“Beer is a magical product”: Starting a microbrewery?
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“Beer is a magical product”: Starting a microbrewery?

Dig Brew Co: a young brewery with an excellent sense of humour (their Instagram bio proudly declares them ‘officially the 383rd best restaurant in Birmz’). Opening a brewery in a disused gun factory in Digbeth, Birmingham, you can tell Oli, Joe and Donncha have created something a little bit different – just take their recent Opera collaboration (yes, you read that right).
As winners of We Are Beer’s Raise The Bar competition, we grabbed 5 minutes with Oli ahead of the London Craft Beer Festival to find out what makes them tick – and, of course, what they think of their new brewery POS.

How to start a brewery, according to Dig Brew Co:

– Dig Brew originally started at university: beer was brewed – very badly at first and then slightly better, to try and save costs. After graduating, we convinced a very, very old pub that it would be a good idea to give me the money to take the project further. Joe and Donncha (proper brewers) came onboard to make the beer actually good – we try to incorporate styles from around the whole world, to push the boundaries of what we create.

For me, beer is a magical product that has been the cornerstone of so many of our social rituals for thousands of years, and that’s well exciting. The craft beer revolution has helped to push outwards a small part of the market for us and we can use this space to express ourselves and bring people in to our community. Beer is fun, after all!

On what makes their brewery different:

– We try not to focus too hard on one style of beer (given that we have a very broad audience in Digbeth and we want to cater for all of them). We spend a lot of time considering the ritualistic and community consequences of what we are making, and how we can use the position of beer throughout history to make something really exciting now.

For instance, we’ve been working with an opera company called Infinite Opera on an opera about a brewster in medieval England, during the time when beer was converted from a domestic product (and a woman’s occupation) to a commercial one. The smear campaign against the female brewers back then has led almost completely directly to our image of witches today.

Bouba/Kiki: a collaboration with Brew York and one of Dig Brew Co’s daring creations

On their label art and the meaning behind it:

– It’s a long process based approach – we work very hard every week mining stories and references from popular culture and politics and hope that through playing around with things and our projects with other artists (eg Infinite Opera), we’ll get a fun and exciting result. We don’t tend to be too overtly direct or political with the stories our branding portrays, but feel that if we put the long, slow work in then we will come up with something that connects to a lot of people.

On their favourite Dig Brew Co label art:

Hathor’s Revenge for the beer we made for the opera. Or Puca or California.

On the dream flavour they’re trying to nail:

– A good fruited farmhouse ale – that’s the dream over the next 12 months.

On their desert island beer:

– Something Tree House-based, so I could lure all the tickers my way and be saved.

On the next big beer trend:

– Annoyingly I think the conversation we should be having is more of a political one: what does it mean to be a craft brewer?Is it just because we make styles that wouldn’t usually be supported by big money & big corp breweries? I feel that used to be sort of true, but it feels like that identity is at risk of disappearing and what should be protected (what is a fantastic and exciting independent industry).

Also – mixed fermentation, definitely.

We spend a lot of time considering how we can use the position of beer throughout history to make something really exciting now.

On winning Raise The Bar:

– It’s a very good feeling and it’s great that the team here gets some recognition for the majorly hard work they’ve been putting in over the last 18 months or so.

On their advice for wannabe brewers thinking about next year’s competition:

– Think big. We mess up the beers we try and make small, far more often than the ones where we are pushing the boat out further than we have before.

On Zettle:

– It’s great to work with a card supplier that takes the time to do these kind of profiles on the small companies it works with – good to see a lot of effort going in to understanding and nurturing what must be a very broad and mostly independent group of businesses across the globe.

On the upcoming London Craft Beer Festival:

– The atmosphere at Edinburgh, Bristol and Beer Central have been amazing, so lots of fun to come I expect. The beer goes without saying, I hope – right?

What is Raise the Bar?
Alongside Vault City, Turning Point and Mothership, Dig Brew Co are winners of Raise The Bar, We Are Beer’s annual competition looking for the best up and coming new breweries in the UK. The prize includes the complete Zettle iPad POS system, complete with everything a brewery needs to get their taproom off the ground, as well as pride of place at the London Craft Beer Festival, sponsored by Zettle, from 9-11th August.