Booze after craft: A new wave of challengers

On Thursday 10th March we invited the Challenger Project community to a jam-packed eatbigfish HQ for another evening of shared experiences and challenger conversation over a couple of drinks. This month we invited a group of speakers who are all bringing something new or different to one of our favourite subjects - the wonderful world of alcohol.

First up we heard from Neil and Clive, who have recently opened the London outpost of the global/local brand Our/Vodka in a railway arch in Hackney.

Neil Chivers & Clive Watson, Our/Vodka London Partners

Neil Chivers & Clive Watson, Our/Vodka London Partners

As handpicked pirates inside the navy of parent brand Pernod Ricard, Neil and Clive get the benefit of the funding and expertise of the big corporation, while being allowed the freedom to apply their local knowledge and experience from their previous lives as restauranteurs and music execs.

Our/Vodka isn’t a big brand pretending to be small, it’s a team doing things differently within a large company.

With a marketing budget of zero, Our/London are launching the brand by trading what they have in abundance, a large venue at the distillery and a whole lot of vodka - so, if you are looking for a party, these guys are definitely the ones to talk to.

Andrew Schein from Toast Ale

Andrew Schein from Toast Ale

Next we heard from new craft ale with a difference - Toast Ale is a venture from Feedback, the food waste campaigners, which turns waste bread from commercial sources into a distinctive pale ale.  Andrew explained his vision for Toast as a scalable, delicious solution to a huge and unnecessary problem.

44% of all bread produced in the UK is thrown away, enough to lift 26 million people out of malnutrition.

Currently produced by Hackney Brewery, and having only launched via Jamie Oliver's lastest TV show just weeks ago, Andrew turned to the audience for ideas of how to collaborate and co-brand with other breweries to create their own versions of Toast and kickstart a revolution.

Want to join Toast's mission? Home brewers you can find a recipe here, beer brands looking to get involved get in touch here.

Ben Branson, founder of Seedlip

Ben Branson, founder of Seedlip

You may recognise our third speaker Ben Branson from our interview with Seedlip back in December. Ben took to the podium to take us through the rollercoaster ride he's been on since launching the premium non-alcoholic spirit just 3 months ago.  From becoming Selfridges' best selling spirit over the christmas period to paying over £10 for his own product in the bar at the Savoy, the energy and momentum behind this new challenger was clear to see. 

Ben shared his strategy behind creating a new premium brand, and whole new category - touching on everything from the inspiration behind the recipe to the intricate details of the brand design.

My secrets? Naivety, delusion, impatience and obsession.
— Ben Branson

With two new, incredible sounding products in development we'll be keeping in touch with Ben for an update later in the year.

Our final speaker of the night was Tom Gosnell, founder of South London mead company Gosnell's.  

Tom Gosnell of Gosnell's Mead

Tom Gosnell of Gosnell's Mead

After witnessing a resurgence of mead producers in the US (the smallest but fastest growing segment of the American alcohol beverage industry), Tom shared the challenges of single handedly reinventing the medieval drink for the modern UK market.

What does it taste like? When do I drink it? Where does it fit in?

From creating an entirely new category, to reviving an old one, from being both global and local, to tackling food waste, we heard from four very different brands with four different concepts as their foundation. Each one, not just setting out to make a better beverage, but to also make us question what we thought we knew about a product or the category it sits in. 

A huge thanks to Neil, Clive, Andrew, Ben and Tom for sharing their stories and bringing along samples of their brilliant products for us all to try, and thanks to eatbigfish and Anspach & Hobday for the venue and the refreshments.

Challenger Project Live #4 will be on Thursday 9th June - subject and speakers TBC. Places are limited and sell out quickly so make sure you're on the mailing list to be the first to hear about tickets.


EventsHelen Redstone