Our series on the fantastic and varied breweries that we have here in the North East continues today with a chat to Michał Czubak of Stockton based Saints Row Brewing Co.
Meet Michał Czubak of Saints Row Brewing Company
How did you first get into beer brewing?
Well, my first craft beer experience goes back about 8 years ago, in my small town we had a little or next to no selection of ‘live beers’ or ‘fresh beers’, the others were just typical commercial lagers. I started tasting craft beers and found out that they were exceptional. Shortly after my best friend brought me his own homemade Pale Ale and that was something I’ve never tried before – bold hops and such big flavours were absolutely outstanding – I fell in love. Since then I started building my homebrewing kit and went from there.
Where did the brewery name come from? Anything to do with the video game series?
The name Saints Row Brewing Co. probably came from the game, because I spent a lot of hours playing it. On the other hand, I liked the name itself – finding the right name was really hard.
When I was coming up with other names, nothing seemed right, until Saints Row crossed my mind and has been there ever since. I think it was a love from the first thought.
How would you describe your beers? Are you influenced by a particular style of beer or brewery?
I’ve started off being more traditional (real ales), seeing what the market and my customers enjoy. Now with new equipment I am trying to bring more flavours and introduce some new unique beers. Some of the styles I want to bring are polish Grodziskie, Fruity Sours, Russian Imperial Stouts or Baltic Porter.
I don’t have a particular style I am influenced by, but I love Russian Imperial Stouts, IPAs, Sours, Gose beers. The breweries I would look up to are probably Stone, Beavertown, Magic Rock, but I guess there is many more I could add – every brewery has something unique about them.
What has been your biggest challenge and biggest accomplishment since you opened?
The biggest challenge for me was starting a business, the preparation and legal work, it can all get a bit difficult at times, when English isn’t your 1st language. The other thing would be finding the right balance from changing from a full-time job to self-employment.
So I guess my biggest challenge was also my biggest achievement. If I can accomplish what I have so far, I can achieve much more.
How is the craft beer scene back in Poland in comparison with the UK? It’s been 5+ years since I last visited Poland (Warsaw) and I couldn’t remember seeing any craft beers/ales?
I guess it was probably then about 4-5 years ago, the craft beer scene in Poland was non-existent. There were only a few breweries, who were fighting the nightmare of Polish bureaucracy, hygiene inspectors etc. It takes over a year to complete all the documentation.
The current scene is amazing, there is a lot of craft beer bars and a lot more breweries. Beer festivals, such as Hevelka in Gdansk, is worth going to – amazing experience in one of the old buildings of Gdansk’s shipyards. I would fully recommend going to Poland for the weekend to try out the amazing selection of beers!
I believe every brewery should have a small tap room. It lets customers experience the magic of brewing. – Saints Row Brewing Co.
What is next for the brewery?
My next step is introduction of cans and kegs by November ’17 together with online shop and hopefully opening my own brewery around June 2018 with well needed taproom – brewing days are a real struggle without a proper ‘brew’.
I am looking at 2018 to be a year for Saints Row brewery and tap opening.
You mentioned that one of your future plans is opening your own brewery, where do you currently brew your beers?
I currently use Three Brothers Brewing Co. premises. It was in June 2016, when Kit Dodd (one of the owners) called me and suggested using his brewery. I was extremely excited for the opportunity and while enjoying the sun in Hyde Park, London, I was already planning everything!
We see more and more breweries opening tap rooms. How important do you feel opening a taproom is going to be for small, independent breweries going forward?
I believe every brewery should have a small tap room. It brings your customers closer, it lets them experience the magic of brewing. The beer psychologically tastes better while the brewer tells the story. Beer enthusiasts love being involved and having a relationship with the brewer/brewery.
It lets you introduce small batch beers and allows you to listen to personal opinions.
How do you see the beer scene changing in the North East and the UK as a whole in the coming years?
There are a lot of breweries opening nowadays; North-East always had a little less than other areas in the UK. People are becoming more aware of new flavours, which draws more interest in the bars; then new bars and shops will be opening, which gives a chance for more outlets and more customers.
With the number of breweries just in the North East continuing to rise do you feel we are reaching a saturation point for craft breweries?
There are a lot of breweries opening and it could possibly reach saturation, but there are so many factors to say otherwise. There has been a big change in the craft beer industry. Now a lot of bars, pub owners are encouraging more and more people to try different beers and unique flavours; not just your typical choice of well-known brands. Customers are starting to change their drinking habits, to enjoy their drinks more. For example, it’s happening with the Gin industry – 3 years ago you wouldn’t think of such a Gin selection and different serving options.
With the opening of new breweries, which creates more competition; it motivates me to broaden my knowledge, so I can brew better beers and improve the quality of them.
Is there a feeling of competition among local breweries or is it more of a community and collaborative spirit?
I have never felt the competition among local brewers. I believe in the collaborative spirit, share of resources and also knowledge and suggestions. Any negativity is badly received by customers and other brewers, so being on good terms with others is the way to go forward. One day I would like to gather all brewers from my region in one brewery and brew an ultimate collaboration of beer!
Where can consumers currently find your beer? Where do you expect/hope them to find your beer a year from now?
It’s in various places in the North-East. Darlington, where I am from, Stockton and Middlesbrough, up to Newcastle and even Sheffield.
I hope by next year I will be able to reach Manchester and Edinburgh. Fingers crossed!
Other than your own what is your favourite beer and brewery right now?
I have a few breweries I like these days i.e. Chorlton, Magic Rock, Buxton, Beavertown, Tiny Rebel and Siren to name a few.
My favorite beer all time would be Maui Coconut Porter.
Thank you to Michal for giving up his time to answer our questions, if you found this post interesting please consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter and help us spread the word.
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