Grizzly Bear Talks to the Owner and Head Brewer of Partizan Brewing, London
So, Andy, how did Partizan Brewing start up?
Ok, so, I was working at Redemption, a brewery in North London. I was there for about three years. I eventually got to that stage where I needed some growth, some personal growth. I had a chat with the owner of Redemption, and he suggested that I either go to a big brewery – somewhere like Thornbridge in Derbyshire – or I start up my own brewery. I didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t think about starting up my own brewery, but I also didn’t want to move to Derbyshire or somewhere out of London. I grew up out in the countryside. I really like living in the city, and I didn’t want to move out of London. So I asked around, put forward my position to lots of different people to see if they had any ideas or suggestions. I was talking to Evan at the Kernal Brewery, cause we’ve been quite good friends since I was at Redemption. They (Kernal Brewery) had just bought their big, new, shiny brew kit, and had their old brew kit was stacked up in the corner. Evan offered that brew kit to me for free so that we could get going. That’s how Partizan Brewing started up, really.
Damn, what an opportunity. So, what was your background before Partizan?
Well I worked at Redemption for 3 years, and prior to that I was a chef for 8 years.
So, you went from chef to Brewmaster?
Nice. Did you come from a homebrewing background?
Yeah, I used to homebrew a lot. I homebrewed when I was a chef. I probably home brewed for about 3 years before I joined Redemption.
Was there anything that you liked to brew in particular?
Um, I got into homebrewing so that I could get beers that weren’t available here in England. Back then it was hoppy American beers. You couldn’t get those fresh – only imports that were a little bit tired and not what you wanted from them. I was always excited to find out what the beers were like in America, and decided to brew them for myself, nice and fresh. I then got into brewing history, and became interested in beers from around the world that were not necessarily being brewed anymore.
I got into homebrewing so that I could get beers that weren’t available here in England. Back then it was hoppy American beers. You couldn’t get those fresh – only imports that were a little bit tired and not what you wanted from them.
Are those interests reflected in Partizan’s beers?
A little bit, yeah. Partizan Brewing just did its 200th brew, so to celebrate we brewed a historic barley wine that they used to brew way back when in Cambridge, UK. We have a good friend who is a beer historian, and he brought some of the old brewing records in to help us with the brew.
Sounds interesting – I can’t wait to try it. What kind of brew house does Partizan Brewing have?
It’s a four-barrel system, a fairly standard mash tun, 4 fermenters, and about 1000 square feet of brewing space. We are looking to expand into an archway next year – so we should be getting more space. We are also looking at buying some better fermenters. We have temperature control now, but because of the small size (650l), there is not a lot of thermal mass to counteract temperature swings. It’s a pretty good system, but it would be nice to upgrade in the future. We’ll upgrade when we can afford something big, new and shiny.
I noticed that your beers are available on tap mainly in London – any expansion plans for the future?
Yeah, we do a lot in London. There are lots of pubs, bars and restaurants here, and many of them are getting into this type of beer. So we do that, and once every two or three months we send a pallet to a distributer in Yorkshire and Edinburgh, but not much more than that at the moment.
So you’re keeping your focus on London?
Exactly. It’s nice to have a good relationship with your customers. One thing I learnt at Redemption was that freshness is best. Being close with your customers can help ensure that they get the beer good and fresh. Redemption was really good with this. They did mostly cask beer, which had a quick turnover. Redemption puts 6 weeks on their beer, so it’s impossible to get their beer when it’s not fresh.
Wow. So, ensuring that the customer gets a fresh product is important to Partizan Brewery as well then, is it?
Yeah. It’s really difficult if we start sending beer further afield. We wouldn’t have the same time of relationship with the person who is selling it direct at the end (like we do here in London), and obviously things take longer when you need to ship beers. Prices go up, and the beer loses freshness. The worst thing is, extra money is being added for shipping and distributorships. People will end up buying the beer at an increased price, and because it’s got a bit old by that stage, the beer won’t be as fresh.
Any advice you can give to the aspiring home brewer?
Well, fermentation is king, but it’s always the hardest thing to get right.The ingredient that brings the most impact on flavour is the yeast. The difference that fermentation and yeast bring to the beer is huge. For example, there is a massive difference between milk and cheese. This is because of the way that the bacteria acts on the milk. The same is true for beer; it’s the difference between sweet malty liquid, and a beer. It’s a fermented product, so fermentation is by far the biggest impact on flavour and always the thing you should concentrate on most. For the homebrewer, it can be difficult to get right. Many homebrewers don’t have temperature control. Find find some way to control temperature, and be kind to the yeast – let it do what it needs to do – that’s the most important thing to concentrate on.A very big thank you goes out to Andy and the rest of the crew at Partizan Brewing in Bermondsey, London, for agreeing to do this interview. Keep up to date with their latest developments on their website, here. If you’re note lucky enough to be in the London area, and want to give their beers a try, I suggest checking out Ales by Mail. If you’re in the Leeds area, and can’t be bothered to order online, check out the Tapped Brew Co, which stocks their beer.