Meet Sam McGregor and Tom Bott, co-founders of Signature Brew
MEET THE MAKERS | 27.08.2020
At Dickies we recognise the art of work, so we created our Meet The Makers series to give an insight into the individuals who’s spirit of creativity takes the common idea of work to explore the passion and drive behind it.
For our latest featured Independent Makers film we visited Sam and Tom the two minds behind Signature Brew, a striking brewery come live music venue in Blackhorse Lane, East London. We caught up with them for a tour round their space and they walked us through the process of brewing beer from start to finish and had a chat with them about the taste of things to come.
I didn't know that much about beer at the time other than being super passionate about it, but it was enough to get a recipe and a concept together and it's just kind of spiralled from there.
My name is Sam McGregor, I'm one of the founders of Signature Brew, we are a brewery that’s focused on making beers with musicians. I used to be in a touring band but I decided to get a proper job… so I started working in music marketing, selling stuff direct from bands to their fans. That's where I came up with some rough ideas to create beers with bands.
Hi, I'm Tom, co-founder of Signature Brew and the more beer-y half of the collaboration that runs the brewery. I was born into a brewing family in the Midlands. We had a medium sized microbrewery which focused entirely on brewing good beer and creating great experiences for that beer to be enjoyed. Those are the two values that we've tried to carry through Signature Brew.
We didn't have a brewery. All we wanted to do was make some beers with bands and sell them at gigs, so that funds go directly to them and that's what we did.
SM: Beer is quite a good leveller, we're just into beer and that's a good platform to talk to people on. We made a beer with "Slaves", and they designed the label which had a photo of someone being sick on it. Not something you traditionally put onto the front cover of a beer, but it was really exciting to put out there and see the reaction and how it went down. We actually launched the beer with them at Great Escape Festival on the pier. So, they played on the pier and the pier nearly got shut down. There was really bad wind and it was raining but there were loads of people holding our beers. I think that music goes with beer. It just makes total sense. Some of the beers we've done just wouldn't have been made without working with those bands.
I've always been a massive beer fan, I was into the first American beers that started coming over here when I was in my early twenties; Sierra Nevada, Flying Dog, breweries like that.
TB: I mean, since day one, collaboration has been at the core of our movement. It was the whole project and it still feeds the creativity here. The brewing industry as a whole is collaborative, we're collaborative in the sense that we work with bands, musicians, other breweries to keep learning, keep developing and keep creating more exciting beers. The craft brewing sector is hugely collaborative and friendly, and there's a constant sharing of ideas to make sure that we're all making beer that is exciting and of a quality that, that keeps the drinkers coming back for more.
We've created beers with Idols, Mogwai, Frank Turner…and some of these guys have become our friends, which has been amazing.
TB: I think the most exciting part about being a brewer is having that tangible product, which you can see enjoyed. It's tangible from start to finish. So you can take beautiful raw ingredients that have been farmed and produced with care and then you look after them from start to finish at the brewery, and so many different processes go on, so much time and care has been taken over that product to make something that tastes exciting, interesting, different and refreshing. The adjectives could go on forever. When you see someone take that first sip and do a modest nod of approval, that's enough, that's exciting. That's why we spent months developing that beer. That's why we spent years developing the brewery so that we've got technology at our disposal that can make incredible beers time and again.
We did lots of different collaborations with bands until we realised, we needed to make our own beers that weren't collaborations. So, we created our own range which included Backstage IPA, Roadie & Studio Lager and went from there.
TB: We try and push the boundaries while still straddling two worlds. We collaborate with a variety of different artists and we've have done over the last 10 years. We've worked with countless amazing musicians from all over the world who produce music from practically every genre, and with that comes a real interesting approach to beer, and actually an obsession that’s surprising sometimes when you consider their busy schedules. They really get into it. They care about the end product. And if it's a case of getting their hands dirty in the brewery, or producing a label for the can, they really buy into the projects. I think it kind of links to the music and it's creative. Both mediums are creative, and they just feed one another. And we've got some great results from working with some amazing bands.
It’s in our hearts and it's at the core of everything we try to develop. Through Signature Brew and the music link, it's given us an exciting medium to bring great brewing techniques and great quality beer to new audiences.
TB: We’ve got an amazingly knowledgeable and dedicated brewing team here who it’s a pleasure to work with on a daily basis. We will only accept the very best ingredients from all over the world to produce our beer. We use the most cutting-edge technology to produce that beer. Right from the start, when we use the reverse osmosis machine to purify our water so we can replicate the water from Colorado or Czech Republic depending on the beer we're producing all the way through to the packaging lines, which are as good as they get. We only pack it into cans because we send so much of our beer to music venues. Glass bottles don't work so well in music venues, especially if you're a front man. We keep striving to make sure we bring the best possible beer.
I'm biased but I think I've got the best job in the world. We get to make an incredible product, then at the end of the week we put away the brewing equipment, convert the space into a venue and have some amazing live shows.
TB: We've been growing, working hard and striving to develop as a brewery over the last 10 years, but it's culminated in us moving to this site last summer. Now, the foundation has been laid to really do what we do on a greater scale. Spend more time being creative, developing recipes and working with more bands on a more regular basis. We have the foundations to go even further to marry up our two loves, so we can bring beer and music together here at the brewery in one of the most unique and exciting ways in the world, I think. We can have amazing bands play in the dedicated music space we have that is surrounded by the vessels downstairs. I don't think there's a better, more authentic beer music experience going.