hoppistdeliver a monthly box of beer for Londoners looking to discover the amazing beer brewed in & around the city. In our Meet the Brewer series, we take you behind the scenes to meet the people behind the beer
We caught up with Matt James from East India Brewing Co.
Who are you and what do you brew?
I’m Matt James, co-founder at the East India Brewing Co. We specialise in tea-infused beers, using the finest loose leaf teas to brew up something different.
Why tea? How did that happen?
I’ve always loved tea, even as a child, but got seriously into it after a friend brought back some aged Pu’erh from Hong Kong which we demolished in weeks. I kind of went on a tea bender after that, tracking down all sorts of unusual and rare teas from around the world. Then in late 2013 I was formally introduced to the hop! How it look me so long to bring my two love affairs together Lord only knows.
Where is your brewery?
We are a joint venture with the London Beer Lab in Brixton, under the arches on Nursery Road. Come by and visit the tap room (we have 14 lines and a large bottle shop).
How & when did EIBC get started?
I’d been making small batches of experimental beers with LBL for some time and enjoyed recreating great beers I’d tried with my own twist. One day I fancied ‘breakfast-in-a-bottle’ so created my first tea beer; tea ‘n’ toast, a malty pale ale flavoured with Earl Grey. I’m a qualified designer so I always like to come up with a brand and identity for any creation and the idea of the tea caravans and ocean going clippers bringing back new teas and spices from the East evokes the feeling I’ve tried to reflect in our packaging. Needless to say I havn’t looked back.
Which one of your beers should people try, and why? No pressure, but our favourite is the Lady Grey…
Personally, my favourite is our Lapsang Souchong; a smoky Vienna style larger. But there really is nothing like a cold pint of Jasmine Lager on a hot day (summers sorta here, right?).
How did you get into brewing?
Years ago my brother had turned his hand to home brewing some underwhelming bitters (from a kit) so the thought of making it myself hadn’t really ever crossed my mind. We were always sharing tasting notes on unusual beers and one day he sent me a link to a brewing workshop at the London Beer Lab. Our experience introduced us to an array of ingredients, techniques and ideas and showed us how brewing could, and should, be done. I’ve nagged LBL’s Bruno and Karl ever since (they’re now good friends) and nearly 4 years down the line we’re in business together.
What are your brewing influences?
Really it’s any good beer I drink. I have German heritage so I’ve drunk a lot of Bavarian wheat beers and traditional Munich and Vienna lagers over the years. I love the history of certain styles from Europe but also take a lot of inspiration from Craft Brewers in the US.
Where do you like to drink in London?
Anywhere new. But i have some old favourites like the Salisbury in Haringey, the Earl of Essex in Islington, and Look Mum No Hands when the suns out on the Southbank.
How do you go about developing a new beer?
I get really into a particular style of beer and start thinking about how I might improve it. That could be as simple as concentrating on speciality malts or experimenting with adjuncts. The LBL love combining established flavour pairings with beer (back to my Tea ‘n’ Toast) so nothing is sacred (Beetroot Porter?). My Mrs says I have ‘shiny bauble syndrome’ so usually exhaust any particular style before becoming fixated on something new, having hopefully created something tasty in the process.
What’s your favourite type of beer to drink and to brew?
I’m a fickle creature and fall in and out of love with all beer styles. That said my go to session beer is a dry hopped lager. But I love the Doubles and Imperials. Mmmmm.
What’s the best beer you’ve ever made?
Man alive, so many beers! A Centennial dry hopped Saison comes to mind, so does an Imperial American Red Ale, but our EIBC Lapsang Lager is right up there.
What’s the best beer (not your own!) you’ve ever tasted?
Hoppist, I love all of the beers, equally. No, recently Siren have been making some belters. Bourbon Milkshake and the scarcely found Single Barrel Maiden: Rum is up there with the very best I’ve ever tried. Buxton’s Single Barrel Rain Shadow (Bourbon), Beavertown’s Moose Fang (Armagnac Barrel Aged), La Debauche Cognac Barrel and the weaker beers; Ayinger Jahrhundert-Bier, Lagunitas DayTime Fractional IPA…this is making me thirsty.
What advice would you give to people just getting into craft beer?
There is literally something out there for everyone, even those who claim to hate beer (sacrilege!). Be adventurous, go through the styles and get an idea of what appeals to you. From then on its a pleasure boat ride through an ocean of flavour.
Have you ever completely screwed up a beer, either home brewing or commercially?
Ha ha. Who hasn’t? Early on I made a bespoke brew for my old MD. Meticulous attention went into developing a recipe to his palette and labelling designed with his face on it called ‘Dicky Ticker’ (a play on his name). However the brew must have become infected and having left a case on the window sill of our Executive Board Room they started exploding, covering everything in beer. Thankfully he didn’t have a weak heart.
What’s next for the brewery, and are you working on anything exciting right now?
We’re currently trying to expand our outlets and reach as big a market as possible, so drink up people! You may have gathered I’m partial to the stronger flavours/ABVs so I have an idea of making a Lapsang and Islay IPA but I’d love to barrel age a tea infused Barley Wine. Watch this space!
What do you think the next big beer style will be?
Lagers fell out of fashion but have been reborn recently. With giants like Camden flying the flag for a number of years already I’m surprised we haven’t seen more experimental lagers and with summer round the corner perhaps this is the year! But London has a very sophisticated palette so expect something completely avant-garde.
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