Sam and Tom at Signature Brew believe that music and beer walk hand-in-hand with each other, that they’re flipsides of the same coin and the perfect partnership with which to weather all of life’s adversity. And since 2011, with a little help from their friends and some bands, they’ve been brewing the perfect beers to drink while you’re getting down with your watching bands and getting with your bad self at shows all over the country. They make beer to watch band and enjoy music with for nearly thirty years, I’ve been writing about music and going to shows. Given that, I figured it was about time that MM talked to them about beer, music and well… Is there anything else in life that means as much? No, I didn’t think so either. This is what Sam had to say…
Interview by Tim Cundle
MM: All good beer stories have a beginning, so when, why and how did you realise that you wanted to become a brewer? What led you down the path to Signature Brew?
SB: Well I learnt pretty much everything I know about brewing from my cousin Tom, who I founded Signature Brew with, and is our Head Brewer today. But I’ve always been interested in beer from a young age, I’ve never been content to drink shit lager. My thing has always been music, and the lack of choice at gigs, was what drove me to start Signature Brew. I’ve been backstage at gigs where there is unlimited high end champagne, the most premium of spirits, yet for beer drinkers – it was warm Turborg only. Unacceptable.
MM: Did you take the “traditional” brewers route and work for another brewery before deciding to strike out on your own, or do you come from a home brewing background?
SB: As I mentioned, my background was music industry stuff, Tom had worked in a brewery near our home town from a young age, and we came together to start the company. We were both sick of the poor choice and quality being served up in music venues, and wanted to make a change!
MM: So, when did Signature Brew become a reality and what made you want to start your own brewery?
SB: We brewed our first beers commercially in 2011, and it just went from there really. It was all driven by getting great beers into the hands of gig goers, and we were doing that right from the start. Watching our first ever beer, being served over the bars in the Kentish Town Forum, was pretty rewarding.
MM: Do you approach the business from a craft beer perspective, that is, one of dedication to, and love of, the brewing process. So, how do you envision the role of Signature Brew within the world of beer?
SB: Absolutely. None of this works if you don’t try and create the best possible things. But I wouldn’t call that a craft beer approach, it is just caring deeply about what you put out there into the world.
MM: Why, in your opinion, do music and beer work so well together? How, if at all, does music influence your approach to brewing and the way you brew your beers?
SB: They go hand in hand. Our approach to brewing is the same as any honest musician, I’ve been in bands, as have pretty much everyone on the team at Signature, it’s about putting everything you have into it, and being true to yourself.
MM: What’s your take on the whole Craft Beer Revolution? Did it inspire you and what you want Signature Brew to be, in any way?
SB: When we started Signature Brew no one was calling it a revolution, the beer culture in the UK was strong, but the introduction of kegged hop forward IPAs into the mainstream, has allowed many more people to become interested and gain a deeper knowledge of what is out there.
MM: Do you think that the “craft beer revolution” has made an impact on the mainstream and that there’s a perceptible shift away from the mass produced beers that have dominated the market for years to smaller, more local, artisan beers? Why?
SB: Yes, it’s made an impact, but for me it’s a not just about smaller, local beers, its about choice and quality.
MM: Let’s talk beer. Tell us about your flagship beers…
SB: Roadie – the unsung hero that keeps the music industry going, and the unsung hero of our core lineup. Our All-Night IPA is our most popular beer, grab one the next you see it.
MM: Which of your beers do you think, more than any other, embodies and personifies the Signature Brew ethos? Why?
SB: They have different aspects that reflect different parts of the brewery. Its the range as a whole that personifies Signature Brew.
MM: Do you think that you’re a “beer snob”? By that I mean, do you look for quality and dedication in the beer that you drink personally, or are you happy with the status quo that the big breweries have maintained for decades?
SB: Snob is a pejorative, but of course I search out the best possible beer that I can, who wouldn’t? The status quo is changing from the bottom up, people now have access to great beer, and are demanding it at the bars.
MM: And talking of breweries… What were the biggest difficulties that you encountered in setting up Signature Brew? Was that whole process easier than you thought it would be, or much harder?
SB: It was a long process for us, all we had when we started was an idea. We had no idea what it was going to be like, and when I look back I’m really pleased with how far we’ve come, but there is still a lot further to go.
MM: I have to ask… From a purely personal point of view, what are your five favourite beers? Why?
SB: Tough! Pilsner Urquell – the best global pilsner there is. Oakham – Citra.Goose Island – Matilda. Sierra Nevada – Torpedo and FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout – Elijah Craig 12 Year Barrel (2010)
MM: And likewise, what are your five favourite bands? Why?
SB: Minus The Bear, Big D And The Kids Table, A Wilhelm Scream, Youngblood Brass Band and The Clash
Find out more about Signature Brew here