Brewery with a surprisingly rich brewing heritage
Saturday 20 November 2021
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After falling in love with IPAs in 2013 and noticing the pubs of his adopted home of Islington lacked decent beer choices, Lee Hammerton selflessly gave up his day job to save the neighbourhood from booze monotony. But perhaps it was destiny rather than altruism that guided Lee’s hand, as – unbeknownst to him when he purchased his shiny new brewkit – it turns out he comes from a rich brewing heritage. Before it shut down in the 1950s, the original Hammerton brewery had enjoyed some acclaim under the stewardship of Lee’s family, though his branch had not been involved for several generations. Naturally, he was keen to take up the mantle and the family brand.
With the keys to a new industrial unit clutched tightly in his hand, Lee set out with his wife Karina, who has a great deal of experience in the FMCG market (that’s ‘fast-moving consumer goods’ like beer, to you and I) to build the new business from scratch.
Many years on, the pair (and their growing team) have brewed over four million pints in more than 12 different styles, won top industry awards, and sold beer across the UK, Europe, and as far afield as Hong Kong.
Karina says. “I think the key to our success is that we can turn our hands to any beer style and constantly strive to create new and interesting beers for our fans and followers. Our customers love the fact that we have a solid and tasty core range, but also bring out a lot more experimental beers to keep things interesting.”
The brewery is still probably best known for its stouts though, a reputation gained with the breakout Crunch!, which Lee first developed to commemorate the birth of his daughter Michaela.
“Our philosophy is to create balanced and highly drinkable beers; we don’t want to brew beers that are weird and wonderful for the sake of it,” continues Karina. “We want to brew using interesting and sometimes unique ingredients, but our main emphasis is on taste, using the best quality ingredients possible and not rushing the process. Good beer takes time and patience.”
The north London borough of Islington has always been popular; well stocked with independent shops, cafes, pubs and with a great sense of community. Karina says the local residents have been hugely supportive of Hammerton, filling out its pub and taproom, as well as showing their loyalty in the various bars and restaurants that stock its beers.
This has been particularly important during lockdown, says Karina: “I think in every sector Covid had a great impact in so many ways, not only on the business side but also on a personal level. People are supporting their local business, their local restaurant, bar, pub, or brewery taproom. At the same time, I think a lot of people want to avoid getting on public transport for too long. That said, it does feel like people are starting to travel out a little further afield, now things seem to be slowly getting back to normal. Fingers crossed we will be back to relative normality by Christmas.
“Again though, Covid has made people even more aware of the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, plus people are now used to gathering at friends’ and families’ houses, so it’s going to be interesting to see whether that continues and whether people choose to venture out a lot more now it’s starting to feel safer to do so. One of the more exciting recent developments at the brewery is our alcohol-free pale called ‘ZED’ before the pandemic, and an AF version of Crunch. We’ve seen sales grow over the year, in the UK and particularly in London, so it will be interesting to see how that continues to grow and whether draught keg sales become bigger this January.”
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