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  • Haydn Williams

Visiting the local: An interview with Chris Mills



It’s been a while since we last posted and we need to apologise for that. Due to the incredible circumstances of Covid-19, we’ve upped sticks and moved to the green and yellow fields of East Yorkshire.


The bad news is that London rides may slow for a while. The good news is that there are a new crop of breweries in the glorious north for us to explore.


It seems quite fitting that the final interview in London (for now) comes from our local and most frequented brewery – By the Horns.


Based just off of Plough Lane – right next to the soon-to-be completed AFC Wimbledon stadium – By the Horns was established in 2011 by Alex Bull and Chris Mills.


It seems quite fitting that the final interview in London (for now) comes from our local and most frequented brewery – By the Horns.

To find out a bit more about our local brewery, we spoke to co-founder Chris to discover everything from hosting the Crazy Gang to recommending the glorious beer that is Lambeth Walk Porter.


Anyway, on with the interview:


Q: Hey Chris, can you talk us through where By the Horns came from and how you got where you are today?


A: After meeting at University my business partner Alex and I ended up doing some ski seasons and living in a graduate house in South London.


During this time, we took up home brewing and enjoyed creating new beers and the whole brewing process. Craft Beer was still very much in its infancy but we thought there might just be room for another small brewery in London at this time – there were only 11 or so at the time.



With what seemed like huge bank loans and borrowed start-up money we put together our first brewery with John up at Oban Ales and have been growing it ever since.


Q: From those small beginnings you’ve built a committed local community around you in Earlsfield/Wimbledon and beyond, how did you engage them throughout lockdown?


A: We were truly overwhelmed with the amount of people who ordered beer for home delivery throughout lockdown.


A lot of people were buying gifts for friends and family and asking to include notes in the beer. It was wonderful to play a small part in making someone’s day when we were hand delivering the beers.

We have such an active community around us and we really felt that people wanted us to survive and continue brewing and keep the taproom going.


A lot of people were buying gifts for friends and family and asking to include notes in the beer. It was wonderful to play a small part in making someone’s day when we were hand delivering the beers.


We also got to have a quick distanced chat with people which made a nice change.


Q: Those small chats can really change someone’s day, especially in such a tough situation. How else did you survive Lockdown? And now that pubs and taprooms are back open how are you finding things?


A: We found the pandemic as worrying and challenging as the next small business.


Our taproom and bottle shop obviously ceased operation when the closure order was finally given. The vast majority of our orders were cancelled and the on-trade business disappeared overnight.


Picture from www.bythehorns.co.uk


We also had to deal with the vast majority of our production team self-isolating in the first few weeks of lockdown and we found it incredibly difficult to continue brewing and fulfil any remaining orders.


However, with the news that we were allowed to continue brewing and with our brewers returning from isolation, we contacted our online customers to discuss what kind of volume of beer they could take from us.


We set up an online shop with free local delivery and reached out to those shops and retailers still able to operate in some way.


We reopened our taproom for takeaway service in June and ‘full service’ in July. It has been fairly well attended in the last month but nothing compared to a regular summer month.


The pick up from the on-trade has picked up but again it is slow progress as pubs struggle to get the footfall they are used to and are worried about another closure order.


Q: A future positive is that you're right next to AFC Wimbledon’s soon-to-be new stadium, Plough Lane, how do you anticipate that affecting business?


A: It is something that has been rumoured since the day we took the site in 2011 and we have always said wouldn’t it be wonderful if… and now at long last The Dons are coming back to Plough Lane!


We also brewed a beer ‘Crazy Gang’ with one of the founders of Wimbledon – Marc Jones – who also designed the can artwork.

We already have a great relationship with many of the supporters as they see it as their spiritual home and we often see many supporters before and after the games down in Kingston. We plan to host their fan podcast at the brewery soon (9YRSPodcast).


We also brewed a beer ‘Crazy Gang’ with one of the founders of Wimbledon – Marc Jones – who also designed the can artwork.


The fans are a passionate bunch and we look forward to welcoming them into the taproom as soon as the stadium opens its doors


Q: Moving on from the Crazy Gang, what beer should be top of the list for someone visiting you for the first time?


A: For me you should get yourself a pint of Lambeth Walk, Porter on Cask.


It is a beer that has remained unchanged since the first time we brewed it. Like all great things it came about by mistake as we were actually intending on brewing a brown ale.


It’s rich and full bodied with velvety mouthfeel packed with chocolate and coffee notes. It is a prime example of a London Porter and has won countless awards over the years.


We couldn’t agree more here, it’s our go to beer whenever we’re in the taproom!



Q: Tough one at the moment, but what does the future hold for By the Horns?


A: The end of 2020 is going to be a big time for BTH. We have outgrown the site we are currently on and we will be moving a large proportion of brewing to a brand new custom made brewery a few miles south of our current location.


We love where we brew and the community we have around us so we plan to brew our cask beer programme in SW17 alongside some more experimental and barrel ageing projects.


The new space we create means we will be able to expand and renovate our current taproom to accommodate more beer lovers and hopefully offer a day time environment for a coffee / cake / classes / out of office working option.


Watch this space!


Q: And finally, you've just released a VERY nice cycling jersey, what bike are you riding when you wear it out and what beer are you drinking when you finish?



A: As much as I love cycling I struggle to find the time to get in some really good miles in between brewing, family and social life.


However, I am usually found commuting or getting a lap or two around Richmond Park on my trusty Trek Domane 1.2.


At the end of the ride nothing hits the spot better than our latest Flavourly.com collab - Heatwave. A British pale ale brewed for the summertime. Such a nicely balanced beer that has the malty backbone of a decent bitter with subtle British hops served chilled and slightly carbed from the can.


Thanks for the chat Chris, we can’t wait to get back down to Wimbledon and get our hands on some more of the tasty cask Lambeth Walk.


As most of you know, we usually organise rides to each brewery following an interview in order to try some top quality craft beer. However, due to our move and the inevitable restrictions cause by Covid-19 it may be a while until we get round to this one.


We’ll still aiming to do one ride per month so will hopefully manage to organise a social distanced group of six riders to By the Horns at the end of October.


Thanks for reading and look out for some more content over the next few weeks as we start exploring the beer scene in the north.


All recommendations welcomed!

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