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The Start-Up

Beavertown’s frontman on the thrill of pubs reopening

Logan Plant speaks to Andy Martin about swapping rock for craft beer, drinkers’ poetry and his ‘love affair’ with boozers

Plant began homebrewing in 2010 after a craft beer ‘epiphany’
(Beavertown)

Logan Plant hit the road with a rock star career in mind, following in the footsteps of his father, Robert Plant, formerly frontman of Led Zeppelin. But he found more takers for his beer than his music. So he quit the Black Country Bandits in favour of Beavertown. “Creating a new beer is like writing a song. You start with a blank sheet of paper and a dream. I guess I became the frontman for a brewery.”

There is a long tradition of pub-going in his family. His great grandad had a fatal heart attack down the pub, pint in hand. “It was the Dudley Port Tavern. He loved his beer and that was his local, so I reckon he died while enjoying one of his favourite pastimes.” Logan Plant was born in Bromsgrove and brought up in Stourbridge. “The West Midlands has so many good pubs. It’s the land of the pub,” he says. “At the end of the day we’d all go down the pub to laugh or cry. You live and die in the pub.”

He harks back fondly to Bathams Brewery in the Black Country. Having consumed a fair bit of their product, at the age of 20 he had a vision that one day he would open a brewery. But he was a keen footballer, got distracted by sports science at university, and is still a “massive fan” of Wolverhampton Wanderers. After graduating he set out with his best friend James and a guitar to go busking around New Zealand. Over the next eight years their brand of psychedelic rock took them right around the world. “We never signed with a label,” says Plant, “but it solidified my love affair with beer”.

That moment when people have their first taste will be momentous. It’ll be like landing on the moon. In the future people will want to know, where were you when they reopened?

The turning point was New York. Plant was then aged 30. He was doing a gig at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn and found himself drinking a great American beer. “Back then their craft beer was way ahead of us.” Contrary to the myth that it’s nothing but Bud Light and Coors, “It was supercharged with amazing ingredients. They had all sorts of different styles.”

Plant had what he calls an “epiphany”. He points out that he was perfectly sober at the time. “I couldn’t drink while I was singing. I had to be clear-headed. Maybe a few after.” He left a week later and started homebrewing in November 2010. He’s known his wife Bridget since the age of 4 and they’ve been together since the age of 15. “I’m very lucky,” he says. “Hopefully she thinks she’s lucky too.” They agreed to go into beer-making together. Plant bought loads of books about brewing and some cheap DIY brewing kit. “I took over the kitchen,” Plant says. “She was a bit annoyed about it. I was in there for about a year.”

By the spring of 2012 they had cooked up a batch of 800 litres of an American-style brew and called it Beavertown after De Beauvoir Town in east London, where they opened Duke’s Brew & Que in 2012. Plant had been impressed by Fette Sau in Brooklyn, which offered BBQ meats and beer. “No one was doing anything like that in England. It was fairly caveman. People were walking around with great bones in their hands.”

Duke’s had to close, says Plant, because “De Beauvoir town became too cool and expensive. It’s a shame.” Meanwhile Beavertown went from strength to strength. They moved out of the kitchen and into a plant at Hackney Wick in 2013, then to Tottenham Hale in 2014. This year they are opening another brewery in Enfield.

Beavertown brewed 22 million pints last year (Beavertown)

He can’t wait for the pubs to reopen. “They’re everything to me. The last three months it’s been like you’re living in a desert.” Plant reckons that the real problem with the opening of the pubs will be the queuing outside. With this in mind he commissioned the performance poet Tim Key to write a poem which, at various pubs around London, you will find inscribed beneath your feet while you wait to get through the door. “This is our way of showing support. We wanted to find a way to add to the moment. It’s basically a love letter from me to the pubs.”

By the time you get to the door you’ve reached the last lines of the poem:

I wait in the sunshine, my mouth watering uncontrollably now, my t-shirt drenched in hope.

I shuffle forward and swallow.

I dream of the beer again, flying through my pipes like warm honey.

My tongue makes a burst for the bar, I charge after it, my heart galloping with excitement.

And then you celebrate with a real pint.

Beavertown has still been selling during lockdown at places like Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, but it’s the pub that Plant is lyrical about. “We want to create a kind of rallying cry,” he says. “There are 50,000 pubs and three million jobs at stake.” To Plant’s way of thinking, “the pub is an extension of your house. It is in the Midlands. It’s all about the local community.”

Plant stresses the need to drink responsibly. He wants people to be safe and sensible and wash their hands too. “There’s far more to it than a place to go and get oiled. It’s a social hub. You can have a lemonade or just sit there doing a crossword.”

Plant has named their most popular beer Neck Oil, in honour of his great grandad, the one who died in the pub and used that phrase to talk about his favourite tipple. At the very light end of the spectrum, they have recently introduced Nanobot (2.8 per cent with “citrus notes of grapefruit and tangerine”). At the opposite end there is “Spresso”, an imperial stout, aged in bourbon barrels with added coffee (9 per cent). “You might only have a third of a pint,” says Plant. “We’re pushing beers into zones they haven’t been in before.” His Dad favours Gamma Ray, their American pale ale.

Logan Plant says his slogan is “Peace, love and beer.” As he counts down to the great reopening, he says, “There’s an air of anticipation in the park and on the streets. We want to help people have a great time.” He appreciates that pubs will be different, what with table service, and social distancing. “But you’re still sharing a beer with friends or loved ones, that’ll be just the same. That moment when people have their first taste will be momentous. It’ll be like landing on the moon. In the future people will want to know, Where were you when they reopened?”

Last year Beavertown brewed 22 million pints, distributed all over the country. With only a hint of melancholy, as in an old broken-hearted love song, Plant says, “Now they’re buying my beers. I’m only sad they didn’t buy my records.”

Pubs with the Tim Key poem are as follows: Clissold Park Tavern, Royal Inn on the Park, Faltering Fullback, The Rose SE1, The Pineapple, Three Compasses, Howl at the Moon, Neighbour and The Old Ship