There are more than 2,000 breweries operating in the UK today, more than double than there were just a decade ago, and over 20 times more than in the early 1970s, when the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was initially formed. Despite this, however, you can count on one hand how many of them are Black-owned.
Along with Birmingham’s Burning Soul Brewery and fellow London outfit Rock Leopard, Eko Brewery is part of a new wave of Black-owned breweries emerging in the UK. Their arrival could not be more timely, as the industry looks deeply at itself in order to dismantle the systemic injustices that have for so long prevented others from joining the fold.
Founded in 2018 by Anthony and Helena Adedipe, Eko creates modern British beer influenced by African culinary traditions. Anthony’s family is originally from Lagos, Nigeria, from where these inspirations pull their roots. Eko Haze is an IPA in the hazy, juicy New England style that will satisfy all enthusiasts of the style. It’s delightfully fruity with some beautifully pronounced notes of pink grapefruit, overripe melon and orange zest. But there’s a twist.
Inspired by the popular African beverage palm wine, Eko Haze features an addition of coconut palm sugar. The first noticeable effect of this is that it gives the beer a slightly darker appearance, closer to amber in hue than the opaque yellow we’ve become accustomed to in NEIPAs. In terms of flavour, there’s definitely an additional note of sweetness, but one that is satisfying rather than cloying, adding a roundness to the mouthfeel that binds its bold fruit flavours together.
Eko is no stranger to using ingredients from traditional African cuisine. A previous release, a West Coast IPA, featured the addition of cassava root. This idea works to great effect on several levels. It gives Eko beers a distinct identity of their own, while also celebrating the brewery's African heritage. It’s a breath of fresh air to see such an original take on one of modern beer's most popular styles. And as well as wishing the Eko team every bit of success they deserve, I sincerely hope this encourages the emergence of more Black-owned breweries within the UK beer industry. We’ll all be much better off for it.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.