Sydenham Brewery: Tapping into local talent

The sustainable Sydenham brewery

This week, South East London Blog caught up with Sydenham social enterprise entrepreneur and Ignition Brewery director Will Evans, Claire Foster

“When you ask someone with learning difficulties what they really want, they usually say a job and a relationship. Not just a job, they want a cool job. A company they feel proud to be part of, a team and a product they are engaged with and genuinely contribute to.”

It was 2015 when Will started his research. He wanted to produce a good beer using clean and simple methods and create engaging jobs for people with learning difficulties. Will’s background was firmly in social start-ups and purposeful business. Ignition’s other director, Nick, grew up in Lewisham and the pair set up in Sydenham in 2017.

In 2018, the tap room opened. With huge windows looking onto Sydenham high street the venue sells beer made just six metres away, but is also still used by the community.

“We are a sustainable business first and foremost” explains Will. “Our core purpose is to provide meaningful employment but we also produce the freshest beer, unpasteurised and using only English ingredients.”

“Our beer doesn’t travel far. Even in lockdown we remained hyperlocal for deliveries and take-aways. We produce locally, we know our locals, and what we are doing is valued by wider society. The community sustains our business.”

Will and Nick have been innovative when it comes to recruitment too. Applicants need not worry about what is on their CV. At Ignition, they test what really matters to work in a brewery and tap room. Can you pull a pint? Can you carry a keg of beer? They hire for aptitude and offer trial shifts to potential candidates.

“In 2015 social breweries didn’t exist. We did have some negative feedback in the beginning but the brewing industry has been so supportive. We’ve been well managed from the start, we own our equipment and put the wellbeing of the team first.

“We had to close down the tap room during lockdown, but we engaged with the local community, from live brass brands to holding poetry competitions.

“In the 90s, the trend was international – the further something travelled the better. Over the years, consumers have been shopping local and the pandemic accelerated this shift. Small changes in perception can make a big impact and we are looking to replicate our model elsewhere.”

We asked Will his favourite #SELondon spots

“I have to say Nunhead Village, where I live, and St Mary’s park. The community and local events are superb.”

Visit Ignition at  The Sydenham Centre, 44a Sydenham High Street, SE26 5QF

Currently available for take-away Thursday 5 – 9, Friday 5 – 10, and Saturday 2 – 10pm

Follow @ignitionbeer for updates.

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