There is already a common theme running through this fledgling series of Meet The Brewer blog posts; that people in the independent drinks industry are pretty damn marvellous. This entry is about two more of those people, Emma & Olly from Merakai brewing, who, once again, are two of the nicest, warmest, most open and friendly people you could possibly hope to know.
But first of all, Merakai who? Yes, it would be fair to state that they are not yet listed among the pantheon of well known, all-star indie brewers like Verdant, Cloudwater and Deya, but take it from us, they stand every possibility of getting there, because (most importantly) the beer is absolutely top notch, but also the branding is fantastically eye-catching, they have a well-balanced set of skills and experiences, a desire and drive to get their beer message out and, as they are such nice folk, people will be falling over themselves to deal with them (we certainly are). In short, they seem to be doing everything right at the moment.
Merakai are one of those breweries that we have managed to pick up on very early in their journey (I say we, the credit, as usual, belongs to Hayley for spotting them). This is something we love to do, we see ourselves as trailblazers, certainly within the local market, and finding the new and upcoming is very much one of our key motivators. Yes, we absolutely adore selling the classics of world and UK independent brewing, but we do get a real buzz from both introducing a new brewery to you, and being a part of their journey, helping that brewery grow and get out there into peoples glasses. We mean it when we say early too, the first beer we took from them, ‘I’m Your Biggest Fan’ hit our shelves in January, just a few months after the brewery launched, back in November last year. That’s right, they launched a brewery right slap bang in the middle of a global pandemic and lockdown, with most licensed premises closed or restricted. Poor timing perhaps, but timing that they acknowledge, as we have mentioned before, presented opportunity as well.
The business is located in Worthing in Sussex, although currently operates as a cuckoo brewer, borrowing other companies space and kit whilst they search for a permanent home in which to base their own brew kit (which they already own – that must be frustrating). We caught up with founders (and 100% of the team currently) Emma and Olly, to chat about their journey and what drove them to open a brewery at such a ridiculous point in time.
Olly humbly describes himself as simply the brewer, managing the brewing side from recipe conception to final creation. For him, it was that well-trodden path of home-brewer to commercial brewer that was his starting point. He explains;
“My brother in law started home brewing, and I tried it and really enjoyed the process and the craft of craft beer. There was a tipping point where I didn’t enjoy my 9 to 5 job and wondered if I could do brewing as a full time job. I reached out to local breweries in the area and Arundel offered me work experience, and shortly after I was taken on full time.”
Emma, who conversely expresses herself as doing “everything but brewing”, managing sales, marketing, finance and anything related to admin, elaborates;
“Starting Merakai Brewing Co. seems like it was an overnight decision, it actually took 10 years to get to this point. It stemmed from an idea after having had a few drinks at a beer festival and being idealistic about the world. Fast forward to August 2020, where I was at risk of not having a job and we just decided to go for it – we’d sold our property the year before with the view that we’d start our brewery soon. How soon that would have been had the pandemic not have happened who knows. We’re here now, and we’re really excited about what the future brings for us.”
Of course, being a business in 2020 has presented a huge amount of challenges, let alone for a start-up, especially one reliant on the hospitality industry. But the Merakai team are a optimistic bunch and see the timings as having presented opportunities, as Emma outlines;
“ We are incredibly lucky that we were just starting out in a way. The community and bottle shops have been extremely supportive of our beer and what we’re about. We’re really looking forward to selling into more pubs, as I would love to go to a town and walk into pubs and see our beers on tap.”
Positivity is in fact a big part of what drives the pair. Both have very definite and strong views on how the business should operate and what it should do for society and discussing this aspect of their business seems as exciting for them as talking about beer. Emma explains;
“Our ethos is centred around our core pillars: Community, Equality and Taste, these are the foundations of our business. We believe that craft beer is for everyone and that sentiment embodies all that we do. We want to try and bring about change in our own way and use our platform to support people, groups and initiatives that need it. At the moment we are fundraising for our local mental health charity West Sussex Mind and we have a month long programme of talks on mental health, activities like free yoga and delicious recipes to try as well as a virtual pub club so people can get involved if they’re feeling a bit alone or fed up.”
For those of you who are long term readers of my ramblings on this blog, you will recognise just how many shared ethics and beliefs about the world of beer that Merakai share with us at The Tuppenny, which added to the quality of the beer, means we are going to be as supportive of them as we possibly can. If you want to help us with this (and do yourself a massive favour at the same time) grab some of the beers we currently have from them.
At time of writing, we have two new arrivals from them, led by big, bold 6% New England Pale ‘We’re Connected Aren’t We’. This beer is so named because, having launched during the pandemic, all the guys have known up to now really is the digital connections they have made with people, so it’s a commentary on all of the connections in our lives from friendships new to those we have lost or no longer speak to and how every single one of those connections holds meaning. In terms of taste, tropical, blueberry and gooseberry flavours give this NEIPA a juicy character combined with oats and wheat to offer a creamy soft texture. It is superb.
The other beer we have at the moment from them is a perfect-for-sunshine-and-gardens helles lager, ‘How’s Your Head Hun?’ Balanced, dry and refreshing, this, their debut lager, uses Pearl and Callista hops to give a modern twist on a classic German style. This beer is a talking point and they hope is a bit of a reminder to check in with yourself, your friends and family. This beer is also part of a drive to raise funds and awareness for the local branch of the mental health charity Mind – very much like we do with the monthly music quiz.
Looking forwards then, what does the future hold for Merakai? Turns out their hopes are fairly simple, with Olly merely dreaming that when the world opens up they can get themselves out there. He clarified;
“We’re looking forward to meeting new people and our peers at beer festivals. Just sitting in a pub with friends and having a pint or having friends over and enjoying beers at home is a luxury that we all took for granted and we can’t wait until the time comes where we can safely do it again.”
“I second that, we’ve had so much support from people that we’ve never met so it would be great to meet them face to face.”
Funnily enough, here they align with us once again. – we can’t wait to meet them face to face either. I am also sure Cooper, the Tupps resident wire-haired dachshund would enjoy a play with his two compatriots at Merakai…
For more on Merakai visit their website here.
To order the beers above from us, go to our webshop here.