Having started at a Shoreditch House members’ event, the Forest Road Brewery was a natural choice to create an exclusive Soho House lager. Founder Pete Brown and global bars manager Tom Kerr explain how it came about
Tom Kerr had the idea to create a Soho House lager a while ago. But it had to be right. “There are so many craft beers around, which one do you choose? I wanted something local, simple and tasty. Nothing that had anything weird in it, or would taste too hoppy or intense,” says Soho House & Co’s global bars manager.
Meanwhile, having left Camden Town Brewery in London with numerous awards for his iterations of Hells and IHL under his belt, brewer Pete Brown was starting to experiment with making his own pale ale at home in the garden. When that seemed to go well, he set up a meeting at Shoreditch House.
“I met with the events team and said, ‘Hey, I’m trying to find a way to start my own brewing company. How about I do a brew at Shoreditch House?’ So we did. About eight members stuck it out with me for an entire brew day and helped me to create a pale ale that we called Work.”
Pete began to brew his Shoreditch House creation commercially, working with a family-run brewery in Belgium. “I convinced this family of brewers to let me use their setup,” Pete explains. “I have no idea how. I’m now the only person who has brewed on their kit since they opened in 1624 who’s not part of the family.”
As the project grew into Forest Road brewery, Tom Kerr was impressed, both by the founder and the quality of his product. “Pete is very relaxed, but his passion is what I love,” says Tom. “He still has the original recipe for Work that he wrote down on a piece of paper at Shoreditch House. One day I asked him to help us create a really simple, good-tasting lager that would be different from your Heinekens or your Amstels. And he said, ‘Let’s do this’.”
Both realised the project would be a challenge. “Lager is the most-drunk style of beer, but it’s also the most difficult to produce because the ingredients are so simplistic and any flaws are easily seen,” Pete says. “All beer is just barley, water, yeast and hops. It’s the job of the brewer to make those four ingredients taste different and good. You get barley from different places, then blend it and mix it with the added hops and yeast to change flavours. There are different strains of yeast, and it’ll smell different depending on whether you ferment it at 20 degrees or 22 degrees. You have to balance all the different flavours.”
For a beer that would appeal to Soho House members and guests, Pete (who has two diplomas in brewing as well as a degree in biochemistry) chose a Danish strain of yeast. “A lot of people use a German strain, but I like the Danish one because it contributes a soft, floral aroma to the beer – a tiny punch – whereas the German one is your standard everyday lager.”
He also chose to use non-traditional hops, from the American varietal Columbus, to add flavour and drinkability. The result is an easy-drinking 4 per cent ABV lager. “It’s a very comfortable alcohol range for people, so on a sunny day you can happily down a few bottles,” he adds.
House Lager will shortly hit the fridges of Soho House 76 Dean Street before being introduced to the other Houses. It will be made at the Belgian site until Forest Road’s permanent brewery in London is ready (a site in Wapping has just been secured). “I trust Pete 100 per cent,” Tom says. “His Work beer is amazing and he said to me, ‘Dude. The lager is incredible’.” Prepare to taste your new favourite beer.
Words: Jo Usmar