30 Years (2020) – Bini Brew Co.

For my final piece of this 30 Years In Craft Beer series I sent James Rudge, brewer at Bini Brew Co., a few questions over for him to answer. Despite some setbacks thanks to Covid-19, things seem to be heading in the right direction for them and here’s what he had to say;

Stephen: You’ve been brewing at home for a few years now, but what first got you into craft beer and made you want to make your own?

James: For me, I remember going to Edinburgh for the weekend in about 2013 or 2014 and going to a BrewDog bar and having punk IPA for the first time and I remember it blowing me away, I remember at the time thinking it was like almost a hybrid lager/ale, in think in reality  though it was just the first time I had ale in keg! But after then I started going into House of Trembling Madness in York where I was at uni at the time and discovering breweries like The Kernel and Marble and it just took off from there. 

When I moved back home after uni I got a weekend job at Fuggle & Golding in Ilkley where I’ve been working off and on ever since, where I really got to discover loads of breweries (such as Verdant and Deya who were the new kids on the block) and new beer styles. I also started frequenting the Ilkley branch of Friends of Ham too which is where I met Rich who now runs the brewery with me now.

As for getting to making my own beer, I’ve always loved making things and always loved cooking, home brewing is kind of the best of both worlds. I just liked the idea of trying to make my own beer, bought an extract kit and made a pretty shitty batch of beer but loved the fact I made it. I felt like extract was cheating though, so a bought a brew in a bag all grain kit and made something half decent. I just ended up loving the process and all the equipment and ended up building my own 3 vessel brew kit with parts from Amazon and eBay.

Stephen: You’ve scaled up relatively quickly in a short space of time, with some acclaim along the way, how does it feel to have hit the ground running?

James: It’s hard to put into words, we are coming up to our first birthday in October. We launched at possibly the worst time. We sold our first batch of beer, being a keg only brewery and then we went into lockdown 2. We just launched and suddenly couldn’t sell any beer which forced us to invest in a very rudimentary and manual canning set up, which I am glad to say has been somewhat upgraded now, but still very manual.

It was very hard though, shops understandably didn’t want to take risks stocking new breweries which made it very hard to prove ourselves and from launching in October until the pubs reopening in March we only brewed 5 or 6 100L batches of beer and it was quite disheartening after all the effort we put into setting up.

But since March the only time our tanks have been empty is when we moved to the brewery to our new premises and it’s just been amazing ever since and we really can’t believe how much people love our beer. We are now at a point where we can’t keep up with demand and have 500L kit with 2 FVs being delivered shortly. If you would have told me that at the beginning of the year (while I was still having to work a 9-5) there is no way I would have believed it!

Stephen: You are surrounded by great breweries in Yorkshire, which do you take inspiration from and how will you continue to stand out from the crowd?

James: We are very lucky to be within half an hour of Leeds which has to be one of, if not the best, craft brewing scene in the UK. We’ve always looked up to North Brewing. They make really great beer and have some amazing bars to drink them in. We really admire that they nail every style they do which is something we aspire to. We started with hoppy pales and IPAs and it’s what we know best, but we want to nail everything we do too and not just be know a brewery that makes hazy pales and IPAs –  and now our Kölsch style beer and our fruited sours are being particularly well received.

Northern Monk I think also deserve a shout out, mainly because of Hop City. It’s one of the best festivals in the country and they manage to get breweries over from the US! Although not based in Yorkshire, I have to credit Deya and Verdant as being very big inspirations to us and our beers are now being compared favourably with theirs (albeit on a small scale) which is something we only dreamt of a year ago!

Stephen: Are there any styles in particular you’re keen to brew and likewise, any you’ll likely steer clear of?

James: I really want to explore Lagers more. We’ve done our Kolsch which has been a great success but I really want to try and make a Helles and a Pilsner. Lagering time taking up a valuable space in the tanks is the main thing stopping us right now. Though I have tried a couple times as a home brewer with varied success shall we say! I also really want to make a big impy stout and maybe even barrel age it.

As for styles we will stay clear of, I can’t say I think there are many, not sure about doing anything that involves a wild fermentation. But just because wild yeast and infections scare me more then anything. Not sure we will ever make a cask ale either, there are so many other breweries set up doing really great cask, I’m not sure we would do the format justice, and believe we can add the most value to the tremendous craft beer scene by really nailing a great, and ever expanding range of keg…

Stephen: Finally, what does Bini make of all this and the potential of becoming a household name?

James: She loves it! She’s never happy though, always something more we can be doing

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