PIEB Meets... Brighton Bier

PIEB Meets… Brighton Bier

West Pier Pale Ale, No Name Stout, and South Coast IPA. If these names don’t ring a bell to you, you’re missing out. These are only a few of the beers brewed by Brighton Bier. And I was lucky enough to chat to Gary Sillence and Stephen Whitehurst from the business to talk Brighton, breweries and beer.

“Brighton Bier originally started as a gypsy brewery in the Hand In Hand pub in Kemptown,” Gary begins, enjoying a pint in the Brighton Beer Dispensary.

“The brewery at the Hand has been there since the late 1980s. I’d been trained as a brewer, worked in a few other breweries, and my original plan was to build a new brewery from scratch. I then discovered that the brewery in the Hand In Hand wasn’t currently being used.

“The long and short of it is that I agreed to get their brewery back up and running to brew the pub’s in-house beers under the historic Kemptown Brewery name. In return I could use their spare brewing capacity to start brewing Brighton Bier.  We began brewing again at the Hand in June 2012.”

I ask how their journey so far had inspired them to open up Brighton Beer Dispensary in Dean Street, Brighton.

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Stephen says: “The bar is half-owned by Brighton Bier and half-owned by Late Knights (a South London brewery) – with the idea being that, on the bar, you’ve always got Brighton Bier, you’ve always got Late Knights beers, and the other beers that are available all come through our wholesale businesses. So we’ve got a plethora of beer from all over the UK and from some of the best micro-breweries around.”

I ask Gary and Stephen if they feel they’ve created a platform in the city to discover new UK beer. “Yes completely,” Gary says.

Stephen adds: “It’s a shop window for us and it is a shop window for Late Knights plus others.”

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Questioning the duo on what they think sets them apart from other breweries in Sussex brought out confidence. Gary is quick to answer: “Brighton Bier is the only independently owned and operated brewery in the city and that connection means everything. When we were searching for a site for the new brewery it was of paramount importance to us that we found a location within the city, even though there were bigger and cheaper alternatives elsewhere”.

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“We’re very much a brewery where the beer comes first and then everything else follows. We want our beers to express big flavours, big attitudes, and places that people in this part of the world people can relate to.

“Once the new brewery is up and running as well as expanding our cask business we’ll be able to start selling Brighton Bier in bottles and also cans.  We want to make a big push to get better beer into mainstream venues and packaged beer is an important part of that. That’s quite a fight, but we think it’s one worth fighting.”

Asking whether this is something the team feel that they’re on track to achieve, I’m met with a resounding “definitely” from both Gary and Stephen. The latter explains: “There is a lot of interest in Brighton Bier and to date, because so far we have only done cask ale, we’ve not been able to follow through and provide the beers to a lot of people who want them in a bottles etc, but with the new brewery we will be able to do that.”

Situated only a mile from the Hand In Hand, Stephen sounds pleased to be in keeping with Kemptown location: “Fundamentally, it’s really important for us to be in Brighton, but to be able to stay close to where it all originated as well…this is the dream”.

Having already achieved so much in the past two years and with such passion and enthusiasm, it’s difficult to not see the new brewery being a runaway success and lead to more for the Brighton Bier team.

Brighton Beer Dispensary, 38 Dean Street, Brighton

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Words by Claire Beveridge
Images are Brighton Bier’s own.

Originally printed in the Brighton & Hove Independent 19th December 2014