Aussie-inspired Two Tribes Brewery pumping up the volume in London

Lily Allen, Mark Ronson, The Prodigy. These are some of the artists who’ve taken residence at London’s Tileyard studios, located just a few hundred metres north of the British capital’s iconic Kings Cross Station.

They’re not alone either. The complex at Tileyard is also home to Two Tribes, one of the 118 active breweries that call London home.

The brewery was originally located in Horsham, East Sussex, a few miles south of London. Formerly trading as WJ King Brewery and known for its traditional cask ales, the business was acquired by Niki and Justin Deighton in 2012.

The pair, originally from London, met through mutual connections within the music industry, before eventually deciding to settle in Australia with their two young sons.

They fell in love with Sydney’s vibrant food and drink culture, which in turn inspired them to move back to London and acquire a brewery with a hope of bringing some of that culture back home.

Thinking that it would be simpler to work with a business that already had an established identity and customer base rather than starting from scratch, they acquired the WJ King operation. However, sensing the sea change that was gripping the British brewing industry at the time, the couple renamed the brewery Two Tribes.

The name change also allowed the couple to inject their own identity into the brand.

In April 2018 it completed a move from Sussex to a new 2,500 square foot home in Kings Cross. Here they began to focus on increasingly modern beer styles, from Brut IPA to intensely fruited Gose.

“We wanted to be in the centre of where everything was happening,” Australian-born Commercial Director and Brand Ambassador Justin Hutton told Brews News.

“We love the London brewing community where everyone likes to help everyone else out… we wanted to be part of that so we could learn and grow in the capital.”

Hutton, who has a background in hospitality – laterly working for UK brewpub chain Laines – left his home in Adelaide, relocating to London in 2011.

After joining Two Tribes in 2016 he helped spearhead the brewery’s move to the capital, not just in a production sense but to also create a taproom that would hopefully become a hub for the surrounding community.

“Two Tribes is a creative and collaborative brewery that also understands the value of a solid core range,” Hutton said.

“It was also a very important factor for us to have the taproom in Kings Cross.”

“We’ve always been heavily involved in music so the taproom gives us the freedom to continue that involvement and to give artists somewhere to perform while at the same time having something great to drink,” he added.

In 2015 the brewery landed a deal to brew a beer under license for famed Universal imprint Island Records. Thanks to the prominence of the record label, the launch of Island Records Session IPA helped the brewery gain traction outside the craft beer scene.

A few months later it was joined by Island Records Jamaica Porter. The success of these beers helped Two Tribes develop both the capital and the relevance to give them a foothold in London’s busy market.

Perhaps the greatest challenge Two Tribes has faced since then has been to ensure it doesn’t lose sight of its own identity behind that of the far more well-known Island Records. A smart rebrand and a host of limited-release beers has played one part in that, while – as with many young breweries – collaboration has played another.

This has also allowed the brewery to reconnect somewhat with its Aussie roots. In July 2018 it released a lingonberry infused kettle sour, dry hopped with the Australian Ella variety and brewed with Sydney’s Nomad Brewing Co. Plans are already in place to brew with Big Shed Brewing out of Adelaide in the new year.

And as well as focusing on the London market, Hutton also has eyes on export – despite the uncertainties that Brexit brings. The Australian market also forms part of Two Tribes’ export plans for 2019. But the jury is out on whether Two Tribes will manage to succeed in our competitive, smaller market, especially with imports repeatedly being criticised for lack of freshness by consumers.

However, Hutton remains optimistic despite these obstacles.

“Next year is going to be an exciting year for us.”

“[We’re going to] expand the brewery, produce more collaborations and start to push our beer out around the world.”

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