What inspired Duncan Sambrook to give up the security of his Deloitte accountancy job for the dream of brewing beer? Back in 2006 when the idea seed was planted there was barely a brewery left in London, something Duncan wanted to, and did, eventually in change. In 2008 Sambrook’s Brewery was born and have gone from strength to strength since. Here at the SLB we’re proud to be able to sip on a nice cold pint in the knowledge that it was brewed just along the river. We caught up with Duncan to get a bit more of the inside scope…
1.Are you, like your beer, a South Londoner?
Originally from Salisbury in Wiltshire but all of my working life in London, first in East London now in West London (Fulham). South London attracted me because of its brewing heritage. In 2008 there were only a handful of breweries left in London. What we wanted to do was to found a brewery to revive the rich brewing heritage of London and part of that was to find a location which connected to brewing. The borough of Wandsworth was ideal in that respect.
2.Having read your story it seems like a huge risk going from Deloitte employer to beer brewer, how much did the support of David Welsh (Ringwood Brewery) help to lower that risk, whether in reality or for your own minds sake?
David was a great person to have on board and I have learnt huge amounts from him, but in terms of risk, I think that I was going to do this regardless of David’s involvement. I had always been passionate about setting up my own business and I married that passion with another passion for beer. It took me two years to get the venture together 2006-2008 but over that time I became more and more convinced that this was what I wanted to do and that I had the energy and enthusiasm to make it work
3.Sambrooks seems to be doing really well, being loved by Londoners, were there any times where you felt unsure it would succeed and perhaps doubted you’d made the right choice?
When the credit crunch hit 2 weeks after we took on our lease of the premises I was a bit worried. Everywhere in the press was doom and gloom and I thought this must be the worst time to set up a new business. But once you get into the business of brewing and selling it really was all encompassing (and still is!) so you don’t have time to worry about how things are going to pan out, just put your head down and do the best you can.
4.We’ve unfortunately seen the closure of many pubs in recent years, do you think the government should do more to stop this?
I think that they are beginning to recognise the plight of the great British pub hence the beer duty reductions for 2 years in a row. Unfortunately, consumer habits are changing and despite all the press stories which say otherwise beer consumption is falling in the UK as people increasingly live healthier lifestyles. Where the government can help is to encourage a more level playing field between pubs and supermarkets and recognise that the safest place to consume alcohol is the pub.
5.Do you have a favourite pub in London, perhaps somewhere you were most excited about when they started serving your beer?
Too many, but my top five have to be the Drafthouse on Westbridge Road (first pub to serve my beer), Harp in Covent Garden, Olde Mitre off Hatton Gardens, Hand in Hand in Wimbledon and the Railway in Streatham
6.Finally, what’s next for Sambrooks? Do you have any plans to open a pub of your own?
No pubs on the horizon yet. I would not say never but we are busy brewing beer and when I told my wife I was setting up a brewery she only gave me two rules – no beer belly and no pubs! Export is probably where we want to develop more, there is a huge market for British beer and it would be great to be part of the global beer revolution that is happening now as well as the revolution of London beer scene!