting them into practice.
Starting a business is all consuming at the best of times, but then Covid-19 hit and all bets were off!
Instantly, all of my freelance consulting work dried up, as did childcare. My amazing wife’s food and tech PR agency was thriving so I took on daddy day-care for our incredibly energetic 2-year old while juggling everything that came with starting a business.
It’s been a big challenge, like anyone in lockdown, I’ve had to work evenings, weekends and in between my toddler’s naps but this has been a brilliant opportunity to show our resilience, and try and share some good news in spite of the pandemic.
What has it been like launching mid pandemic and what has the reception been like so far?
Mad. There’s really no other word for it.
It’s either pretty damn brave, or very foolhardy to try and do something like this at a period of time like this – but it really was now or never – and incredibly, the response and feedback has been phenomenal – both from the local community in which we’ll be based, as well as the beer community online.
Two days after launch, we had sold 2/3 of our first batch of three core beers were online for pre-order, it’s blown us away how people have chosen to support us, without even having tried the beer yet!
What were your reasons behind brewing the beer styles you have chosen, and how long did it take to finalise the recipes?
Greig has been the mastermind behind this. When we first sat down and started to plan out what Amity would stand for, we realised that the beers we return to, and the beers that your average beer drinker loves, are one and the same thing.
The “classics” like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Fullers ESB and Augustiner Helles are real touch points for all of us within the beer community, and a returning stop on our journey with beer education – they don’t get old, and they always taste amazing. We set ourselves the task of making our own interpretations of these styles, the US Pale Ale, an ESB and a Helles, and making them truly our own.
Where did your logo and can design inspiration come from?
Our Head of Design, Tom Matthews, was previously Head of Design at Beer Hawk, where we met, and we really hit it off on similar loves of graphic design. Big open whitespace which draws peoples’ eyes to simple and attractive graphics, simple themes that work to conjure up parts of the locality where we’ll be based, and a unique flat shaded look within the UK market. Initially we were super inspired by breweries like Modern Times, Hudson Valley and Other Half for their use (or lack of) typography and simple/mono colour schemes – and I think our design represents an evolution on that.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Honestly, just to get our brewpub open! Aiming for an October 2020 launch, we’ll be opening the pub alongside starting to brew there, and then make sure we can supply the thirsty local community with enough beer.
It’s going to be a case of suck it and see, and gauging demand from the surrounding residents as well as the online shop is going to be the biggest challenge over our first year…we’re a bit worried we might not be able to brew enough beer!
If you could collab with any brewery, who would top the list (aside from Brewgooder obv!)
OBVIOUSLY apart from Brewgooder ;-)
Our whole ethos is about working collaboratively within our community – whether that’s geographically or figuratively within the beer industry. Regardless of their location, we’d want to collaborate with breweries we can learn from and are inspired by - if we learn something from the experience, or try something new, then that’s a true collaboration. For me, one of the breweries I’d love to brew with would be the Fierce Beer family – they’re such good people, and have even bought some of our beer for their Aberdeen and Edinburgh bars. Incredible support to give to a brand-new brewery – and their beers are phenomenal – Eskimo Joe and Maple Pancake are super close to my heart – would love to learn how to do a coffee pale ale!
The decision to start a brewery at any time is one that we feel should be applauded, and right now the twin pressures of a pandemic and the adverse changes to Small Brewers Duty Relief mean we should be clapping harder and faster for folk like Russ and Amity. We feel that our industry is kept dynamic, vibrant and innovative by the very breweries being harshly treated by HMT's decision to change the duty relief threshold and this could make blog posts like this one more rare in future. Our takeaway is simple - buy Amity's beer to see if you like it, if you do, support them in future. Repeat this process for all the small brewers you can and keep our industry diverse and dynamic.
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