The Turning of the Tide
Illustrated cans, spontaneous beer and bugs in the atmosphere, Tom Ingoldby talks to the crafty beer geeks at the Time and Tide brewery in Deal
Where would we be without those who push the boundaries? No moon landing, no hip-hop, no smartphones. Living in a world where no-one has heard of Neil Armstrong, Kanye West or Steve Jobs is unthinkable.
Yet as Kanye knows more than anyone, you can never standstill. You need to be brave, bold and maybe a bit mad. And that’s what the lads at Time and Tide are all about. But rather than music, beer is their jam. Some of the stuff they’ve tried to push on the taste buds of their drinkers is, well...mad. Often it shouldn’t work (and very rarely it doesn’t) but most of the time the inventions are out-of-this-world good, and something that you’ll have never tried before.
Paul Campling and Sam Weller, founders of Time and Tide brewery, are certified beer nerds and their goal to make sure every beer they create is different and exciting. When I asked: “what goes into the beer?”, Paul starts a list that sounds more akin to a Harry Potter potion.
“Beetroot for those earthy tones, foraged seabuckthorn, hogweed, dulse, rose petals, cocoa, chilli, orange zest, tonka beans.”
And that’s before all the different coffee roasts.
“We use different types of coffee and specific roasts to do different jobs,” explains Sam. “Cold brew Kenyan for fruity top end notes in The Kraken (stout) and a heavier roasted Columbian for dark rich roasted flavours in Domino (a white stout – yeah there is such a thing).”
Clearly they are willing to give anything a try, as long as it is interesting and tastes great.
As a great man in a flat cap once said: “He who dares, wins, Rodney”.
These feats of derring-do has seen the Time and Tide beers spread beyond the gates of their brewery in Deal to take their spot among the best craft beers in Kent. Sprattwaffler (a good starter pale ale at 3.7%), All in Jim (my personal favourite) and Urban Goose are just some of the Time and Tide beers that have been on the scene since December 2013, when Paul and Sam decided over a pint (obviously) that they were going to make the beer that they wanted to drink.
“The epiphany for me was an IPA from Kernel,” Paul remembers. “It Was 6.5% or 7% and it had this massive flavour. It was like ‘Sh*t!’ From growing up in rugby clubs, where bitter and ales were the ‘proper’ beers to this. This is a whole different thing. It was like the scales had come away from the eyes, the vision had broadened out [sic] and I wanted to know what else was out there.”
Sam talks enthusiastically about his love for double IPAs, Paul loves his stouts. But the main thing is that they love to talk about beer. The pair reminisce for a while about a Spanish craft brewery that had brewed an imperial stout with chillies.
And that’s what Time and Tide is all about – inspiration.
But while the Kent-themed names and artwork that sets their brand apart, there is something very un-Kentish about the tastes. They use Citra, Mosaic and Equinox hops because “they are best for the beers that we are most interested in at the moment.”
Of course, they do look to Garden of England to provide other ingredients for their beers, such as foraged fruit, but there is something of a trans-Atlantic mash-up going on.
“Our big plan this year is to tap into those local to us,” Sam says. “Make some beers that are more accessible perhaps. Entry level beers, while still brewing the crazy sh*t; the top-end stuff. The craft beer scene in Kent is still pretty small, but it’s growing and we want to be part of it still. We want to help build it.”
One area the UK craft beer scene is outstripping the Yanks is on the labelling.
“It’s crap,” Sam whispers, as if he doesn’t want them to hear him. “There’s some genius beers in there, using all this crazy good sh*t and then they put these crap labels on the bottle.”
“But I suppose that’s quite cool in a way,” counters Sam. “You don’t get what you’re expecting.”
Branding has always been a major part of the craft beer scene. Brewers such as Beavertown, Yeastie Boys and Tiny Rebel all have distinctive looks, meaning both that they stand out on the shelf but also enticing people to want to be seen drinking those beers. Make something “cool” looking, and you’ll end up creating organic ambassadors who inadvertently spread the word about your beer.
“We haven’t really rebranded...more enhanced,” Sam explains. “What really stands out for us is the illustrations on the cans, the colour and the fact we wanted to move to labels. We think it really works.”
Thanks to the success of the beer (which can be found across East Kent and into London), Time and Tide now has its own brewery and are replicating the successful formula (to an extent) of the big players in the craft beer market by inviting drinkers to come and check out the brewing process, provide the feedback and have a drink. Craft beer fans are unashamedly nerdy about it. They want to know everything.
But it’s not just about those who are already into the craft beer scene. The pair emphasises the need for more customers in order for the Kent craft beer scene to stay vigorous, and for more breweries to open up.
“We need potential drinkers to have that amazing experience that we had when we tried a beer that was completely different,” says Sam. “That moment when you say to yourself ‘I’m not going to go back to drinking Stella’; when their experiences keep on being super positive and they keep on that path.”
“We don’t need everyone to love it though!” Paul says, laughing. “We need people to keep liking it so we can keep doing what we want to do. For us to keep improving.”
Kent has a healthy cask market, with plenty of outlets willing to push the boundary and test out new brews for their customers to try.
“You’ve got places like The Twelves Taps in Whitstable and Smuggler’s Records here [Deal] and they’re doing some great stuff. There’s pockets of people all around Kent that...get it, I suppose.”
And people love to talk about beer, with the brew gospel being preached by the craft converts more than ever before.
“You’re not going to rave about a pint of Fosters you had last night,” Paul jokes.
“You’re not like, ‘Talk me through that Stella. What were the hops doing?’”
The guys could talk and laugh about beer for hours, and I was regretting driving to meet them on Sunday morning over a coffee. This was a chat that should be in the pub, over some crazy-tasting double IPA, or perhaps even the Time & Tide team’s latest brainchild.
“One of our big things we want to do is make beers that are just open to the elements,“ says Paul. “So, just leaving it open to elements during the brewing process for these bugs and the atmosphere to have an impact on the taste.”
“Yeah!” says Sam. “Like the bugs in the wood of the barrels or just flying around.
“Spontaneous beer. It’s happening already but it’s going to get bigger.
“Where else can we go from here? It’s almost the peak of beer geek!”