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Top rock group Enter their own beer

Added: Monday, May 13th 2013

by Oliver Wolffe

St. Albans may be a small city, but its size does not diminish the rich history of music and beer that runs through many of its old streets. This past Thursday witnessed the convergence of the two, for the launch of Sssnakepit; a new craft-brewed collaboration between St. Albans’ world conquering and genre melding Enter Shikari, and the upcoming London-based beer fanatics of Signature Brew.

It’s not often that you get the chance to duck out of work at half three to attend a beer launch. Needless to say I hopped on to the Abbey Flyer at the earliest opportunity. My haste wasn’t quite required -- Enter Shikari inform me on my arrival that the brewers, along with the fresh batch of Sssnakepit, were still navigating out of North London. Fortunately our venue is the Boot and one can happily pass their time with Tring’s seasonal Revolution, a smooth and malty bitter.

It’s the perfect place for the occasion: a cosy pub nestled in the heart of St. Albans. Drummer Rob’s reaction to the turning weather says it all - -“Someone let me know if it starts raining so I can get my washing off the line!” This is one of their locals too. Tour manager and Rou’s dad Keith hasn’t been in the Boot in 25 years, but feels like he’s never left. The pub is a welcome constant in an ever-changing St. Albans, where the Bell’s turned into Jamie’s Italian, and the library’s now an O’Neills”

Soon enough the beer’s arrival is heralded, “Who wants a pint of Sssnakepit?” Rob is clearly enjoying the novelty of his own beer being freshly poured in his local boozer. 

Suitably, the seeds for this venture were sewn by chance meetings in drinking establishments, with the lads from Signature Brew mixing in similar circles as the band, as a result of their previous brewing projects with Frank Turner, Professor Green, and Dry the River. Singer Rou imparts that once the idea had been discussed, the band didn’t need too much persuasion. The prospect of a day sampling a variety of beers, resulting in the creation of your own, doesn’t require any sort of hard sell. Tom Bott from Signature Brew recounts the sampling of around 25 beers over eight hours, noting down their preferences and the fruits of their discussions. Enter Shikari have palates honed by many years of world-wide touring and they know what they like: Rob and Rou are more straight ahead with lagers, Rory is hoping to create something fruity and different, with Chris more fond of traditional ales. Although recollections at the end of this arduous tasting session are hazy, the notes were deciphered and transformed into the recipe. 

The product of this, Sssnakepit, is a bright and fizzy lager, influenced by the Pilsners ES tried, giving forth to an American hoppy edge and fruity notes. Both parties were hoping to create something that would accommodate the tastes of the band’s fans, but also give them exposure to some flavours they might not have previously encountered.

Thanks to their portable keg pouring machine, they have been able to offer both bottles and pints on the band’s recent UK tours. Though Tom Bott had some concerns about venue licensing restrictions, Enter Shikari were able to offer Sssnakepit at a wide variety of locations on the road from Plymouth to Aberdeen. In the case of venues tightly bound to serve only mass-produced offerings, the band and brewers were able to find nearby bars and clubs who were happy to put their creation on offer at after-parties.

Tom’s desire to start collaborating with musicians stems from this kind of restricted range of drinks sold by larger scale music venues, which he and brewing partner Sam McGregor found was the common complaint among frequent gig goers. Brought up in a brewing family, who run Titanic in Stoke, Tom set about using his experience to give artists a unique opportunity to complete their live experience with their own beer. The lads have now gone full time with Signature Brew, working with a few select breweries to produces batches on different scales as required. This can vary between Titanic, who have been involved with Sssnakepit, to more modest facilities in the upcoming Hackney brewing community, which Tom is clearly excited to be a part of. 

This adaptable approach echoes the resourcefulness of the band itself, and Tom cites their similar philosophies as one of the attractions to working with Enter Shikari. Since their inception in 2003 the band have always done things their own way, from putting on their own gigs and building a network of contacts, to eventually indepently releasing 2007’s Take to the Skies, reaching Number Four in the UK album charts. Throughout the past decade Enter Shikari have been committed to giving their fans an immersive live experience to get them hooked. The band and Signature Brew hope that Sssnakepit will give them another reason to come back.

As a result of Signature Brew’s growing profile, they are currently working behind the scenes on their very own cask ale, hoping that the recognition they have earnt will be of use in helping a newer generation to discover the joys of beer.

*Main image by Danny Loo of the Herts Advertiser. Left to right: Chris Batten, Rou Reynolds, Sam McGregor, Robert Rolfe, Tom Bott and Rory Clewlow. Image above shows Ollie Wolffe talking to the group in the Boot

Enter Shikari interview