In Conversation With James Grundy and The Small Beer Team

In Conversation With James Grundy and The Small Beer Team

We sit down with Small Beer’s even smaller team to get their two cents on a slow-and-low approach to the question of balance.


First things first; give us a little rundown of the Small Beer philosophy. What drives you guys?

We’re driven by the people who are looking to live life to the fullest and know that it isn’t at the extremes. We’re driven by the idea that when you take a moment to step back and see the bigger picture, there can be so much more to gain from the choices you make. We know that the world can’t change overnight, but we can start with beer. We can start with our Small Beer. And that’s exactly what we’re doing each and every day.

It seems that wellness has become a more nuanced concept of late, with people no longer being all about the punishment-and-restriction, all-or-nothing mindset. Where does Small Beer fit into that?

Small Beer is all about making life and its limits that bit limitless. Like you say, the all-or-nothing mindset has meant that, wherever you look in everyday life, there are far too many extremes we feel we ought to take a side on. Drinking is just one of them.

At Small Beer, we’ve worked hard to offer an alternative that speaks to the middle ground of those extremes. We’re deliberately not a non-alcoholic beer because we don’t think we need to be in order to provide an option you can moderate with. One of the joys of Small Beer is that it caters to so many aspects of everyday life, where you can drink it after a mid-week run, throughout a Friday session as the weekend rolls in, or even all day Sunday while watching sport or soaking in quality time with the family. Small Beer covers all of those moments without getting in the way of the other things you love to spend your time doing.

Best of all, through re-working the brewing process, our Small Beer gives you that ultimate refreshment, full of flavour and mouthfeel, which means that it tastes like anything but a compromise. When you can have it all, why would you opt to go without?

By the same token – even prior to lockdown restrictions – people were moving away from nights out as an exercise in excess. Why do you think that is?

Lockdown has meant that people have interrogated what it means to have free time. Connection and experience are becoming frontrunners for how we like to make ourselves feel good – both of which are challenged when going out hits that point of excess. If anything, these experiences are going to be more valued than ever before, which will inevitably change our approach to them. This doesn’t mean that people won’t enjoy themselves as much as they can, but it’s likely that what they take away from ‘a good night out’ isn’t necessarily what they might have before.

Sustainability is the ultimate expression of balance when you think about it. You guys are London’s first Certified B Corporation – can you tell us a little about what that means to you and how it fits into your outlook on balance?

We believe that building a sustainable business is important because it’s how you ensure what you’re doing is built to last. We often find ourselves saying that we’re not an ‘eco beer’, we simply brew the way we think all beer should be brewed.

Being London’s first B Corp certified brewery means a lot, as the recognition sets our practices as an example that can be within every business’ reach. We were given some great advice when we started out, which was ‘first, choose one sustainable effort and do it well,’ which is why we have such a focus on reducing water in our brewing process. What’s powerful about this approach is that it shows one step at a time is enough to make meaningful change, you just need to be willing to start somewhere.

That’s what balance means to us. It’s about seeing the bigger picture. Instead of being daunted by the scale of the problem, look for the opportunity that breaking away from all that’s come before offers. It’s something that we as a team talk about on a regular basis because it reminds us of the value of doing one thing at a time and putting our all into it. When you’re a young business, with the whole world still to conquer, a collective mission that everyone can get on board with helps to steer the compass.

How do you guys manage to achieve a sense of balance in your own, day-to-day lives? Any rituals that keep you level and grounded? How did that change during lockdown?

It’s important to take five minutes every so often throughout the day. Even if that just means a quick lap of the industrial estate that our brewery calls home. That and laughter – whether it’s wearing a silly hat on a Zoom call, complimenting a colleagues’ DIY haircut, or giving a standing ovation after a virtual presentation, we think that a little light-heartedness and laughter are a very good thing here at the brewery.

Then, rather like putting the kettle on, there’s nothing quite like opening a beer or two at the end of the day, and that glorious “hissssss” it makes to signal that transitional phase between work, kids, or whatever responsibility and that all-important ‘you time’. After all, the small luxuries are important – that little treat to oneself. A Small Beer is definitely that for us.

Credit to Will Halbert, Essential Journal.

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