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Interview: Ben Gravy of Quaffing Gravy

The founder of UK's new craft beer talks about turning an idea into an easy-drinking pale ale

by Gavin Lucas in Food + Drink on 25 June 2013

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With a logo drawn by a tattoo artist and screen-printed directly onto its bottles, new UK beer brand Quaffing Gravy is guaranteed to stand out in the UK's burgeoning craft beer scene. The company's first beer—an easy drinking pale ale—is just about to launch and we caught up with QG's head honcho, who goes by Ben Gravy, who explained to CH why creating a beautiful bottle was just as important as the drink inside.

Tell us about Quaffing Gravy and how the company formed.

It all started with an idea I had to create an easy-drinking—quaffable—great tasting beer with a great name and an even greater bottle. The name comes from how we regularly describe a good drink as “good gravy” and the easy-drinking nature of the beers we want to create. Once I'd developed my ideas a bit I mentioned it to a friend, Narra, and he agreed to combine forces with me to make it happen. Just over a year later, a lot of trial brews, heated discussions and late nights and we're ready to launch our pale ale on 1 July.

You're not beer-makers by trade?

No, I'm an art director and creative and Narra is from the glamorous world of insurance. We had a really clear idea of what we wanted, but didn't want it to be an amateur production so we worked with an awesome local brewery called Naylor's. We wanted to work with a brewer who would work to our recipe and vision for the beer—who would really listen to us, take on our ideas and really understand us and our plan. It was vital that we developed our own unique recipe, our very own beer. Naylor's has been a dream to work with.

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What beers have inspired your first Quaffing Gravy brew?

Before developing QG, our beers of choice tended to be Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn beers—that kind of super-tasty, but easy-drinking beer. We really enjoy a good pilsner too, and it feels like the art of creating good lagers is making a comeback at the moment. But we felt that we wanted to create our own Pale Ale, but create something that would be just as good at a bar or at the dinner table. So far QG is getting a great reaction from people who like an easy-drinking beer and those who like a little more hoppy flavour in their lives—which is exactly what we wanted to do; strike that perfect balance between rich flavour and quaffability.

Tell us about your distinctive logo. Did you design it yourselves?

I designed the logo, wrote all the copy and designed the graphics for the brand. The logo itself was then hand-drawn—under my art direction—by a tattoo artist friend of ours, Mark Yates of Snakes'n'Daggers.

And it's screen-printed directly on to the beer bottles, that's quite unusual.

Yes, that's right. We were actually advised against this approach to begin with, as it's a tricky process and it's far easier and cheaper to print onto a label, but we were determined to go down the screen-printed route as that was always the plan. In the end we worked with Seaways Services in Burnley and we went through a number of rounds of tests over a few months before we got the perfect print. We really wanted to get the look of the bottle right, as it's what our beer deserved. It would have been far easier to print a see-through label, but that wouldn't have had the same impact and the same feeling of craft.

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Where will people be able to get a taste of QG when it launches?

We're starting with local stockists and building distribution gradually. Pre-launch we've got some cool bars taking us on in Leeds, York and surrounding area. Our plan is to then spread further afield to Manchester, London, New York even. But we're quite realistic. There are only two of us and we're doing everything ourselves—including delivering to stockists.

As well as beer, you're hoping to create goodies for fans. What else is in the making?

We've created a line of T-shirts that we'll also launch with the Pale Ale. They'll be packaged with extra secret goodies—they're being printed at the moment. We'll also have some hand-drawn beer bottles, Notes of Awesomeness (one-off, hand-drawn notepads) and some beer bags too. We've also got a blog called Vat Of Awesomeness where we'll post things that inspire us. We want to do as much as we can to keep the brand fun—and the more we grow, the more we can do.

Images courtesy of Quaffing Gravy

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