WHEN the money for church youth projects began to dry up, two parishioners turned to liquid assets, setting up a micro-brewery in the crypt of St Mary’s, Primrose Hill, in north London.
Trading under the slogan Faith, Hops and Charity, each week they produce up to 300 bottles of tipples such as Holy Smoke, Crypt, and St Arnold — the patron saint of brewers. The beer goes to homes, shops, and a weekly farmers’ market near the church.
RODDY MONROERoddy Monroe in the micro-brewery in the crypt
Now, as the Covid lockdown begins to ease, there are plans to expand their production line to supply neighbouring pubs in bulk.
The brewery was the idea of one of the churchwarden’s at St Mary’s, Roddy Monroe, and his predecessor, Stephen Reynolds, when they were looking for solutions to the financial crisis that threatened the church’s work in keeping young people away from gang culture.
“We looked at a number of business models, including making cheese,” Mr Monroe said, “but we both enjoy beer.” They now have 15 recipes, including a Belgian Abbeye Tripel named after Percy Dearmer, the Vicar of St Mary’s from 1901 to 1915, and author of The Parson’s Handbook, and, with Ralph Vaughan Williams, an editor of The English Hymnal.
Both the current Vicar, Prebendary Marjorie Brown, and the Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Revd Rob Wickham, backed the idea. “They insisted on two conditions,” Mr Monroe said. “Firstly, the Bishop gets the first pint, and, secondly, we also make non-alcoholic drinks.”
“It’s going great,” Prebendary Brown said. “It’s a really good bit of advertising for the church, and other churches are showing interest. I really enjoy the product, particularly Holy Smoke.”
The brewery has three aims: great beer, building a thriving community, and supporting the church’s youth work. “I am a great fan of getting people into the church,” Mr Monroe said, “showing them what a wonderful place it is, and what they can get out of Christianity and the church community.
“I organise a number of events though the year in the church, including beer tastings, and that attracts a lot of people, which helps reduces the friction if they want to come to a service.
“With hard work, the brewery will grow. Our hope is to fill kegs for the pub trade and grow the sales to local shops and restaurants. We have the capacity to expand, and we could use spare capacity in larger breweries.
“I like the idea of churches’ trying to make themselves relevant. They aren’t going to survive if they just operate on Sundays: they have got to be much more connected with the community if they are going to survive, and this is one way they can do that.”