So we’ll be honest…
…When the winner of the Underdog IPA Competition was announced as the never heard of before brewery Tiny Vessel, we were keen to find out a bit more about them quite quickly. This competition is a big investment for us and it was quite clear that these guys were barely even set up yet. The Underdog competition is designed to search out the best brewers working in the industry with the skill and ability to create the best possible flavour from almost any ingredient. Tiny Vessel had managed to brew a really good beer which beat stiff competition from around Europe, so they obviously had something good going on. It’s just that with a website “under construction” and the names involved not ringing any bells, we were just quite keen to find out exactly what it was.
So on a grey January morning we braved the black-hole for the soul that is the M25 and made our way to a small island in the middle of the River Thames, fingers crossed and positive smiles stuck to our faces. We are met in the car park by the two guys involved and for the next two hours we learn just how lucky we might have been.
Ivailo (Ivo) Penev and Neal (NellyD) Durrant are very different people. The former is a hard-working, self-made and quiet spoken Bulgarian with a love for the big American beers. As far as we can tell he’s the risk-taker, already working on other unusual projects such as Rose Brew (www.rosebrew.com). The latter, an ex banker who like many in our industry said goodbye to the daily grind to do something he is passionate about. It seems he’s the pragmatist from a more traditional brewing background, developing his love of beer in the 80s when CAMRA were making waves and more recently taking an interest in the resurgent UK brewing scene.
Together they are Tiny Vessel. A project led by Ivo and his push to experiment with flavour wherever he can and supported by Neal, helping to develop the recipes and ensure that the quality is there. It seems then, that they are in almost perfect alignment with the Underdog ideology. No wonder their first brew, the English IPA brewed with coriander seed “Summit Else” has punched so far above its weight.
As we sit and chat with them in their fledgling brewery our concerns begin to melt away. They speak of collaboration and experimentation rather than the challenges of starting a new brewery. They are excited about all the possibilities of being involved in some of Europe’s best craft beer festivals. Most importantly for us though is their clear desire to learn through experimentation and trial. They know that they are still at an early stage for their business and they will very likely make some dodgy beers in their quest for the good stuff. As true underdogs though, they are not afraid to try and we’re looking forward to backing them all the way. It might not be perfect... yet. It looks like it will be fun though.