Writer

“Alles Bestens” ⇄ “Everything is good”

Bestens Brewery is a grass roots husband and wife partnership that draws inspiration from German brewing and a love for modern pales

BBB interview Paul Swaffield to learn how they built their philanthropic brewery on generosity, and are now the ones giving back great beer and much more to the local community

 

Introduce yourself and let us know a bit about the history of Bestens Brewery?

I studied chemistry at school and one day we went on the Harvey’s Brewery tour and that got me fascinated in the process of brewing. So I started home brewing in my teenage years with my dad and my brother on some pretty awful home kits. We brewed for about a year and a half before I went to university and did another year or two of brewing with a housemate there.

I started to brew on my own in my early twenties then I took a bit of a break from brewing and in 2015 I wanted to get out of the corporate world and do something community focussed. My wife Kristina and I were Directors of a community based charity, but we noticed very few people were turning up to our events unless beer was involved. I started getting some good feedback on my home brewed beers and so I re-started brewing again and thought about starting a serious brewery.
In 2017 I decided to launch a brewery startup. We ran an event for 150-200 people, filled them up with free Bestens beers and I did a speech asking for investment from friends. It worked thanks to a generous loan from a friend and we moved into our premises in April 2018 with the first beers coming out in August that year.

So where does the name Besten’s come from?

Alles Bestens means “Everything is good” in German. My wife is from Hamburg, we have a big German influence (I love wheat beers) so we thought it was fitting.

How large is the team at Bestens?

I’m the only full time person, my wife Kristina helps with canning, labelling, social media and more in terms of community outreach, I dedicated one of our beers to her with the tongue in cheek name, which she doesn’t much appreciate, Trusty Sidekick.
I have a brew-day assistant James who is a keen home brewer and volunteers for the experience and my advice, and of course some beers.
We will be advertising for a part-time brewery assistant in the next month.

What kind of styles are you brewing?

We don’t want people to describe our beers as challenging, but we like to challenge ourselves with the recipes and using obscure hops.
The kind of beers I like to brew are the kind of beers I like myself, modern international style pales and IPAs, that’s what we want to be known for.

You brew the Bestens range seasonally in batches rather than constantly throughout the year, what’s the thinking behind this?

When we started we had a core range of 4 beers selling into independent off licences or through our tap room. The feedback was great but retailers mentioned that customers are always looking for something different rather than buying the same beers over and over.
We thought about it and we buy our beers like that as well, so we started making our beers on rotation.
Currently we brew within three separate ranges with each beer released 2-3 times a year; the Pale Ale Range (variety of experimental but sessional pales), Icons Range (based on people that have inspired us) and Destination Range (dedicated to places we’ve been that have caught our imagination and shaped who we are) plus the Darkness Range that includes our oatmeal stout, Dark Matter, and occasional stout specials.
The idea is that people will form their favourites knowing they will come back, but that going to the bar or the shop it will feel like you’re always finding something different.
There might be some rotation if people beg us for them, we’ll play it by ear.

What’s the favourite beer you have created and why?

Oooh, probably a close race between Fast Hands and West Coast. Fast Hands is a 6.5% IPA. When I look for new beers I veer towards big, boozy, hop-forward IPAs, DIPAs and TIPAs. This one of ours is dedicated to my grandfather, an amateur boxer and one time South East champion named Kenneth “Fast-Hands” Higman.

I also have a soft spot for West Coast. It’s the first beer I brewed after going out on my own and launching Bestens, it’s a really popular beer and the one I’ve been brewing for ages. It’s changed a little over time but it’s just always been there.

Your BN1 beer is essentially your homage to Brighton, why do you think it fits Brighton or in what way was it inspired by Brighton?

Yeah, BN1 is in the Destinations Range and is a laid back smooth pale ale, tropical juicy, flavours of papaya and mango. The idea of trying to capture the essence of Brighton is difficult, but I love a NEIPA and all of our beers are naturally hazy so this seemed the way to go. It’s heavy on the Idaho 7 hop which has a quite unique flavour and we really wanted this to have a uniqueness to it.

Do you only can yours beers? We haven’t spotted them on the bar in pubs before.

Most brewers will put most of their beers into keg and cask, we’re the opposite and put a very high percentage of our beer into smallpack (cans). There are increased challenges with canning, but we’re small enough to closely manage those and ultimately the margin on can sales is much higher than for keg and cask, which was critical for us when starting out.
We invested in a state of the art canning line last year and the Sussex based company, Innovus Engineering, that we work with on that are really pushing the boundaries of affordable canning for brewers. If it wasn’t for them we couldn’t do this and getting through the pandemic lockdown would have probably been impossible.

Tell us about the Bestens community fund

The idea was always that we would support local charities for whom even a small amount makes a difference. With every beer that we sell a percentage of the profits is given to the fund. Then we’ll run a charity day event each year and hand over a cheque to them. Last year all of the proceeds went to the Down Syndrome Development Trust.
This year the charity is Survivors of Suicide (SOS) Brighton and it’s looking like we’ll be doubling what we raised last year.
We also felt we should support the BLM movement and dedicated our May proceeds to Exist Loudly Fund, which was set up to support queer black young people in London.

You run a brewery membership scheme as well. How does it work and have you seen much take up in that model?

For us the idea behind this was to create ambassadors for the brewery. We do a club and family membership at different values and now have 30 members despite never really pushing it very hard.
What we really like about this model is the member event nights every year where our members can bring family and friends along, it really helps spread the word.
Word of mouth is really important for a small brewery like ours and I think people like the idea of being part of a secret club, discovering and supporting a small brewery no one else knows about.  Visit  https://www.bestensbrewery.co.uk/memberships to find out more. 

You’re in the throws of scaling up your brewery. Where will that take you as a business?

We’re in a small unit in Lower Beading and are currently putting in a 4 barrel brewery, which is as big as we can go here without taking on further units. We’ve invested in £10k worth of fermentation tanks and £20k worth of brewing vessels, then there’s loads of other kit on top, the total bill comes in at £35k. I’m trying to do as much as I can myself, it’s been a draining experience, but now we can produce twice as much in 40% of the time.
Our vision for the brewery has never been to grow and grow to become nationwide or international. We’re community focussed and want the brewery to be a focal point of the local community. We want people to say, “When you come to Sussex you’ve got to try Bestens”, that kind of thing.
The vision has also been to open up small micropubs in different places, but we’ll need to look at that again after lockdown.

Where can we reliably get hold of your beers in the local area?

We believe passionately about supporting independent businesses like ourselves in the beer scene so we only sell into independent shops and bars. Our regular customers in Brighton are; Wine Barrel on Western Road Hove, Higgins of Hove, Kindly of Brighton on Seven Dials. HISBE by St Peter’s Church, then we are stocked us at the Independent in Hanover and Cafe Porteur in Hove.
Our website lists all stockists across Sussex, we opened a taproom at the brewery in September 2018 and have run a pop-up taproom in The Orchards Shopping Centre of Haywards Heath most Saturdays from April 2019. We aim to be back with our pop-up in August but I doubt we will open the brewery bar in 2020, we use this mostly for the members events now anyway tbh.
Also through the website there’s free delivery for orders over £25 in BN1, BN2 and BN3 postcodes.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

“Alles Bestens” ⇄ “Everything is good”

Bestens Brewery is a grass roots husband and wife partnership that draws inspiration from German brewing and a love for modern pales

BBB interview Paul Swaffield to learn how they built their philanthropic brewery on generosity, and are now the ones giving back great beer and much more to the local community

Introduce yourself and let us know a bit about the history of Bestens Brewery?

I studied chemistry at school and one day we went on the Harvey’s Brewery tour and that got me fascinated in the process of brewing. So I started home brewing in my teenage years with my dad and my brother on some pretty awful home kits. We brewed for about a year and a half before I went to university and did another year or two of brewing with a housemate there.

I started to brew on my own in my early twenties then I took a bit of a break from brewing and in 2015 I wanted to get out of the corporate world and do something community focussed. My wife Kristina and I were Directors of a community based charity, but we noticed very few people were turning up to our events unless beer was involved. I started getting some good feedback on my home brewed beers and so I re-started brewing again and thought about starting a serious brewery.
In 2017 I decided to launch a brewery startup. We ran an event for 150-200 people, filled them up with free Bestens beers and I did a speech asking for investment from friends. It worked thanks to a generous loan from a friend and we moved into our premises in April 2018 with the first beers coming out in August that year.

So where does the name Besten’s come from?

Alles Bestens means “Everything is good” in German. My wife is from Hamburg, we have a big German influence (I love wheat beers) so we thought it was fitting.

How large is the team at Bestens?

I’m the only full time person, my wife Kristina helps with canning, labelling, social media and more in terms of community outreach, I dedicated one of our beers to her with the tongue in cheek name, which she doesn’t much appreciate, Trusty Sidekick.
I have a brew-day assistant James who is a keen home brewer and volunteers for the experience and my advice, and of course some beers.
We will be advertising for a part-time brewery assistant in the next month.

What kind of styles are you brewing?

We don’t want people to describe our beers as challenging, but we like to challenge ourselves with the recipes and using obscure hops.
The kind of beers I like to brew are the kind of beers I like myself, modern international style pales and IPAs, that’s what we want to be known for.

You brew the Bestens range seasonally in batches rather than constantly throughout the year, what’s the thinking behind this?

When we started we had a core range of 4 beers selling into independent off licences or through our tap room. The feedback was great but retailers mentioned that customers are always looking for something different rather than buying the same beers over and over.
We thought about it and we buy our beers like that as well, so we started making our beers on rotation.
Currently we brew within three separate ranges with each beer released 2-3 times a year; the Pale Ale Range (variety of experimental but sessional pales), Icons Range (based on people that have inspired us) and Destination Range (dedicated to places we’ve been that have caught our imagination and shaped who we are) plus the Darkness Range that includes our oatmeal stout, Dark Matter, and occasional stout specials.
The idea is that people will form their favourites knowing they will come back, but that going to the bar or the shop it will feel like you’re always finding something different.
There might be some rotation if people beg us for them, we’ll play it by ear.

What’s the favourite beer you have created and why?

Oooh, probably a close race between Fast Hands and West Coast. Fast Hands is a 6.5% IPA. When I look for new beers I veer towards big, boozy, hop-forward IPAs, DIPAs and TIPAs. This one of ours is dedicated to my grandfather, an amateur boxer and one time South East champion named Kenneth “Fast-Hands” Higman.

I also have a soft spot for West Coast. It’s the first beer I brewed after going out on my own and launching Bestens, it’s a really popular beer and the one I’ve been brewing for ages. It’s changed a little over time but it’s just always been there.

Your BN1 beer is essentially your homage to Brighton, why do you think it fits Brighton or in what way was it inspired by Brighton?

Yeah, BN1 is in the Destinations Range and is a laid back smooth pale ale, tropical juicy, flavours of papaya and mango. The idea of trying to capture the essence of Brighton is difficult, but I love a NEIPA and all of our beers are naturally hazy so this seemed the way to go. It’s heavy on the Idaho 7 hop which has a quite unique flavour and we really wanted this to have a uniqueness to it.

Do you only can yours beers? We haven’t spotted them on the bar in pubs before.

Most brewers will put most of their beers into keg and cask, we’re the opposite and put a very high percentage of our beer into smallpack (cans). There are increased challenges with canning, but we’re small enough to closely manage those and ultimately the margin on can sales is much higher than for keg and cask, which was critical for us when starting out.
We invested in a state of the art canning line last year and the Sussex based company, Innovus Engineering, that we work with on that are really pushing the boundaries of affordable canning for brewers. If it wasn’t for them we couldn’t do this and getting through the pandemic lockdown would have probably been impossible.

Tell us about the Bestens community fund

The idea was always that we would support local charities for whom even a small amount makes a difference. With every beer that we sell a percentage of the profits is given to the fund. Then we’ll run a charity day event each year and hand over a cheque to them. Last year all of the proceeds went to the Down Syndrome Development Trust.
This year the charity is Survivors of Suicide (SOS) Brighton and it’s looking like we’ll be doubling what we raised last year.
We also felt we should support the BLM movement and dedicated our May proceeds to Exist Loudly Fund, which was set up to support queer black young people in London.

You run a brewery membership scheme as well. How does it work and have you seen much take up in that model?

For us the idea behind this was to create ambassadors for the brewery. We do a club and family membership at different values and now have 30 members despite never really pushing it very hard.
What we really like about this model is the member event nights every year where our members can bring family and friends along, it really helps spread the word.
Word of mouth is really important for a small brewery like ours and I think people like the idea of being part of a secret club, discovering and supporting a small brewery no one else knows about.  Visit  https://www.bestensbrewery.co.uk/memberships to find out more. 

You’re in the throws of scaling up your brewery. Where will that take you as a business?

We’re in a small unit in Lower Beading and are currently putting in a 4 barrel brewery, which is as big as we can go here without taking on further units. We’ve invested in £10k worth of fermentation tanks and £20k worth of brewing vessels, then there’s loads of other kit on top, the total bill comes in at £35k. I’m trying to do as much as I can myself, it’s been a draining experience, but now we can produce twice as much in 40% of the time.
Our vision for the brewery has never been to grow and grow to become nationwide or international. We’re community focussed and want the brewery to be a focal point of the local community. We want people to say, “When you come to Sussex you’ve got to try Bestens”, that kind of thing.
The vision has also been to open up small micropubs in different places, but we’ll need to look at that again after lockdown.

Where can we reliably get hold of your beers in the local area?

We believe passionately about supporting independent businesses like ourselves in the beer scene so we only sell into independent shops and bars. Our regular customers in Brighton are; Wine Barrel on Western Road Hove, Higgins of Hove, Kindly of Brighton on Seven Dials. HISBE by St Peter’s Church, then we are stocked us at the Independent in Hanover and Cafe Porteur in Hove.
Our website lists all stockists across Sussex, we opened a taproom at the brewery in September 2018 and have run a pop-up taproom in The Orchards Shopping Centre of Haywards Heath most Saturdays from April 2019. We aim to be back with our pop-up in August but I doubt we will open the brewery bar in 2020, we use this mostly for the members events now anyway tbh.
Also through the website there’s free delivery for orders over £25 in BN1, BN2 and BN3 postcodes.

 

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *