Please raise your glasses… to the micro brewery producing some of the Midlands finest ales – including the tantalising Complete Muppetry!
They say that some of the best ideas come from mates relaxing, having a chat and a pint together. That’s certainly true in the case of school teacher Mark Arnott-Job. Back in the late 1990s, Mark and lifelong friend and telecom consultant Trevor Harris talked about turning their passion for real ale into something more than a hobby of brewing a few pints of their favourite tipple in the kitchen at home. Just over a decade later in 2010, the duo took the plunge and opened for business as Two Towers Brewery. And in the five years since, beers produced from the micro brewery in the Jewellery Quarter have built up a growing following and won accolades from leading real ale experts and groups.
What began as a tiny five-gallon batch operation in the kitchen, scaled up to a batch capacity of 360 gallons and is now producing more than 16,000 gallons-a-year of finest ales. While that may be a drop in the ocean for the big multi-national brewers, it’s a pretty good base for a successful micro brewery such as Two Towers. “We’ve always wanted to ensure that our beers really stand out, and we try to focus on reviving and keeping alive traditional ales,” said Mark. “We also like our beers to be linked to Birmingham’s heritage.” So, that’ll explain some of the names they’ve given to their beers then! There’s Jewellery Porter which is pretty self-explanatory given the brewery’s location. The intriguingly-titled Bhacker Ackhams has somewhat darker roots as it refers to what once was a notorious red light spot behind the former Rackhams store, now House of Fraser. “We have a Two Towers Brewery Club,” said Mark, “and we ask members on our mailing list to suggest names for our beers.” Other notable brews are Complete Muppetry, an aromatic IPA-style beer which together with the hoppy Chamberlain Pale Ale makes up Two Towers’ best sellers.
As well as four or five staple beers, Mark and his team also produce special ‘limited edition’ beers from time to time. “We’ve come a long way in the past five years,” said Mark, who is now the sole boss of Two Towers after Trevor returned to his original career. “When we started out we were essentially home brewing ‘geeks’. “Having established a proper business around brewing beer, the romantic image that most people have is that you stand around all day and watch the beer brew. But as well as always looking for new ideas for the beers themselves you have to be very motivated to spend time marketing and getting the beers out there for people to taste and buy.” Mark said there are 1,400 breweries in the country, “so getting your brand and product firmly in front of people is vitally important”. While many businesses would achieve that through heavy marketing and PR, Two Towers has gone about it all a bit differently. “We’ve never really gone in for marketing programmes,” explained Mark. “We rely a great deal on word of mouth and also the regular tours we run at the brewery. Around 7,000 people have around been on one of our tours.”
So impressed are visitors to Mott Street that in 2014 the brewery was named Birmingham’s best tourist activity by travel website TripAdvisor. Two Towers has also been part of the Midlands festival scene this year, including having a presence at various Fort Dunlop events and attending Solihull Jazz Festival. Their beers are available in dozens of pubs, bars, restaurants and shops across the region as well as via their own website and in their shop at the brewery. “Within the next five years we want to become a significant regional brewery with Birmingham as the platform,” said Mark. “We want to be the beer of choice from the city and the Midlands as a whole. We have a strategy in place to achieve this – but I’m not telling you what it is as we’d rather none of our competitors knew about it!”