Greg Hobbs on brew­ing ales in east Lon­don

Af­ter Five Points Brewery launched its first core brand beer in two years in Novem­ber, Florence Der­rick met the com­pany’s co­founder and Head Brewer to find out why the brand’s stock has risen so rapidly in craft beer cir­cles

The Wharf - - Canary Wharf -

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The first beer brew­ing ex­per­i­ment by Five Points Brewery co-founder Greg Hobbs didn’t quite go to plan. “I was 15 years old,” he said, over a pint of the brewery’s new Jupa ale at their Pem­bury Tav­ern tap­room in Hack­ney Downs.

“My friend and I boiled up a tin of stuff and ba­si­cally fer­mented it in a bin.

“It was aw­ful, we had to add ta­ble­spoons of su­gar to ac­tu­ally make it drink­able.

“We drank it be­cause we were 15 and there was noth­ing else, but it was no good at all.”

Much has changed for Greg since that first flir­ta­tion with the world of brew­ing. To­day, he’s the Hack­ney craft brewery’s Head Brewer, run­ning the show with co-owner Ed Mason.

“I have re­spon­si­bil­ity for all of the beer com­ing out of the brewery, both in terms of its qual­ity and also recipe de­vel­op­ment,” he said.

“Just mak­ing sure the beers are to spec and taste how they should taste.”

The jour­ney from teen bed­room­brewer to hops spe­cial­ist saw Greg study­ing chem­istry – “it’s a big part of brew­ing. I don’t think I’d be where I am with­out the chem­istry back­ground” – and learning on the job at an­other craft brewery.

“I was man­ag­ing a pub in Dal­ston and got talk­ing to the owner of East Lon­don Brew­ing Com­pany, in Ley­ton, on a brewery tour.

“I ended up work­ing there for about a year-and-a-half as an as­sis­tant brewer,” he said.

“I learnt ev­ery­thing there and through count­less hours of read­ing ev­ery­thing I could, try­ing ev­ery­thing I could at the brewery.

“Then Ed, who I knew al­ready from the pub, said he was think­ing about open­ing a brewery and the rest is his­tory.

“It’s a re­ally open and friendly in­dus­try, ev­ery­one helps ev­ery­one.

“When we started out we asked other brew­ers so many ques­tions and now we’re more es­tab­lished other people are ask­ing us those same ques­tions, which is nice.”

The in­de­pen­dent craft brewery has just cel­e­brated its fifth birth­day and Greg is still reel­ing from how quickly the busi­ness took off.

“Ed and I were am­bi­tious but we never thought we’d grow this quickly,” he said.

“When we launched it was only with three beers, which is un­usual.

“Five Points Pale, which is still our best seller – it ac­counts for 55% of what we pro­duce; Hook Island Red, which is a 6% red rye beer that is a bit of a Mar­mite beer, people ei­ther go crazy for it or don’t like it at all; and Rail­way Porter, which is our take on a clas­sic Lon­don porter.”

In Novem­ber, Five Points launched its first core-brand beer in two years – Jupa.

“We were hop­ing to re­lease it in early summer but it’s been an amaz­ing year for us sales wise, which meant ca­pac­ity-wise it’s been dif­fi­cult to fit it in,” Greg said.

“Our pale ale is 4.4% and our IPA is 7.1%, and there was noth­ing in that sweet spot in be­tween for people who are look­ing for a more flavour­ful beer but don’t want to get re­ally drunk. All our beers lean to the side of bitter but we also wanted to show that we could do some­thing softer and fruitier.”

The re­lease closely fol­lowed the open­ing of the brewery’s new tap­room pub, which opened in Hack­ney Downs in Septem­ber.

“They’d sold Five Points Pale Ale on keg at The Pem­bury Tav­ern, but we didn’t have much else to do with them,” he said. “About a year ago we came in for some Fri­day drinks and me and Ed were chat­ting.

“We’d al­ways planned to open a tap­room but we didn’t have space at the brewery, which was our orig­i­nal am­bi­tion. We’d looked at some lo­cal places in the area but noth­ing re­ally worked and we said wouldn’t it be amaz­ing if this pub came up for sale?

“A cou­ple of weeks later, Ed wrote them an email say­ing if you’re ever think­ing about mov­ing on we’d love to have a con­ver­sa­tion about it.

“Lo and be­hold, a cou­ple of months later we had that con­ver­sa­tion and moved in.

“We kept all the staff and ripped out the orig­i­nal bar, painted it, put the lights in, changed the cel­lar com­pletely and kept the bar bil­liards ta­ble. I like play­ing it.”

While the pub spe­cialises in the Five Points range, it cham­pi­ons other Bri­tish, and even in­ter­na­tional, craft brews too.

“It’s not all about us, we spe­cialise in other people’s beer too and we’ve had a green hop fes­ti­val here.

“We plan to use The Pem­bury Tav­ern as a proper boozer, ba­si­cally – not too pre­ten­tious but smart and nice, fo­cused on the com­mu­nity. Just a nice place you’d go with­out the craft beer thing be­ing rubbed in your face.”

This down-to-earth ethos re­flects the com­pany’s am­bi­tions, as well as those of the in­dus­try at large.

“People who brew craft beers are do­ing it be­cause they’re pas­sion­ate about it,” said Greg.

We plan to use The Pem­bury Tav­ern as a proper boozer, ba­si­cally – not too pre­ten­tious but smart and nice, fo­cused on the com­mu­nity Greg Hobbs, Five Points Brewery

A back­ground in chem­istry has helped Greg Hobbs in his role, check­ing the qual­ity of the beer and recipe de­vel­op­ment

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