Generation Craft: A Boutilliers Invitational Festival

The name Generation Craft literally comes from the idea that breweries seem to progress in waves. When I first started out it was breweries like The Kernel, BBNo, Magic Rock, Buxton and Beavertown trying to find their way, making excellent beer, convincing people as they went, making fans the hard way. It’s a right of passage that every brewer must embark upon if they wish to survive in, what is becoming, a more saturated market. More recently you saw the rise to prominence of people like Northern Monk, Verdant and Deya but what you won’t hear much about is how the Northern Monk boys had to slog it out on a market stall when they started out. There’s no such thing as an easy start to life in a business where you’re motivated, almost exclusively, by doing what you love. Lord knows none of us are making any money out of this! So how do you fix that? You don’t, but is there a way to make that initial foray into the wider market a bit less of a bumpy ride? Maybe! That’s what Generation Craft is all about, it’s a platform to promote the new breed, the new generation. It’s all about supporting the unsung heroes, who have maybe been overlooked in favour of more trendy breweries but, nonetheless, still make amazing beer. It’s a place where anyone, whether you’re a seasoned beer aficionado or someone who’s just getting into it, can come along, find something new and maybe experience the early beers from THE next big thing.

Promotion of the ignored is part of my motivation but there’s also a local element to it. Many of the breweries involved have little to no representation in Kent. For the longest time, my home county has been an absolute dead-zone for the modern craft styles while city hubs like London, Manchester and Leeds have leapt ahead. Sometimes it felt like we struggling on, telling everyone about this new invention “The Wheel” while people in Leeds were casually talking about having visited the moon over the holidays. We’ve caught up to a certain degree, mostly thanks to pubs, bars and shops who’ve taken the leap, notably places like the Ravensgate Arms in Ramsgate and The Tipsy Gardener in Shepherdswell which you might EXPECT to have more traditional stuff but have completely subverted expectations by providing modern, local, styles as well as a plethora of innovative brews from the rest of the country and beyond. Places like The Twelve Taps, The Paper Mill, The Taphouse Beer Cafe, The Made Inn, Pegasus and The Thomas Tallis have all done stellar jobs and have cemented the foundations of craft in Kent, proving that it’s here to stay. I’m not happy with foundations, however, I want the whole house, I want there to be a balcony and a swimming pool and space for the dog to run about. I want the best breweries in the country to want to come to Kent to show people what they’ve got, I want people from the rest of the country to want to come to Kent because they know they’ll encounter something special and I want the people of Kent to have a beer festival that they can be proud of. There will be 2 Kentish breweries represented, all the food will be provided by local companies and all the artwork has been done by our house artist, who is a Herne Bay local. As much as this is our festival, I want it to feel as if it is yours as well.

It’s an interesting time for craft beer at the moment. The upper echelons are being skimmed away by Macro old money which leaves space for breweries to fill the space. Who fills the space below that though? There are A LOT of breweries out there, all vying for your attention, but there are a few that have the magic combination of a) making excellent beer and b) have their hearts in the right place. By that I mean that I know them, I’ve talked to them, I’ve absorbed their philosophies and I know everyone of them are doing what they do for, what I consider to be, the right reasons. People like Black Iris and Ridgeside were easy picks for me, I’ve worked with them, they’re a great bunch of guys, amongst the nicest I’ve met in the business, Josh can drink more than I’ve ever seen anyone drink in my life, mild amount of fear, that’s fine probably! Vibrant Forest and Elusive came under the umbrella of “way too nice not to be involved. Do you want to kick a puppy, Drew? Do you? Because if you don’t invite them then you’re kicking a million puppies. Don’t kick a million puppies, Drew, you awful bastard.” Neon Raptor and Yonder very much came under the category of being way too cool for school, I just, y’know, I just really dig their style. Then you’ve got really tiny start ups that have gained a reputation at the speed of cynicism; Leviathan have had to do things the hard way, not just the hard way but the HARD way. Have you ever considered what it would be like setting up and building a brewery whilst suffering from cancer and raising a family? No, me neither, the thought alone would probably break me. Chris has though, smashed the F out of cancer, set up a brewery, is currently looking after his fresh bab, ran a marathon, loves metal and makes excellent beer. Noice. The other one, though they may not actually be in attendance and don’t actually have a stall… Or a brewery beyond the one in their kitchen, is Emperor’s, who, off the back of making a series of tiny batches of ABSOLUTELY MAD BEER have found themselves doing collaborations with us, Castle Rock and, as of yesterday, Northern Monk. We’ll be bringing a pin or two of our collaboration “Leia Cake”, which is a 10.8% Imperial Stout brewed with honey, muscovado sugar, cocoa nibs and vanilla. Everyone else falls into the category of “Excellent Beer, Lovely People.”

You might be wondering why we’ve decided to host the event in Deal as opposed to Faversham, where the brewery is based. Solid question. The answer to that is multi faceted. Practically, trains are fairly regular and it’s easy to get there by train from most places in Kent and there’s a direct line from St. Pancras, the train station is also a very short walk away from the venue. There as quite an enjoyable luxury element to the venue in so much as it’s less than 5 minutes from a beautiful pebble beach and a gorgeous pier, which, at the height of summer, will be a most welcome distraction with any takeaway beers from the festival. One of the big factors, however, was that The Astor Community Theatre, the venue of the festival, was also the venue of my wedding, it’s where I stood nearly 3 years ago and married the love of my life. The sentimental value for the place is extremely high and when I floated the idea of doing a festival with them, they leapt at the idea. Ultimately, the choice was a no-brainer.

If the festival goes well then I plan to hold 2 next year, one in the winter and one in the summer. Maybe the winter one will be more focussed on new breweries, maybe I’ll do something different. We’ve got to get through this one first. That’s the plan though!

At the end of the day I just want a space, an event, where you, the public can come along and enjoy new beer and where brewers can attend and genuinely enjoy their time serving, chatting and getting to know the wonders of Kent.

Tickets can be found: HERE

Drew Harris.