By S Haslam
An enthusiastic and decidedly independent crowd gathered last Saturday afternoon at Stone and Wood’s Byron brewery, in fact, at independent brewers throughout the nation, for the inaugural Indie Beer Day.
Of course, independence means different things to different people. It might mean financial independence for some individuals. In the media, independence means that you choose to run stories, or not, because you want to, rather than because some external government body or corporate structure tells you to.
Independence for brewers in the Independent Brewers Association (the IBA and yes, you can still be in an association and be independent) means that they are ‘owned and operated independently and value authenticity, localism and the communities built around them’.
The Indie Beer Day event is the initiative of the IBA with the goal of recognising the importance and diversity of independently brewed beer and the industry’s contribution to communities. It’s also important that people speak up for their local, and favourite, independent brewers, as pubs often allocate their taps, under pressure from the big boys, so that independent brewers don’t get a look-in.
For Stone & Wood independence means they feel free to run their brewery and their business in the direction that they, as a team, want to take it, free from instructions from external entities and large trade shareholder schemes.
Their team really is ‘local’ – over 70 per cent of their team have shares in the company and the company invests in its staff through personal and professional funds and childcare schemes as well as returning profits to the workers.
In addition, the brewer also has a foundation that raises money for local charities to ensure the strength of the local community as a whole.
As a result the whole event had a really nice vibe. Because the Byron brewery is used for pilot batches, I got to try a couple of beers you wouldn’t normally see, and my favourites were the Bellini (a sour beer, nothing like the sweet cocktail unless you count the hint of peach), and A Day at the Races (another sour beer, possibly named after Queen’s first entirely self-produced album – if you were thinking independently). It was a beautiful day and we were drinking beer with free snacks, so I’ll definitely be back next year!