JUST five years ago, Paul Delamere and George Grant were just a couple of students, gassing out their uni accommodation with the stench of home-brewed beer.
It was well worth it though; whilst their mates enjoyed the free drinks, the process would soon send them down the path that lead to the ever-growing popularity of their company Shindigger Beer.
The two friends have gone on to become an established brand around Manchester, with plans to take over the country – but they don’t take their beer too seriously, insisting it’s a supplement to “good times with good mates,” rather than taking the sniffy attitude that some might associate with craft beers.
“When we were at Uni, the beer selection around Fallowfield was limited, most bars had a Carling, a Fosters,” Ben explains.
“You could go somewhere like the Friendship and get a more traditional British beer, but what we wanted was American beers – much bolder, much fruitier. Tropical, citrus flavours – that’s from the hops.”
The pair began brewing American style beers with a homebrew kit. They handed them out to their friends and received astonished reactions.
“‘I didn’t know beer could taste like that,’ was something we got. So we started selling it to our friends, then at house parties – and we weren’t really thinking, just doing it because it was the right thing to do.”
Yet it quickly developed past a hobby. As soon as the pair left Uni, they decided to “give it a go,” as a side project – and eventually became full time.
In the three years that followed, craft beer became a cultural phenomenon. With companies like Brew Dog creating a huge market for more specialist beers, Paul explains that the company was becoming prominent “just as people were taking an interest in beer again.”
“If we’d have gone down this route without the craft beer boom, it’s hard to say what would have happened. The time we did start, there was a need for a modernisation of the beer scene here, it just so happened that at the same time we started, everybody else did as well!”
Session IPA, the company’s ‘signature’ beer has a fruity, carbonated taste to it – that taste didn’t come easily, however, as George explains.
“It’s very much a trial and error. First time we started brewing, the beers weren’t that good! We actually poured them down the drain. The more you do, the more you learn,” he says.
“Beer’s actually very simple – there’s only four ingredients. Yeast, barely, hops and water. Once you start understanding those ingredients, you understand how they interact, you’re building your knowledge all the time.”
Shindigger specialises in low ABV beers designed to be drunk over a longer period, otherwise known as Session Beers. This is due to their ethos as a company:
“For us, beer is all about having a good time with your friends. Is it beer garden drinkable, is it refreshing? Is it a beer you can sip on? If it hits that, sitting around with your friends thinking – this is a great beer! We’re not there to talk about the beer, to dissect it or anything like that.”
“The hops we use are mainly from America, the reason we use those hops is the slightly warmer climate makes them more tropical, which we like in the beer.”
The company has now released 10 different beers, with plans to expand further in the near future.
“Each beer almost stands on the shoulders of the ones that came before, so now we have the ability to say; we want a beer that tastes like this.”
Outside of the beer, Paul and George are focused on giving back to the community and encouraging excitement with events like their Shindigger Sessions.
The next event, set to take place this coming Saturday, will be a party hosted in Manchester’s alternative heaven, Antwerp Mansion.
“We want to be a platform to showcase local talent. We’ve teamed up with Reform Radio, a radio station based in Old Granada Studios. They’ve curated a lineup of DJs; we’ve got a local illustrator in to do the art; local streetfood traders, local art installation. The ingredients aren’t always local, but the brand is.”
Paul goes on to explain how he feels like Shindigger is becoming a big part of Manchester beer culture:
“We’re all in this community together, we count ourselves as a creative company. We’re making beers, other people are making music, it’s a similar environment. We all come together and celebrate Manchester culture”
“There’s nothing better than if we do the whole event ourselves and really own the whole experience, so we can create the perfect environment.”
“We’re trying to push the boundaries of what a brewery can be. We test our recipes here through our pilot kit, the beer is brewed elsewhere through shadow-brewing, which frees us up to focus on things other breweries aren’t focusing on, like incorporating events into our business -it’s more about the experience really.”
Check the full interview below on SoundCloud for more information about ShinDigger’s plans for the future.