I had the pleasure of interviewing Jasper from Camden Town Brewery, London, when he was in Perth in May
You’ve probably seen some of Camden Town Brewery beers around Perth; as the name implies they are a long way from their London home. The beers are distributed here in Perth and Melbourne by Memorable Drinks who are also the lovely folk who bring you Sipsmith and Hippocampus.
Camden Town Brewery was started by Jasper Cuppaidge in 2010. He brewed his beer in the basement of the first pub he owned, The Horseshoe, and today Jasper has upwards of 70 staff and Camden beers pour from more than 600 taps around London. The Horseshoe remains in the Camden Town family and you can read about its recent little renovation here.
I got the chance to have breakfast and a chat with Jasper when he was in Perth at the end of May. I met up with Jasper and Memorable Drinks representative Sarah Blomkamp at Gordon Street Garage.
Jasper was at the start of a fairly whirlwind Australian visit which also included a few days in Melbourne and Brisbane, where he was born, before heading back to Camden.
We chatted for over an hour about how Camden came to be in Australia, the craft beer scene in the UK compared to here, the need for a definition on craft beer, the formation of a new association for British craft brewers – United Craft Brewers, Camden’s sour program and the new brewery Camden are building. In short, we talked a lot about some really cool stuff.
Jasper was extremely generous with his time and I really enjoyed listening back to the recording of our chat, this post is just PART ONE …
Big thanks to Sarah from Memorable Drinks and Jasper from Camden Town Brewery for letting me conduct this interview on such short notice and with such a tight schedule, much appreciated.
a new brewery …
There are currently two sites being looked at for a new Camden Town Brewery. The new brewery will bring everything Camden in house as there is currently a percentage of Camden Hells kegs which are brewed in Belgium.
“We are in Belgium a lot, maybe too much,” Jasper said. “It’s like having your children in boarding school.”
Of course it also means more beer from Camden and Jasper expects his staff to grow from 70-odd to about 120 people over the next 12 months. “Another 50 friends is always interesting,” he said with a smile.
why Australia …
Camden only exports to three other countries right now – Sweden, Japan and Australia which begs the question, why here?
Awareness of Camden itself was one reason. Jasper said that a lot of Aussies know Camden because they have travelled there so they felt it was beneficial that there was an existing awareness of at least where the beer came from.
The biggest reasons however were more personal. Jasper was born in Australia, Brisbane to be exact, and his brewing director Alex Tronosco was part of the original Little Creatures team in Fremantle. Alex had good contacts here in Australia and was keen to send beer back to Australia.
“Beer makes sense in Australia,” Jasper added. “Beer is part of the culture, it’s not something new and it’s kinda part of every day life.”
Currently Camden Town beers are in about 70-80 venues, bars and bottle shops in both Perth and Melbourne and it’s a number Jasper is happy with. Not just that but he’s happy with the types of bars and retail shops that Camden is in.
Camden has always been a bit selective about what venues they are in back home so the same applies in export markets. Back in the UK Camden beers can’t be found in chain outlets or venues that aren’t quite right. I asked Jasper about what sort of venue was a Camden venue –
“It’s the person who thinks about what they are doing,” he said. “Is it [the venue] food focused? Sometimes it is. Is it coffee focused? Sometimes it is. But it’s focused.”
Meaning whatever the venue is, whether it’s a bar or a bottle shop or a pub, it’s the sort of venue that’s puts importance not just on the food and drink but the lighting, the font on the menus, all aspects of the venue.
I must emphasis that he said all of this without the slightest bit of pretention or snobbish attitude. It’s not about excluding venues, it’s about Camden being part of venues who genuinely want them, where they are adding value, adding to the overall venue offering rather than being just another beer on the shelf.
“Camden has never been sold, if it has to be sold then we are in the wrong place,” Jasper commented.
If the manager has had to be convinced that the beer belongs in that bar then it’s chance for ending up in the customers hands are quite slim. If that manager wants the beer in the bar, that’s a different story, there will be a reason they want the beer. “We service, we don’t sell,” Jasper said of his brewery representatives. “We service the people who want it.”
what’s next for Australia …
For Jasper the priority is to ensure the continued support of the bars and shops currently ranging Camden beers.
Draught beer is also on the agenda with a modest aim of just 2-3 taps in each city, any more than that and Jasper would be inclined to put on more people.
“We don’t like our beer without people,” Jasper explained
“It’s not just a beer on a shelf, it’s gotta have the story, the support and it’s very difficult to sort things from London.”
The availability of draught Camden beers will depend entirely on finding the best way to send the beer so it’s in the best condition. Jasper has ruled out one way kegs because he doesn’t have enough faith in the quality of the beer when it gets to it’s destination. Then there is also the creation of extra rubbish in sending more plastic and paper one way. There is also a whole different tax system for Jasper to consider but Jasper is hopeful to have kegs in Australia in the next twelve months.
Part Two of my interview with Jasper will cover our chat about Camden’s sour program and the 30 barrels of Gentlemen’s Wit currently aging at Camden.