Former Beavertown brewer promises to boost employment, increase diversity, and put an end to the hipster stereotype with Royal Docks craft brewery
- Credit: Archant
The Royal Docks is getting its own craft brewery.
In a bid to tackle diversity issues in the brewing industry, while doing something to address unemployment around the Royal Docks, former Beavertown brewer Jenn Merrick decided to open the Earth Station Brewery on an unused patch of railway in North Woolwich.
The brewery-come-social enterprise will focus on providing jobs for local residents, giving young people and single mums from Newham the chance to get their foot on the ladder of the brewing industry.
“There is a certain type of person who tends to become a brewer,” said American-born Jenn, who’s lived in Upton Park since 2011.
“Typically it’s the middle class white boy with the right aesthetic.
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“But manufacturing and production roles are in the blood and culture of the Royal Docks neighbourhood. In the meetings we’ve had with local people, good technical roles in production careers is something they’re excited about.”
Having seen the gentrifying effect of breweries in areas like Hackney, the mother-of-two is adamant the same won’t happen to the Royal Docks. The brewery will focus just as much on providing jobs for the local area as it will on being a cool place to spend an evening.
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“I feel really aware of the gentrification impact breweries have,” the 41-year-old said.
“It makes them attractive to local authorities for regeneration projects, but it can be alienating for the existing local population for a business to parachute in which has no reference to the existing culture. The idea is we’d be more of a community-based business – we’d make it our business to know people down there.”
Jenn said they’d run production sessions which would end in time for the school run, so single mums could train as brewers while raising a family. The social enterprise arm of their project, Pipeline, would see people trained for official qualifications, so brewing could become a viable long-term career.
“There have been a lot of promises made to the Royal Docks area in terms of regeneration over the years,” Jenn said.
“About 75 projects have been proposed and fallen through. We want to be the one that comes good.”
Jenn would also focus on diversifying the staff she helps into the industry.
“The industry knows there’s a problem around diversity,” she said. “I’d love to see more women and people of colour – the idea that we can take all the diversity of east London and club different types of people into roles is exciting.”
But it’s not just the staff’s demographic which needs changing, Jenn admitted.
“The conversation about not being enough people of colour on the employee side, that also extends to drinkers,” she said.
“It’s about businesses reflecting a more diverse image, so not always using the photo of the white beardy hipster on the packaging.
“We have to think about who we see as our customers. If we’re just assuming it’s a certain demographic we’re really limiting ourselves. Thinking of a more diverse demographic of consumer will open so many avenues. The culture of the industry will be more flavourful.”
Built on a Brownfield site over a Crossrail tunnel, Jenn wants the brewery to be a community space as much as a production site. There’ll be a classroom space, community garden, taproom, and space for events to do collaborations with other local projects and charities.
“We’ll do tours, and architects have designed it so you’ll see the manufacturing process, with window panels to see into it,” Jenn said.
“They’ve thought of it from the perspective of a curious five-year-old from the nieghbourhood.”
Once they’re able to break ground, the brewery will take six months to complete – but that’ll depend on the schedule of Crossrail.
“TfL and Crossrail are the land owners and they’re supporting us by contributing the land,” Jenn said.
“But we also have to wait for Crossrail’s signal before we can break ground.
“If that doesn’t happen in the next couple of months, it would have to wait until after winter.
“It is frustrating, but as soon as they give us the go ahead, we’ll have the right to run.”
To follow the progress of the brewery, visit earthstationhq.co.uk.