The tastiest tipple we tasted at the London Coffee Festival? A coffee beer that doesn’t taste like a coffee beer.
Brew By Numbers, celebrating its fifth year in 2018, was founded by Dave Seymour and Tom Hutchings. From humble beginnings home-brewing in a basement on London’s Southwark Bridge Road, the two have built a strong brewing company with a loyal beer geek following. Brew By Numbers worked with Round Hill Roastery, located near Bath, to develop a coffee pale for the London Coffee Festival.
Sprudge spoke with Dave Seymour at the festival to learn more.
Brew By Numbers beers are all numbered. What number is this one?
The name of the coffee beer is 21:16. Just pale ale with coffee. So the first two numbers we have in all of our beers is the style, so in this case, 21 represents pale ale. And then the second two represent the recipe within that style. So this is the 16th unique pale ale that we’ve brewed.
How did you approach this coffee beer?
Well we’ve brewed quite a few coffee porters, and dark beers in the past, but we’re checking with Oli [Bradshaw] from Round Hill about doing something a little different, so we wanted to bring something lighter, the pale ale made a lot of sense because you can find balances between hops and the coffee in terms of the flavors. We decided with Oli we were going to use the Kochere filter, so I went through the tasting notes on that, picked out the different flavors and aromas that the coffee displays, and then found hops that would match those flavors. And then we brewed the pale ale pretty much as normal, and then add the whole bean coffee to the finished beer. Leave it to steep for about 12 hours.
You have a coffee background, yeah?
I do yeah, I’ve worked previously at the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs for a few months, and a few other places as well, including Fernandez and Wells. At the same time I was working in coffee I was also starting the brewery with my friend Tom, and the brewery won in a sense in terms of the actual career. But I still love coffee. I love making coffee, I love drinking coffee, and finding the way to bring those two things together was something I really wanted to maintain.
Brew By Numbers has been known to split batches at different stages to create variations of each brew—did this happen in the making of this beer?
Not this one. Something we’ve done before, but we do less these days, is to run some [of the beer] off into like a pilot fermenter, but a lot of the time we design a beer and we brew that one beer as an entire batch, on the clean side at least. For the sort of sour and funky beers, it’s a whole different story. There’s a lot of blending and splitting there. But for this one, basically I was taking small samples—like a little bit, roundabout a liter—and adding some coffee to it, and doing some different temperature trials, and dosage trials, and some steep time trials.
How has the response been here at the Festival?
It’s been amazing. It’s been really good. Lots of people are relieved that it doesn’t just taste like coffee. I think that seems to be the way coffee beers are approached. The dosage rates are often crazy high. We’ve always tried to maintain the fact that it’s a beer first, and it’s showing coffee. And for this one especially. You know, our coffee porters are usually a bit more coffee forward, but for this one I was really trying to find that balance where it’s a pale ale and you can taste coffee in there.
Is it available outside of the London Coffee Festival?
Yes. I think it’s on sale now, I think we might’ve launched it this weekend at the tap room, so it will be on general sale from this week I believe.
Will it be available in stores?
Yes! We’ll be sending out directly to customers and also to our distributors. So it should be available in the coming days, and on our online shop as well.
Do you ship internationally?
We do, yeah. I think about 20 or 30 percent of our beer is sent abroad.
How has the London beer scene changed in the last five years?
It’s changed a lot. In the early, early days there was quite a tight-knit group of people who were at all the beer events, and they were the conversation for beer. But it has certainly broadened a lot these days and you know, Instagram has been a big factor. As you know very much, you know marketing on Instagram and on social media is building hype and then there’s lots of conversations going around about certain beers, and people getting excited about the release of particular beers. Whereas before it felt very much like we could brew whatever we wanted to brew and people were excited to be introduced to new beers, or to be given the chance to try beers they might not otherwise.
But the market’s very much going towards like hazy, hoppy beers at the moment. That’s a huge thing. But you know, it will be interesting to see how it develops in the next few years and if it carries on this way or in this course, or if people move towards other styles or not. It’s going to be interesting to see.
Thanks for your time!
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.