Posted on December 23 2020
Comrades, here’s hoping for a brighter New Year than the one just gone. We’ve decided to start this year with a bang. Listen up, this story is very special. In the quiet and leafy North London village of Highgate is a small, passionate team brewing some of the best beer in the capital.
Introducing Rob and Sam(antha) Laub, the brother and sister team who own Gorgeous Brewery. It is nestled behind The Bull pub (which they own) on North Hill. This 7 day operation turns out delicious meals and great beers to the delight of locals. A massive marquis in the beer garden stands testament to the Covid crisis, providing a cosy outdoor area for the meals and drinks service to continue, no matter what.
Beer – in their veins
The first thing you notice about Sam, Rob and their team, is they are very, very nice people. The second thing, they love beer. This is no surprise as Sam and Rob’s great-grandparents ran a pub, the Hearne Arms, in South London. Their grandmother, Marian, grew up in the pub and entertained them as kids with countless stories – the characters, the buzz, the warmth of the local community.
Sam says, if it wasn’t for their grandfather, Marian’s husband, dragging her off into the rag trade, they may well have grown up in the pub themselves … who knows. The beer stories must have been too much for Rob because after a fleeting brush with university education, he planted himself firmly in the hospitality trade. His first job, you guessed it, in a pub.
As it turns out, Rob was quite good at his job. An affable people person, he worked his way up through management after having done “every single job” a pub needed to run. He ended up opening pubs and bars for the parent company and then, one day, figured he should be doing it for himself.
He bought his first pub, the Prince Arthur, in Dalston. After cutting his entrepreneurial teeth on this first venture, he found The Bull in Highgate in 2016. Their grandmother Marian (at 90 years of age) was of course delighted and there to pull one of the first pints. The circle now complete.
Gorgeous Brewery is born
The Bull already came with some brewing kit in the kitchen and a brewer. So, the new owner thought “why not”. This is where Sam joins the picture. The concept of a new pub and a new brewery was too much for Sam and she decided to join her brother in the venture. After experimenting in the kitchen, they invested in new brew kit and a bespoke and dedicated brewery space behind the pub.
Sam had worked for over 10 years in top London advertising agencies, she’s no slouch. And shows that the “call of the wild” is powerful, especially when it comes to beer! I’m sure you get the picture Comrades! At first, she went freelance in her advertising role to provide time to oversee the brewery but then took the plunge to full time as early successes started to multiply.
Of course, when you have worked in top London agencies your mind gravitates to branding and a name is what the brewery was crying out for. Sam remembers, at Rob’s first pub in Dalston, local East-End lads coming in after work and calling that first beer of the day a “gorgeous pint”. The thought was too good to resist and Gorgeous Brewery was born.
Gorgeous is as an all-purpose descriptor for everything that is good. Gorgeous by name, gorgeous by taste seems to be the philosophy behind this fledgling, small batch brewery.
The beers are just Gorgeous
At Brew Republic, our purpose is to find the best independent breweries, tell their stories and deliver their beer to your door. As you can see, this story matches that purpose to a tee. However, there is a small twist.
That twist is their outlook. You see, when you speak to Rob and Sam it is crystal clear that the publican philosophy, born in their veins, demands a focus on service – they call it “drinkability”. That means the customer is king, the customer must be satisfied, the customer must believe they have bought something of value and enjoyed it. After all, beer is not just a drink, it’s an experience.
Naturally, this same philosophy applies to the service at the pub, the food, the tap-room vibe and, of course, the smile on people’s faces.
When head-brewer Reuben went back to his homeland of New Zealand, it was time for assistant brewer Joe to step up. As one of the youngest head-brewers in the country, Joe now steers the ship. Spend some time with him and he’ll tell you the beer is not brewed as an end in itself. It’s not about shiny trophies, accolades and being cool. It is about making beer that people drink and come back and drink again.
It’s about local punters who bring their friends and relatives to the pub or brewery for a chat, a meal and a good time. The beer lubricates the social intercourse in a way that is memorable.
Having said that, make no mistake, Joe and his team run a top-notch craft brewery where every care is taken to make things by hand, with patience and the best ingredients. A wide range of beer is made; cask ales, stouts, IPA’s, modern lager, American-style pale ale and amber ale just to name a few. The range is made to hone their skills and to provide sufficient style matching to the food they serve.
The thread through the range leans on Sam’s branding skills, with every beer’s name beginning with the letter “G”: Goofyhoof, Gravedigger, Gunpowder, Greaseball – you get the picture!
And what do customers say? Well, comrades, that’s up to you. When asked what they would consider good feedback from somebody tasting their beer for the first time, Sam said “that is a gorgeous brew” or “I’ll have another”.
If you want real feedback, there’s nothing like the locals telling you how it is – straight up, no punches pulled. That happens all the time. And it’s clear that Gorgeous Brewery is part of a neighbourhood, part of a local community.
Many craft breweries are located in industrial estates, amongst other local manufacturing and trade proprietors. Often far from the people who drink their beer. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some of the best beers in this great nation are made there.
Gorgeous is reminiscent of the new wave of breweries in and around Brooklyn, Long Island, New York. Walk out of your house on George Street, Ridgewood (near Brooklyn) and straight into the tap-room of Evil Twin Brewing. Very relaxed, very chilled and the beer is made right there. After a meal, a chat with friends and some outstanding beer, you are back in your own front room two minutes later. It’s part of the urban landscape and part of the community.
Sam and Rob go out of their way to form partnerships with others in the local High Street (of Highgate), like Sacred Gin and Limone (Fine Foods) and participated in the annual Highgate Fair in the Square – a decades old weekend festival that draws thousands. They also have mums coming in and bulk ordering beer-presents for teachers at the local schools. It’s about being truly local and being part of what makes a solid, personal community.
And finally – come and visit
Don’t be afraid when you step into the beer garden at The Bull, on your way to Gorgeous Brewery, if you come across a rather imposing figure. That’s Rodney, the Bulldog. Like a cross foreman he patrols the pub and the brewery making sure everything is to his liking. Of course, like most with a gruff exterior, he has a heart of gold.
Comrades, it’s been a pleasure bringing you this story. You can watch our interview with Rob & Sam on our YouTube channel too (see below). If you can, go and see Gorgeous Brewery for yourself - it's a great place to visit. Don’t forget to mention you are one of the Republic! Relax, soak up the vibe, try another super beer starting with “g” and be part of that community, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.