1000 Words in November
And so, here we are. One year into our Affinity adventure. After twelve long months of self-doubt, freezing cold brewdays in a shipping container and endless book balancing, we were lucky enough to celebrate our first birthday last weekend in a space where we feel we can finally express who we are. Being able to personally engage with our customers is everything to us, and Bermondsey offers a still-unique opportunity to meet and talk to beer lovers from every corner of our wonderful community.
In true Oscars style, there are far too many people we need to thank to make a decent fist of it here. However, without the love, support and unending patience of Karis and Lucy, together with our wonderful initial investors and the incomparable Clapton Craft boys, I’m pretty sure that I would be writing an entirely different piece right now. So – thank you. You made this happen for us and we’ll never forget it.
So many times over the past twelve months, we’ve heard the words, “Your labels are incredible. Do you do them yourselves?”
Well, no, we don’t. Possibly the most important meeting we’ve had was just over a year ago, when we told Tida Bradshaw that we loved the design stuff she’d been doing for Mother Kelly’s and Redchurch (amongst others), and is there any way she’d be interested in putting together a few drawings for our beers. We rather arrogantly saw her as a kindred creative spirit, somebody doing things a little differently to the established majority. Wonderfully and luckily, she said yes. And she’s been doing it ever since. From the amazing, intricate artwork for every single beer we’ve produced, to the soaring, uplifting walls of the tasting room, we’ve never told her what to do because we know that she knows exactly what we want. And she’s much better at drawing pictures than us.
Thank you Tida, for making us look pretty. We love you, and we couldn’t do what we do without you.
Our experiences at the various festivals we’ve been lucky enough to pour for this year have reinforced our faith in the goodness and class of the people we share our industry with. Old friends have been drunkenly hugged, and new bonds have been made, leading to some hugely exciting collaborations in the months ahead. The reaction to our Cask 2018 Project from some of the biggest names in the industry has been truly humbling, and we’re giddily excited at putting on an event in April to hopefully challenge convention, but more importantly, to provide you all with some world-class beer served as it needs and deserves to be.
Our larger brewkit and increased capacity also allows us the opportunity to do what we love doing most – experiment. There are many beer styles that Steve and I have been very keen to play with, but have so far been unable to fit into our schedule. This is what has led to The Calendar Series – one new release a month, each one a different style from across the beer world, and each one seasonal. We hope you’ll enjoy drinking these beers as much as we’ll enjoy creating them, and some of the creations will no doubt lead to some healthy debate about what constitutes specific styles. We love a chat.
Which leads me to my final point…
Steve and I have been immersed in the British beer community for a combined decade plus, and the collaborative, respectful tone of the way we address each other is something to be cherished. There’s no doubt, however, that of late, an unsavoury edge has been added to the usual discourse. Criticism and counter-criticism have always been part of beer, of any industry, indeed of life itself. Monopolies are what small businesses fight against. Individuality and the right to an opinion, however dissenting, are cornerstones of who we are. So to see people hauled over the coals, publicly mocked, dismissively accused of jealousy, simply for expressing an opinion that challenges the status quo, is depressing in the extreme. It is perfectly valid for somebody to have an opinion that, for example, a certain style of beer is being exploited for profit, rather than created with love and care. Some of the hysterical rhetoric reminds me of the time when a group of “celebrity” chefs, who should’ve known much better, ganged up on a reviewer several years ago for simply giving one of them a bad review. When did people become so desperate for validation from absolutely everyone, that one counter opinion became such a threat to their existence? Now I don’t mind admitting that a trawl through Untappd (for which I am rightly berated by my business partner) occasionally sows the seeds of annoyance within me. An ill-informed review from a person who has missed the point of what we’ve tried to achieve can be intensely irritating, but is an inevitable part of the journey of any business. They are entitled to their opinion. I don’t feel the need to attack and humiliate them for having it. That would be cowardly, counterproductive and wholly unnecessary. We need to be strong enough, confident enough of our own abilities, to brush off these words, move on and accept that there is actually a lot of constructive content to be found in others’ criticism. People who don’t agree with you are not “haters”; they’re people who don’t agree with you. There’s a guy in Washington right now behaving like an aggressive spoilt child online; the less our industry’s behaviour mirrors his, the better. Let's hope it disappears as quickly as it started.
Anyway, enough of that. A massive cheers again to everyone who’s supported us and beered with us over the past 12 months. And thank you to the wonderful breweries who continue to inspire us, and make exciting, innovative beer to draw more people into our still-tiny fold.
Here’s to another year of great friends, great beer and great discussion.
And a Labour government.