How did Tottenham become London’s craft-beer capital?

03 Feb 2017
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Main image by Dianne Tanner

The North London neighbourhood is now bursting with breweries - with another planned for INSIDE the home of Tottenham Hotspur

By Will Hawkes

 

Forget all you know about Tottenham. For years this unremarkable London neighbourhood has been known chiefly for its football club, which has interspersed buccaneering Cup runs - like that which inspired Chas N’ Dave’s 1981 No5 hit, ‘Ossie’s Dream’, the opening bars of which can move some middle-aged men to tears - with long periods of soul-sapping mediocrity.  

 

Things have changed. Tottenham now has a genuinely good team with a realistic chance of the title (last achieved in 1961, history fans) and a fancy new home ground is springing up, with - we’re promised - an on-site brewery, churning out pints for Spurs’ thirsty fans.

 

It won’t be the only brewery in N17, though. Tottenham will soon have six breweries, when Pressure Drop  - as revealed this week - moves onto the same industrial estate as Beavertown later this year.

 

Tottenham at the heart of London’s brewing scene; who would have predicted that? One man did - or sort of. Redemption’s founder Andy Moffat, tongue firmly in cheek, suggested to Craft Beer London five years ago that Tottenham might one day resemble Hackney or Shoreditch, and while it is still rather short on Flat Whites and sparse-shelved boutiques, it does has lots of breweries: Redemption, One Mile End, BrewheadZ, Affinity, Pressure Drop and, of course, Beavertown. Only Bermondsey can boast a greater concentration.

 

“It’s great,” says Moffat (pictured below), whose brewery was the first to locate in Tottenham, seven years’ ago. “I think what’s attracted some others is Beavertown and the phenomenal success of their taproom - it’s like the effect The Kernel had in Bermondsey. Other breweries saw them and thought, ‘We’ll be able to do that’. That’s what we thought when One Mile End took our old unit [which is a minutes-walk away from Redemption’s home]: ‘great, more people will come’.”

 

 

Beavertown and Pressure Drop are at the southern end of the area; Redemption and One Mile End in the north, close to the football club. In between is a fascinating area with a sometimes troubled past. South Tottenham is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the world; Tottenham as a whole is among London’s poorest neighbourhoods; the middle-class influx that has transformed parts of East London is harder to discern. The 2011 London Riots began here.

 

That background is perhaps why Haringey, the local council, is one of the most welcoming in the capital to food start-ups. Businesses as diverse as Sandows Cold-Brew Coffee, Wildes Cheese and Soffles Pitta Chips make their homes in the borough. “We’ve always had a lot of support from the council,” says Moffat. “I think they saw us as small and craft, and after the 2011 Riots that was something to point to.”

 

This support manifests itself in lower business rates. Rents are also lower than in other parts of London, says One Mile End founder Simon McCabe. “Business rates are a bit better than Hackney and Bermondsey and rent per square foot is probably half what it is Bermondsey,” he says.

 

There’s also plenty of industrial units in Haringey, too, although, as McCabe adds: ”There’s not that many that are suitable for putting a brewery in; when one does come up there’s a bit of a fight for it. There’s a unit next door to us and it’s empty, really, it’s used as a garage - and I must get three people a week asking if it's available.”

 

The Lee Valley - stretching up to Enfield, where Camden Town is in the process of kitting out its jaw-dropping £30m brewery, and beyond - is full of industrial estates, with more to come. There’s plenty of reasons for breweries to be here, says Moffat. “The two key things are the availability of industrial units and the transport network,” he says. “Affordability is an issue as well. Arches have become quite popular across London, mostly more central than us, but the rents are increasing quite significantly.”

 

 

It can be hard for a brewery to get its hands on a suitable site. Landlords are wary of breweries, perhaps because they don't regard them as a long-term financial certainty. Pressure Drop spent two years searching for a space.

 

“We had a list of criteria for the perfect building to expand into, and besides the technical spec, we stipulated that it should be within half an hour’s travel time from home,” says co-founder Graham O’Brien. “We had various target areas: Hackney, Islington, Walthamstow, Lea Bridge Road/Leyton, Tottenham.

 

“We eventually had to rule out Hackney and Islington because although there are a few buildings that meet the technical spec there are none that you can get a long lease on, and the prices are eye-watering! We looked at a lot of buildings in the target areas and further afield and put offers in on quite a few of those. We never heard back from any of them. It started to feel like we were getting nowhere, and we began to wonder whether we’d missed the boat.”

 

Tottenham came to the rescue: work starts next week and they hope to be brewing there in August. They’re moving to an area that is rapidly warming to good beer, says Moffat. “We weren’t selling any beer locally a few years ago but now we sell a lot to [pubs like] the Antwerp Arms, the Beehive, the Ferry Boat, the Elbow Room, and we have our bottles stocked in a couple of places too. We have a lot of support from the community.”

 

And football supporters, too. Both Redemption and One Mile End open up on matchday for drinkers. Redemption has even had its beer served in the ground, mostly in the executive boxes but on one occasion on cask from bars around the ground. That lasted one week until rights holders Carlsberg got wind of it, but Moffat has been told that the club will be able to sell his beer when the new stadium opens in 2018.

 

 

The growth of brewing in the area could mean that by then supporters will be able to take in all six breweries on their way to the ground (and drink the seventh while they’re there). “It’s definitely possible,” says McCabe. “If BrewheadZ get a taproom license, that’s almost exactly halfway between Redemption and us up here and Beavertown and Pressure Drop down there.”

 

A recent UCL paper illustrated the value of breweries congregating together as they do in Bermondsey; O’Brien says that’s one of the strengths of the London beer scene. “Having Beavertown on the same estate makes a huge difference in terms of how excited we are, to see what they’ve achieved there in such a short space of time is massively inspiring,” he says. “When we were first planning expansion two of the first places we went for help and advice were Beavertown and Redemption, so to have them as neighbours is brilliant because we know each other, we love what they do and how they go about it.

 

“There are many advantages to having breweries close by. At Bohemia Place we have Five Points just up the road and Maregade under the Cock Tavern where Howling Hops used to be. We’ve all helped each other out on numerous occasions with ingredients, equipment and general sharing of experience. It’s always been a part of the London brewing scene and long may it continue.”

 

Given that, it will be no surprise if more than six breweries are in the area by the time Spurs return from a season in exile at Wembley in 2018. Something's brewing in Tottenham.