On the edge of East London’s Victoria Park, connected to the People’s Park Tavern, Nic Donaldo, Head brewer at The Laine Brewery, presides over the brew tanks. One of many Laine micro-breweries in Hackney, Battersea and Brighton, this particular location has windows where the daily operations of the mini factory can be seen by all punters enjoying a pint… brewtiful! If you ever get to meet Nic, be sure to bring your dog; he’ll let you know why later on.
Culture Trip: What is your name and what is your role at this Brewery?
Nic Donald: I’m Nic Donald, and I’m the Head Brewer of Laine Brew Co.
CT: Who is the founder and how did this brewery start?
ND: The brewery was started in Brighton, by Gavin George (and the rest of the Laine Pub Company/Inn Brighton). We got the name by putting our first brewery inside the North Laine pub, and we continue to brew out of there to this day. We then expanded to London, with a couple more brewpubs, including this one here on Victoria Park, the People’s Park Tavern. They all come under the Laine Brew Co brewery, but all of them (including our larger production brewery) have their own style and vibe with the beers.
CT: How did you get involved with this brewery?
ND: I started with the company at the end of August 2014, moving over from another brewery, to run the brewing out of the Aeronaut in Acton, which unfortunately burnt down just after midnight on NYE/NYD 2017 and has reopened now, but without the brewery, and the then new brewery at the Four Thieves in Battersea. A year later, I was made head brewer, and things moved forward at a fast pace from there.
CT: How did you get into brewing beer?
ND: About eight years ago, I realised that most of my drinking buddies were brewers, and wanting to appreciate what I was drinking more, asked if I could help out with one of them. I ended up assisting my good mates, Angelo Scarnera and Phil Lowry, down at BrewWharf which was a really cool little brewpub in Borough Market that produced quite a few brewers in the scene now. BrewWharf is no more, but it’s legacy lives on in a number of London breweries.
CT: What do you look for in a beer? Is it taste or is it the philosophy behind the brand?
ND: For me, the taste is the most important thing. That’s why it gets on my nerves when people claim that a beer should be clear, or that it should be hazy. Or that a beer should be on cask, or keg. Cans, bottles, NASA’s new spaceship, I don’t care! as long as the beer tastes good, and is kept in good condition, that’s what matters. Branding is very important as well, but at the end of the day it’s what’s inside that matters. Kind of the way it should be with people, right?!
CT: Can you talk through the range of beers on offer? Does this change with each batch?
ND: Out of our brewery here at the People’s Park, we have a couple of core cask beers that remain the same (Red Ale, 3.4% Pale Ale, and a Single Hop pale where the hop changes). On keg however, we always have something different coming out. At the moment, we have on a Kolsch-style ale with Mandarina Bavaria and Ariana hops, a Black Ale, and a Dry Hopped Saison. In the cellar when they run out are a single hopped IPA with BRU-1, and our yearly Double IPA release called Neon Angel. But that will change in a couple of weeks as there will be new stuff coming out. Our main keg (and can) beers come out of our production brewery in West Sussex. Source pale ale, Ripper Session IPA, Revelator IPA and Word Lager.
CT: Can you talk about each one in terms of taste?
ND: We are very hop-focused here (when we aren’t brewing sours and stouts!), so your best bet is to come on by and give them a go for yourself, as there are always too many to describe at one time!
CT: What is this brewery’s approach and philosophy to brewing beer?
ND: It’s really about fun for us, which it is with a lot of breweries. We definitely don’t take ourselves too seriously. We do take our jobs seriously, as this is our careers, but when it comes to the beers we make, the names we use for them, and the designs of the packaging/branding, it really is all about fun. I like us to make the beers that we ourselves want to drink. As nerdy as we can all get about beer (you don’t see many people in the industry who don’t enjoy beer in their off work time!), at the end of the day it’s something to enjoy, rather than argue over. Tasty, tasty social lubricant!
CT: What was the first beer you made. Have your flavours changed, or have you kept it original?
ND: I take it you mean in these breweries? As with all of our beers, we like to stay true to what people are enjoying, but we are always looking at improving the beers. New technologies, new ingredients and new methods come thick and fast in this industry, so it’s all about making the product as good quality as possible. If I ever make a beer that I think is perfect, that’s the day I walk away from it all. Same with drinking beers. Fortunately, there is no such thing as perfect when it comes to making or drinking beer, but the journey to try to get there is what it’s all about!
CT: Do you offer any brewery tours? How can people experience your beer?
ND: We do, but at this stage only really out of the brewery here on Victoria Park. These are usually arranged through the pub itself, who get in touch with us to see when it can be slotted in. Our London Sales Manager, Michael, takes these tours, and there is a bit of drinking – I mean ‘sampling’ – that goes on during and after the tour.
CT: Do you have any regular events that people can get involved with?
ND: Not so much ourselves, but we do love being involved with the London Brewers Market whenever we can. We also co-host an annual event in Brighton, called Tap Takeover, that is a LOT of fun over a weekend in April, with breweries from all over the UK and beyond taking over a pub each, making it one hell of a pub crawl! We are always happy to do a tap takeover/meet the brewer at pubs all over the UK as well, who doesn’t like a road trip?!
CT: Where is your beer available to buy?
ND: That’s a hard one to answer, as it’s quite a lot of pubs in London and the South East, with more and more coming all the time. You can find them in areas of London such as Hackney, Walthamstow, Dulwich, Nunhead, Battersea, Putney, Camden, etc.
CT: Any more information about the brewery you would like to talk about?
ND: If you are ever in one of our brewpubs with your dog, and I’m there, there’s a good chance that I’ll buy you a pint in exchange for getting to say hello to and pet your dog!
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