There’s nothing so lonesome, so morbid or drear, than to stand in a bar, of a pub with no beer – yes, we know its a reference old as time itself. But lucky for us, when one of your suppliers brews round the corner you never have that problem. We sat down for a drink with Lynn Crossland and Mark Shepherd of Rock & Roll Brewhouse.
Q: Two people, this is a first! We’re going to have to double our drinks budget. What can I get you?
L: Apart from our own?! Rather than drinking from any one particular brewery we go more for style. Mark likes ‘Best Bitter’ styles and I’m either very pale or very dark beers.
Q: So rumour has it you’re both *whispers* not from Birmingham. How did you make it here?
M: Met a Polish girl from Birmingham in 1978, so moved here from Staffordshire.
L: I’m originally from Yorkshire. Partner got accepted on a teacher training course so moved here just for one year, then twenty-odd years later still here. Neither of us have any intention of leaving – Brum is such a brilliant place to live.
Q: Down to business: Rock & Roll Brewhouse. What’s the potted history of your humble beginnings to the present day?
M: Around seven years ago we started brewing for ourselves on the roof of The Lamp Tavern in Digbeth, after many years brewing for other people. Then moved to the Jewellery Quarter in February 2015 because we needed more space to meet demand and wanted to have our own brewery.
Q: A big part of what you do is centered around ethical choices. You’re a purely vegan brewery. Was that a conscious decision from the get go?
L: It was and will always be a conscious decision. We were the first brewery in Birmingham to go totally vegan. In the early days it was hard to persuade people that it didn’t mean weird things had been added to the beer, on the contrary it was exactly the opposite – only natural ingredients were in the beer. It’s got a lot better now with the rise in the popularity of veganism. We’re committed to always being a totally vegan brewery despite what fads or beer styles may come and go in the brewing world. It’s not just about not using Isinglass, you can’t use things like honey or lactose in the brew itself.
Q: On Frederick Street we’ve talked a lot about the burgeoning slow food movement in the city, playing host to some great events from Birmingham Slow Food. Do you pay into the slow food ethos?
M: Absolutely. We’ve actually done a talk for the group about ‘slow beer’ and have been asked to do it again. We take our time with our beers and let Mother Nature take her course to a natural conclusion, without artificially rushing her. She’ll tell us when the beer is ready. We also embrace the slow food tenets of sustainability and seasonality. For example all our fruit beers are made with fresh produce Lynn forages for in hedgerows and fields so they’re only ever available when the fruits are in season. Elderflowers in June, blackberries in autumn.
Q: Enjoying the image of Mother Nature twiddling her thumbs waiting for the end of a brew. You’ve been in the game for seven years now, you must have some good stories to tell.
L: Too many to mention – buy us a pint and we’ll tell you!
Q: This could be the most expensive round in ‘Schooner with…’ history! As always we must ask: Birmingham is a city of a thousand trades, but if you could pick one in a world without brewing, what would it be?
M: It would definitely be something to do with music, which is our other love alongside brewing. Maybe manufacturing vinyl records or live music promotion.
Q: What’s the future for Rock & Roll Brewhouse, is it next stop world domination?
L: The future? Well we’ve already bought some of our music festival tickets for next year! Seriously though, we’re not interested in world domination, that runs counter to the slow food movement doesn’t it?! We’re very happy where we are right now.
Our future plan is to stay in control of our product and maintain a sustainable business. To this end our main focus we’ve been working on is to eradicate all single use plastic in the brewery by the end of this year. We’d like to think we were about 90-95% there so far? Other than that it would be to upgrade our music system!
Lynn and Mark, this is why we love you. Check out the Twitter feed for Rock & Roll Brewhouse here, or drop into the bar to sample their wares.