Tag Archives: Campervan

Beer of the Week – Campervan Pacific Zest

Friday is here once again – they just keep on coming – and so that means another chance to pass on a tip about a Scottish beer that may well be flying under your radar. Every week throughout 2017 I will be doing this, giving a little love to a beer that deserves to be in your cupboard and then your favoured beer glass. With so much happening in beer – even if you just restrict yourself to this part of the UK – sometimes things slip past, unnoticed.

So for this particular Friday it’s a throwback to something that would have been great in the long, lazy Scottish summer. For all of those evenings on the decking, watching the sun slowly set, the ideal beer to have in hand is a tropical IPA that gives you bags of sweet, juicy fruit flavour to make that evening all the better. And here is that beer – Campervan’s excellent Pacific Zest.

41. Pacific Zest (4.5%)
Campervan Brewery, Edinburgh
Style: Pale Ale
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Hop Shop online (as individual 330ml bottles)

Citrus-packed American Pale Ales are nothing new but always welcome – and one of the keys to packing in the flavour is loading up those juicy C-hops. But there is another route – the South Pacific and the hops of New Zealand and Australia. And then there’s a third way (this is a brewery with the tagline ‘wandering but not lost’). Add as many hops as you can get and then include a big hit of lime zest. And you can certainly taste that in Pacific Zest. It’s fruity, pithy and almost verging on the tart – but the juicy hops come along at the end to leave you refreshed and seriously wanting more. If you see this beer on cask, buy it.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge
18. Orkney Dark Island
19. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes
20. Cairngorm Black Gold
21. Strathaven Craigmill Mild
22. Black Isle Red Kite
23. Spey Valley Spey Stout
24. Top Out Schmankerl
25. Cross Borders Braw
26. Williams Bros Midnight Sun
27. BrewDog Kingpin
28. Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack
29. Deeside MacBeth
30. Drygate Ax Man Red Rye IPA
31. Swannay Orkney Session
32. Fallen Platform C
33. Black Isle Porter
34. Top Out Altbier
35. Black Metal Gates of Valhalla
36. Fierce Beer Cranachan Killer
37. Loch Lomond Southern Summit
38. Tempest Old Parochial
39. Williams Bros Profanity Stout
40. Windswept Tornado

New Edinburgh taproom – Campervan Brewery open for business

Edinburgh is a great city for beer, but until recently it was severely lacking in one particular facet – brewery taprooms. We are lucky to boast the best selection of independent beer retailers and bottle shops in the UK, I think (relative to the size of the city), and you could argue the same about pubs and bars. With new breweries opening all the time the number of producers is also rising – and yet if you want to head to the people in question and hang out on a weekend with a beer made right there, there just aren’t that many options. Edinburgh Beer Factory is one, and that’s about it (Barney’s have events, the Caley has a great downstairs bar if they are hosting you – but it ends there). Until this weekend just gone, that is.

The soft launch of Edinburgh’s newest taproom was a great success, and from this Saturday the Campervan Brewery tap at their Jane Street brewery will be open for business. Paul Gibson moved his brewing operations from his converted garage to a bespoke unit at the start of the year, and has been knuckling down taking on all parts of the business since – with the Edinburgh Festival in mind as a target for opening a bona fide brewery taproom, his small but growing team opened the shutters last weekend as the festival kicked off the same weekend. Inside his brewery there are plenty of pallet-seats, with a few outside as well, and four keg lines supported by his range of bottles.

On my visit the standouts were the new Pacific Zest, a NZ hopped and lime zest Pale Ale brewed by his new appointee (and Ex-Heriot-Watt and Harviestoun man) Max Gruenke, and the amped-up Leith’al Juice, a 7.5% ABV grapefruit double IPA. At the moment, Paul and Max are brewing once a week on their 6BBL kit, with three fermenters needing a few more additions so that they can clear more orders and get things moving a bit more. The focus for Campervan is switching more to keg and away from bottles, with the much-needed extra tanks giving them the facility to condition before filling rather than keg-condition as they do at the moment. As with many small breweries, it is all hands on deck, all of the time.

But unlike other breweries one of the things Campervan have going for them are the beers, and if you’d like to head along to sample them where they are made and chat to the guys whilst touring the brewery, the taproom is open 5pm – 10pm Friday and 2pm – 9pm every Saturday from now on. The brewery is located at Unit 4 Bonnington Business Centre, 112 Jane Street, Edinburgh, EH6 5HG – on the Bonnington Rd side of the jumble of small buildings that lie between it, Great Junction Street and Leith Walk. If you head down in the afternoon the guys have an arrangement with a nearby pizza restaurant and will deliver to the taproom. With so few brewery taps in Edinburgh, it’s a great addition to the city.

Campervan Brewery on the Move

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the sea-change that took place in Scottish brewing during the course of 2016 – the flood of new brewery openings (35) being underpinned by the ever-increasing emergence of nano- and contract breweries. This smallness of scale and the inherent agility it provides makes it much easier to bring your wares to the market as it requires far lower overheads – but with the caveat that it won’t turnover a huge amount either. Those that make their peace with that fact can get their beers out there faster than ever before, without the age-old problem of scraping together capital to construct their own large-scale production brewery.

It’s an interesting shift, and one that maybe business or brewing students of the future may well look back on – depending on how things shake out. When they do, I think they could do far worse than look to one Edinburgh brewery in particular as a case study. Paul Gibson at Campervan Brewery has a unique story but one that fits into a narrative that will become increasingly familiar. Paul announced a couple of weeks ago that he has commissioned a 10BBL production brewery that is currently being installed on Bonnington Road in Edinburgh. This is one heck of a jump from the beginnings of Campervan – and yet, in feeling there was no alternative the move is the perfect model to take a closer look at.

Despite his beers being on the market for just shy of two years, Paul’s brewery has gone through several stages that chart the classic rise of a small-scale brewer and the moment when the Very Big Decision needs to be taken. The whole pathway revolves around economies of scale, and as I see it has run something like this:-

– Start Small (live within your means)
– Develop a USP (in Paul’s case – the amazing 1973 Type 2 Volkswagen)
– Grow and increase awareness
– Reach Ceiling 1 and contract-brew
– Have concerns about contracting
– Want to regain control of the process
– Reach Ceiling 2 and the Very Big Decision

Which is Paul’s case, resulted in this…

It is fantastic news too – that moment where the realisation strikes that in order to continue you either need to be satisfied with what you have or roll the dice must be terrifying and liberating at the same time – even for someone with the inbuilt liberation of being able to brew anywhere you like from the Campervan. But the difficulty of keeping up with demand from a mobile and garage-based 50L Brewmeister kit is obvious – Paul’s talent at brewing meant he reached the first ceiling extremely quickly and had to look to other facilities to create enough Campervan beer to fulfil orders and maintain the buzz about this new arrival on the scene. Trouble is, brewers are by nature perfectionists and control-freaks, so working in someone else’s kitchen doesn’t make for a satisfied chef.

Paul’s original plan was to ‘gypsy brew’ in this way for three years, to supply the order sheets and keep his beers on the shelves and bar counters whilst working on smaller-batch stuff from his garage kit in north-western Edinburgh. But he’s taken the jump already, prompted by the restrictions of not having total control and being unable to scale up the recipes as planned – a major strike against those contemplating contract brewing their beloved and much-honed recipes. When the time comes to produce far greater batch sizes, it takes a great deal of finagling to get everything working and tasting the same. So it was time to reach for the chequebook.

The new unit for Campervan is 2,500 square feet and sits just off Bonnington Road (a stone’s throw from Pilot Beer, as it happens). The 10BBL kit will be supported by two fermenters and a single conditioning tank, but with room to expand. When installed and operational within a month or so, expect to see more of Paul’s beer – and new ones at that – arrive very soon afterwards. It’s great to see someone taking the plunge in this way, even before they had planned to do so, and the new home for Campervan and the way in which they played out their first couple of years could well act as a dossier to how breweries evolve, for future students of the industry…

New Scottish brewery – Campervan Brewery

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I’m wondering if the craft beer market is on the verge of saturation – but I think there’s still opportunity. So I took a step back and thought, how can I find a gap in that market, is there something I can do to stand out more than the rest of them?

The road followed by Paul Gibson in establishing his brewery is one that many others have gone down – right up until the end, of course – that point of differentiation he talks about. The familiar part of the story is one of being in the wrong job at the wrong time, growing frustration, and then a expeditiously-timed redundancy cheque appearing, giving the fledgling brewer that final push over the line. It was then off to BrewLab in Sunderland, some hands-on experience in other breweries, and a kit-based acquisition spree to set up in his chosen space. Only, it was that final component in which Paul stands out – as his chosen space can be pretty much anywhere he wants (if reachable by road).

Campervan3

The main point of difference behind the Campervan Brewery – is a rather wonderful 1973 Type 2 Volkswagen. Paul’s brewkit is a Brewmeister 50l, chosen specifically for its portability; the plan is to take the kit on the road, brewing wherever he goes. Connected to a mains unit if available – brewing on battery power if not – it’s beermaking on the move. But why? According to Paul, there are two main reasons for this unusual approach. “What I really want is to get the customers to feel involved in part of the journey,” he says. “It’s about being able to go to the sources; in the summer it’s about going to someone who has a beehive to collect honey, or going up to a fruit farm – even further afield, it’s just about getting to the source of the ingredients.”

This is an interesting reflection on where beer is at the moment – highlighting the producers who cultivate or collect the raw ingredients our brewers reply on. It’s all about provenance; something many other producers are also keen to recognise. Paul intends to have blog, with live updates as to where he is, so (in his words) “People can get to know what’s so special about Farmer Smith”. The second reason for the Campervan Brewery being portable is more personal. “It’s about doing something I really want to do, being able to incorporate the kids – we can go away and I can do a brew whilst they’re on the beach or something like that – it’s about trying to find a better balance really. I’m also quite into the beach and surfing, and so on, and the campervan fits into that as well, with the whole summer vibe.”

Campervan2

There is a central base, however – as Paul has set up in the garage with all the standards and mandatory features required by the Council and HMRC. The set-up process has been good so far, he tells me, with people from the regulatory bodies being easy to work with and hugely accommodating (this is something I hear quite a bit from new brewers; the cheerfulness of the agencies expected to be parsimonious. I wonder if these bodies are aware of their own reputations?). The garage has always been the place where the recipes were honed, so when not on the road it’s where the majority of the beermaking will occur; brewing 100 litre double-batches twice per week and then hand-bottling the results.

Paul will be starting with three core Campervan Brewery beers – a 4% Blonde Ale (one of the summer-vibe beers he is keen to introduce), a milk stout infused with coconut, which trialled at 4.5% but which he intends to bump up to the region of 5.5%, and a third beer that he’s extremely keen on. “I also have a champagne-style beer hopped with Nelson Sauvin – this has been my labour of love for about two years,” he says. “I’ve got this great recipe, but trying to find a balance of the champagne yeast and the dryness has been a long process.” Certainly, when you speak to Paul, you realise that nothing will be signed off unless he is totally happy with it. “The idea is three core beers,” he continues “But then I want to have another three by about next year, and also work in one-offs and seasonal things if I get time to do it as well.”

Campervan4

The one-offs he talks about will involve other breweries. From the start, Paul’s openly stating he’ll be looking to contract brew for larger batches of his core beers, or work in conjunction with other producers on projects where necessary. “Being able to go to other breweries and have them do some contract brewing is something I’ll be doing – if there’s something I really like I can go to them and they can scale it up. I don’t want to hide the fact that I’m going to contract, I want people to know that. Collaborations will hopefully form a big part of it, as well, it certainly seems to be a big thing at the moment.” It’s all to do with working with as many innovative partners as possible, and about getting important early feedback due to the volume of beer these contracts can create.

As we chat, Paul reveals how the idea for his Campervan Brewery came about – and interestingly, it wasn’t the initial focus of his plans. “I’ve been to so many beer festivals and foodie festivals; my whole concept started around a street food sort-of-theme from the van – but because I got so involved with beer, I thought, ‘no – it’s beer’. But I definitely want food pairing to be a part of it. The idea is to launch the brewery but use the van and when I’m at festivals I’ll be producing food that will pair up with the beer. It’s about connecting with customers.” To facilitate this connection, Paul is currently having a bespoke surfboard built – which fits on the roof when driving, and is detached and flipped to form a bar when at festivals.

Campervan1

This is a great idea – the brewery that comes to you – and I can imagine long lines around the Campervan at sunny festivals, the 50l kit bubbling away inside with people having a look and stopping to ask what’s going on. As he says – “I’ve been to so many festivals and the breweries are there with their white tents, you know, they all look the same…I can bring the brewkit along and actually do a live brew; and the people there can get a true feel for how natural a product it is. I can actually get some crowd participation involved.” Paul is certainly amenable and enthusiastic enough to draw a small crowd – that much is clear just from speaking to him on a soaking wet afternoon in early March. Once the festival season (beer and music) kicks off, he should truly be in his element.

But the beer should be out well before that. In fact, there’s a window about to come up for a batch of bottles; Paul has a contract with the same people who produce them for Wild Beer Co. He’s just about finalised the label designs for the three core beers, and the idea is to hopefully have everything ready within a couple of weeks – pending a family holiday to the Far East – for a soft launch, somewhere in Edinburgh, of ‘a couple of casks’. As we go for a spin in the van, which originally hails from somewhere in Yorkshire, Paul tells me driving the thing is tricky but enjoyable – a fairly solid metaphor for brewing. As for the Campervan Brewery itself, Paul sums it up as he drops me off. “It’s about doing something a wee bit different.”