London based brewery, Signature Brew recently announced their crowdfunding campaign and we’re digging it. Having been long time fans of punk rock and going to gigs, we find it tiresome having to drink macro lager at big music venues and festivals but times are a-changin’ and Signature Brew are leading the way.
Having collaborated with a string of awesome bands across a variety of genres, they want to make good beer accessible to music fans – and are combining their love of great beer and live music in doing so. If they can successfully raise the investment required, they’ll be one step closer to ridding the world of rubbish beer at gigs, and if that’s not a good reason to invest, we don’t know what is…
Thankfully, we found someone who does. Signature Brew’s Head of Marketing, John Longbottom, was kind enough to chat to us, filling us in on all the details of the crowdfunding campaign, future plans and loads more. Before joining his best mates at Signature Brew, John was News Editor at Kerrang! for several years so these guys know their music as well as their beers!
Can you tell us a little about Signature Brew and how you got started brewing beer?
Cousins Sam and Tom set Signature Brew up after they grew tired of drinking baaaaad beer at gigs and festivals. With the emphasis already on music it seemed fitting that the initial beers should all be band collaborations. We brewed with the likes of The Rifles, Enter Shikari, Craig Finn from The Hold Steady and Frank Turner and primarily stocked music venues and bars around our local East London.
We then introduced the core range of Roadie, Studio Pilsner, Backstage IPA and Nightliner, which in the ensuing years have picked up a bunch of awards and gained a cult following of their own. Things have gone from strength-to-strength. We won Brewery of the Year (SIBA) earlier this year and it’s been wild ever since, to the extent where we now can’t keep up with demand and we’re currently crowdfunding, basically inviting beer drinkers and music fans to own a part of the brewery so we can do even bigger and madder collaborations and get the beer everywhere.
Where did the idea of collaborating with musicians comes from?
We were one of the first breweries in the world to do it. Brewing with artists helped us immediately cement ourselves firmly in the world of music… as well as hangout with some of our favourite musicians, obviously!
We’ve always been really demanding of the artists we work with – if they agree to make a beer with us then we want them to REALLY make a beer with us. They do the tasting session and help decide the style of the beer, but we’ve also had Mercury Prize-winners like alt-J digging out the mash tun, hip hop legends like Rodney P tasting malts and Slaves even took us on Sunday Brunch to make the chaps on there do a beer tasting of their black lager, Take Control.
The artists we work with are incredibly involved and tend to end up being longterm friends of the brewery. We’re building a diverse kind of family of incredible artists around us, it’s really rewarding.
Who’ve been the most memorable people you’ve collaborated with?
Oh man, Mastodon. I’m not sure we can even talk openly about how that went down but we did the tasting session for the beer backstage at Leeds festival a few years ago and all hell broke loose. It’s a story we still get asked about today, it involves Mastodon, At The Drive-In, Billy Talent and Enter Shikari… lots of beer and lots of chaos. If you catch us at the pub anytime then ask us about it and we’ll probably tell you the whole thing but it’s not a PG story!
Other than that, we decided to make a beer with our friends at Slam Dunk festival and invited seven bands from the festival, Creeper, Trash Boat, Roam, Astroid Boys, Rob Lynch, Woes and As It Is to the brewery to give them a crash course in brewing and make a brew for the festival. It was carnage, haha. It was great to see everyone coming together at the brewery, after a few beers there were bands planning tours together and all sorts.
Did anyone surprise you by how knowledgeable they were about beer?
In our experience there always tends to be one dark horse in every band. Gus from alt-J had home brewed when he was at uni in Leeds, Brann Dailor from Mastodon is hugely knowledgeable about beer and Nikola from Millencolin knew so much that he’s since setup his own brewery in Sweden after we collaborated together.
It confirms the idea that music and beer increasingly go hand-in-hand and can result in some really great collabs as they tend to want to try some really boundary-pushing styles.
If you could collaborate with anyone (dead or alive!), who would it be?
Good question! The Clash would have been amazing. Foo Fighters, too. That could happen one day, they actually requested our beer for their pop-up London pub last year. We made them a beer called Dirty Water named after one of their tracks so I like to think that Dave Grohl’s a Signature Brew fan!
I’m a huge Hot Water Music Fan too so I’d love to do something with those guys and I know for a fact that Chuck Ragan loves our beers as he was drinking them onstage during their last UK tour, so we wouldn’t rule that out.
Did you have a favourite collab beer? (We loved Nice Time w/ the Skints!)
Ah man, that’s like asking us to pick a favourite child. I’ll diplomatically name check a few instead, haha. I love the alt-J beer Absolutely No Worries, it’s a Brut IPA and it’s tasty as… yes I’m biased.
Mastodon’s Black Tongue beer is now considered the stuff of legend. I swear more people claim to have drunk it than we made bottles of it, so I’d have to say that’s up there with my favourites, too.
The Banfi beer got re-brewed a few times, it’s a grapefruit sour and got some great reviews so we were all really pleased with that. They’re a smaller band signed to a bigger label (Communion), but they live just round the corner from the brewery and the alt-pop they make is awesome, check them out.
Can you share any upcoming collaborations you’ve got planned?
We just did a SUPER limited run of beers for The Prodigy. These are literally money-can’t-buy, but there could be scope to do something people can actually try in the future. We’ve also teased our next collab beer in our crowdfunding pitch document so I’ll leave you to find the very-Scottish easter egg in there. Hint hint!
BOOM! Here’s an exciting project we’re working on with @the_prodigy for their album launch. These are super-limited edition and NOT publicly available. If they were though, would you drink them? pic.twitter.com/p44DnRKhXK
— Signature Brew (@SignatureBrew) October 25, 2018
You’ve collaborated with some punk bands, you’ve used the Black Flag bars on t-shirts, you’ve created a zine, some of you must’ve been involved in the punk scene in the past, right?!
In a word… yes. Sam was in Grown At Home, the Midlands’ second best ska punk outfit (probably). Second only to Lightyear, obviously, who we collaborated with earlier this year coincidentally after Sam lost a bet with them, haha.
I was in bands back in the day and was Kerrang!’s News Editor for a few years and still freelance for them today. I grew up listening to punk rock so, being a writer, the Beer & Music zine was something I really wanted to do and we launched it at Manchester Punk Festival alongside the Lightyear beer. There are more issues coming but it’s a labour of love so I work on it when I can.
I already have an awesome illustrator and some great interviews about beer in the bag with some cool bands so I’m chomping at the bit to get it in people’s hands. The Black Flag/beer can t-shirt was just something I thought would be fun, I think we’re officially the millionth people to parody their iconic bars logo!
Do you think there’s a link between ‘craft beer’ and ‘punk rock’ – in terms of ethos?
Yeah absolutely, and the longer I’ve been around the two, the deeper I’m able to see the parallel goes. The way we run Signature Brew feels like a band at times, we do what we want, we work with artists, festivals and venues we respect, we hold ourselves to the highest standard possible.
There’s also a similar amount of sleeping in vans when festival season comes around, haha. We hired a tour bus and dragged a craft beer bar in a trailer around all the Slam Dunk dates last year, that’s a different story in itself though.
The craft beer community is the closest thing I’ve known to the punk rock scene in terms of people helping each other out and everyone bringing each other up. If one brewery gets a break, it’s good for everyone.
We’ve noticed a shift in terms of being able to drink good beer at gigs/venues but there’s still a long way to go. How do you see the current state of things?
As you say, there’s a long way to go. I still think it’s mad that people pay for a gig ticket to see an amazing band and then are forced to drink the absolute lowest common denominator when it comes to the beer.
We’ve partnered with Independent Venue Week for the past few years because A) it helps the venues we love and grew up going to shows in, and B) we can help them get the beer they deserve on their bars.
Elsewhere, aside from taking our beers to Slam Dunk, 2000 Trees, ArcTanGent and loads of other festivals, we’ve also had our beers poured at arena shows for Metallica, The Killers and more so that’s a huge sign that the appetite for better beer at music events is there. We’re leading the charge here, it’s a work in progress but we’re getting the message out there.
How did the partnership with Shure come about? Those tap handles are awesome!
We wanted some killer, music-related tap handles and came up with the idea of using microphones. With us all being from band backgrounds, we know that Shure are basically the most dependable mics in the world so we approached them.
We were ready for them to tell us we were crazy but they were so into the idea. They’re great and passionate people and as well as providing some cool tap handles that are a big talking point in bars, they help us with mad things like the time we got Haggard Cat to play on the roof of our shipping container bar at 2000 Trees festival. Again, the idea of collaborating with like-minded people is something we brought straight from the punk rock scene.
View this post on Instagram
We're a multi-award winning brewery with a passion for music. We support festivals and shows we love and collaborate with some of the most exciting bands in the world. We're delighted to have welcomed over 150 new investors to the growing Signature Brew family so far. Want to join us? Find out more, link in bio | #InvestAware
You recently opened your taproom – what’s the reception been like?
It’s been great. It’s something we really put a lot of time and work into. For us, it’s another way to show our love for music, so the taproom is also a venue, we have some really cool music events lined up that I can’t talk about just yet but we’re really excited about.
We also have a rotating photography exhibition where we can showcase live music photography. At the moment it’s Andy Ford who shoots for NME and Kerrang! and has won all sorts of awards for his work. He’s a friend of the brewer and local and it means we have incredible shots of Childish Gambino, Converge, Manic Street Preachers etc. as well as some shots of our former collaborators in Slaves and Heck.
To launch the venue, alt-J came down and poured some pints and few hundred beer drinkers came down and partied with us.
The Signature Brew Taproom & Venue is open seven days a week and is located in Haggerston, East London – find out more including opening hours and how to get there on the Signature Brew blog here.
You’re currently crowdfunding, can you tell us your aims?
We are! Our current brewery is at capacity, so we’re crowdfunding to initially triple the size of the brewery and meet demand.
We’ve put together some really cool perks for investors including free beer, opportunities to come and drink with bands and we’re getting a lot of excitement, right now we’ve flown past 45% in the first week which is fantastic.
…and why should people invest? ?
In a nutshell… we’re the Brewery of the Year, we brew a million pints a year and it’s still not enough to meet demand, we work with the best bands in the world and really, really really care about the beer we brew, the musicians we work with and the venues and events we support.
We know there are loads of like-minded people out there – they’re the people we’re looking for, they’re the people we want to be part of the brewery’s family.
Once the crowd-funding campaign is successful, what’s the long term plan? World domination?
Yeah man, world domination. Watch this space. I’ll sleep easy when Dave Grohl is smashing a can of Roadie onstage every night!