Burnt Mill collab - part1

One thing that drew us to craft beer in the first place was the way that beer connects people in a way different to other industries, even within the world of alcohol. There is something about when people come together around beer, that results in strangers getting to know one another, connections being made over pints of various different styles, the beer being the icebreaker in conversations that can lead onto any and every topic that people choose.

This culture is every bit as prevalent in people working within the industry as it is in the customers and it is for this reason that breweries build connections, share ideas, and collaborate, viewing one another as friends and brothers-in-arms rather than competitors. These connections are often made at events, but just as often happen when brewers and others in the industry are traveling, swinging by one another’s breweries even while on holiday.

One such connection started over 3 and a half years ago when one of KBC’s founders, Ben, was visiting his father’s hometown in Suffolk, and swung by a few of the breweries in Suffolk, coming across Burnt Mill Brewery. Burnt Mill had made it onto Ben’s list having seen them come up as the UK’s best new brewery on Ratebeer.com, an award that we had won as Japan's Best New Brewery two years prior. As is often the case, it started with a short mail saying, “Hey, I’m from in and I’ll be in the area. Mind if I swing by and visit?” And was met with a response from CEO and founder Charles O’Reilly of “Thanks for the message. Of course, feel free to head over.”

Despite being a countryside English brewery in the middle of old-school real ale country, surrounded by a healthy traditional pub scene, Burnt Mill’s passions mirrored more with those across the Atlantic in America, with Charles professing his favourite beer to be the American West Coast IPA. And along with head brewer Sophie, Burnt Mill were doing a superb job with excellent examples of American Pale Ales and IPAs providing the backbone of their lineup. Their cans looked the part, too, using local imagery with their passion for fine design to create a product that looked every bit as good as it tasted.

As it happened, Charles has also had a long-term interest in Japan, right from before his life in craft beer when he used to work in merchandising in the retail industry, and so the visit ended with our exchanging emails and saying that someday we need to combine ideas to make a beer together.

Fast forward two and a half years and we were invited, along with Burnt Mill, to attend Mikkeller's Beer Celebration in Tokyo. A new father, Charles was unable to be there, but instead sent sales representative Sean over for the ride and to man the booth. Speaking to Sean, it turned out that Burnt Mill were interested in seeing their beer in Japan. This immediately seemed like a win-win-win opportunity and within a couple of hours we had introduced Sean to Albert from AQ Bevolution. We’d like to pretend that it was an act of pure kindness but, frankly, we more than anything wanted to see Burnt Mill’s beers arriving on the shelves at our favourite bottle shops and arriving in the high quality condition that AQ Bevolution is famed for.

Since then, with AQ’s promotion and the quality and consistency that Burnt Mill put out, they have gone from strength to strength, and we can now see them across the country, including here in Kyoto!

While mentions of a collaboration continued throughout corona, we eventually decided that if we wait for the chance to travel again we could still be waiting a very long time and so in the summer we recently moved forward in our conversations on creating collaboration beers. We decided to get on a number of Zoom calls to make a beer at our brewery as well as one at their brewery that would do something a little different to any of the beers either of us have created to date. Earlier this week, we were able to release our side of the collaboration, and recommend all those interested to keep an eye out for the beer made in their Suffolk brewery, pencilled to be arriving on Japanese shores in December through AQ Bevolution (pictured below).