Tribal leaders

With a focus on collaborations, two tribes is now championing its own beers and brand


Last time we caught up with Two Tribes, its famous award-winning collaboration with Island Records was just taking off and proved to be a big hit with Beer52 members. More than two years later, the doyen of collaborative brewing has moved to a new home in central London, ramped up its growth and switched focus to bringing its own brand to a thirsty public.

“The past couple of years have been pretty full-on,” confirms commercial director Justin Hutton. “We opened in Kings Cross 12 months ago and started growing into that site quite rapidly, to the point that we’re actually expanding here again this year. It’s been really good. The biggest change has probably been the brand recognition we’re enjoying now. We rebranded when we moved, so a lot of people assumed we were a completely new brewery. That little bump of novelty got our beer in front of a lot of people in quite a quick time, which has really helped us jumpstart this London adventure.”

Having previously gone out almost exclusively in keg – with the notable exception of Island Records’ cans -– Two Tribes has recently started canning and ramping up its exports. This has led to more of a focus on its own core range, as Justin says: “we want anyone in the world who knows our beer to pick up a pint and know what they’re getting, so we really to concentrate on making sure we hit that consistency.”

But the work going into nailing the core range doesn’t signal a step away from the collaborations that have been Two Tribes’ stock-in-trade. Justin explains the brewery name itself is – rather than a Frankie Goes to Hollywood reference – a nod to the idea that bringing together people with different skills and ideas can create something wonderful and new. 

“There are always times when, as a drinker, you want something familiar, but one of the most exciting things about this scene – whether you’re brewing or drinking – is discovering something new. Our brewer Chris certainly doesn’t want to be brewing the same stuff day in day out either. So we’re still focusing on some really interesting specials and collaborations. 

“The one we’re working on just now for example is a blueberry and blackberry sour IPA with Wylam. I think the sour IPA style is going to gain a bit more traction this year, after it was overshadowed by brut IPA in 2018, and Wylam is amazing at this sort of beer, so it’s been a really good project.”

This collaborative spirit is also prompting Two Tribes to get out-and-about on the festival circuit this year, to an extent that it hasn’t in the past. It’s already signed up for most of the big dates, as well as a number of cool smaller get-togethers. Justin is particularly excited about a small festival the brewery has been involved with organising, alongside the Kill the Cat bottleshop in Shoreditch. 

“It’s taking place 21st-23rd Feb in an old underground toilet block,” says Justin. “We’ve invited along what we believe are the best breweries in the country to pour with us, including Verdant, Deya, Duration, Whiplash and Unity... so that’s going to be really cool. We’re really humbled by the guys who came back to us; they were all really keen. We’re also keeping on the strong connection with music, which is something the brewery and its founders have a long track record with. The key is keeping it fun really, and 2019 is shaping up to be a lot of fun!”

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