I believe we haven’t experienced the “craft beer boom” here in the UK yet. It’s teetering on the edge of revolution - but it hasn’t quite made that brave final step. Here’s hoping 2022 is the year that changes it all, but I won’t bank on it - we might need another couple of years to continue our work on converting the lager louts and the “beer” drinkers who think Fosters is the next best thing since garlic bread. 2025 has a nice ring to it - but then again, I did say 2020 would be a good year to get hitched.
While I patiently wait for such time, an onslaught of new and innovative breweries continue to pop up all over the British Isles at a serious rate of knots - keeping my intuition looking accurate and me as a human fully satisfied. It’s quite astonishing to think that a lot of us millennials were introduced to craft beer via the medium of Beavertown. They didn’t even really have to challenge for the throne - It was vacant in the 2010’s and they set up camp with complete and utter ease. Right now it’s a different story. A vast, rich landscape and horizon (and everything in between) of delight and excitement. The now Heineken owned Beavertown is very much a bittersweet memory. But that’s what happens when you sell your soul to the devil.
To the people who think that craft beer will be a mere flash in the pan - please open your eyes, your lids need some exercise. In 2015 the craft beer industry in the UK became a billion dollar business model and market. It sounds more impressive in US Dollars, but please feel free to convert it and crunch the numbers - it’s just as tantalising in pounds sterling.
Selecting my hot pick for 2022 wasn’t an easy job, it’s almost cruel to choose one brewery. I don’t think anyone possesses enough futuresight to keep tabs on all the magic popping out the hat, but I do try my best to keep my ear to the ground for anything shiny and new. With some extensive research and a little bit of faith - I believe my brewing gladiator this year has the conviction and tenacity to make some waves, hopefully tidal, from here on out. What I love and crave above all else in life is a true tale of lion heartedness, and I think Adam Henderson the sole founder of Azvex Brewing Co. has scripted the start of something very special.
Officially set up in the summer of 2020 - the brand and philosophy screams luxury, it boasts high intellect and practical know-how (which he’s not afraid to share as you will find out), and it absolutely stinks of immediate success. I could leave it there - but I won’t.
Just a small FYI - Adam co-founded Neon Raptor, an extremely likeable and fun craft house based in Nottingham which create, in my opinion - top shelf brews. I hold Neon Raptor in very high regard and I think most craft drinkers in this country do too. Without dwelling on the past too much - I smell another blog post - Adam made a swift exit from Neon Raptor after five-ish years and began his plans to conduct a full restart with new craft-child Azvex Brewing Co. Scouting out a space on a scouse industrial estate called King Edward Triangle, which was in dire need for an injection of life, love and laughter. Adam’s new neighbours include a cake shop and a European tiling company - all born out of Covid may I add - how fancy! Most importantly Azvex are directly opposite Carnival Brewing Co. established in 2017 - I can already taste the collabs coming off the elevator.
The name Azvex is a curious fish - without any prior knowledge about this venture, I was convinced the Russians had hopped off their subs to infiltrate the UK market. To my surprise, this is a name selection shy of any vanities and christened for entirely practical reasons. Adam chose Azvex to avoid any kind of legal entanglement. It has no hidden personal meaning and was selected by Adam (and an IP lawyer!), to prevent him from receiving any nasty cease and desist letters in the post - something he had already experienced in a previous venture. Predominantly it was chosen because it allows his brewery to be found - it can’t be mistaken for anything else and it’s easily accessible without any doubts.
With a stern stance with the legalities concerning the name, ironically it’s the logo which has caused a storm in a teacup. A small hiccup, and no legal advances as of yet, comes in the form of Geordie brewery Alpha Delta. The Newcastle brewery claim that the Azvex logo is a complete rip of theirs and proceeded to focus all of their frustrations into a beer release called Xevza (read it backwards). A hazy fresh hopped pale with the tagline - “If you can’t beat them”. I can’t help thinking that Adam should have got that IP lawyer to mull over the branding too. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get too Colin the Caterpillar up in the North.
Azvex beers, in can and on tap, are super distinctive from first glance and their names are playful yet inquisitive - Seagull King being a personal favourite. I haven’t sampled as much as I would like from Azvex thus far, but sometimes you don’t need to tamper with the natural increase of supply which I’m sure to encounter over time. What I can say is the liquid I have slung down my throat so far has been gold. A special shout out must be declared for Vantablack Creatures which officially knocked Crunchier by Hammerton off the top spot for my favourite Peanut Butter Stout since my beginning of time.
Adam also features a fascinating blog on the website which has detailed his journey with Azvex step by step. With a huge focus pull on the technical side of setting up a brewery, procuring equipment and how much it’s going to cost you, the installation of said equipment and heating, floor plans as in the blueprint kind, even a floor plan for the floor plan of the brewery floor! Just a bunch of in-depth posts which will get the more technical minded’s juices going. Gestures like this are exactly why I wanted to be a part of this industry. A rare club where most are generous with sharing information, experiences and mistakes - just simply passionate about making craft beer a thing.
Playing the middleman, from brewery to consumer, with Craftline - I will say Azvex brews are more on the expensive side, but who am I to judge or complain when Adam believes they are worth the price tag. My better judgement tells me greed is not involved here.
With all of that digested I’d like to refer back to that lionhearted tale I was talking about. It takes a brave man (with some seriously big kahunas!) to walk away from a well established and popular brewery to literally start all over again. To make such a bold decision, which came down to morals and happiness from what I read, is admirable on another level. Well done Adam.
I’ve always viewed Manchester as the UK capital of craft beer in quality and quantity. With breweries like Cloudwater, Track and Wander Beyond who are hard to beat on an average day - there isn’t really an argument. As a collective area - Manchester rules the roost. Along with my brewery to watch in 2022 - I also quite fancy the ‘Pool giving the Mancs a run for their money to become the next crafty hot spot for the future. Love Lane, Black Lodge and Carnival will most certainly back me up.
And to Azvex - I hope I can add you to that list very soon. Prove me right so I can read this back in a few years time with a smile. ☺️