An expert in fermentation, flavour and wild ingredients, Louise Avery established L.A Brewery in 2017 after crafting several batches of homebrew kombucha in her kitchen, creating exciting flavours that sparked demand from some of London’s top restaurants. Having started the business plucking hops from hedgerows herself and now sourcing all her ingredients from only ethical and organic suppliers, her dedication to her craft and high standards of flavour remains at the heart of the business. Inspired by Louise’s own return to nature – her first batches were infused with Hebridean flowers, hops picked from the local hedgerows in Somerset and fresh herbs from the farmers markets of London. Ingredients plucked from the land are hunted down from trusted, organic, and ethical suppliers. From tea sourced from high-altitude fields to organic rose petals sniffed out for their evocative scent, Louise captures the best of the wild in each bottle.
The L.A Brewery range currently consists of seven craft drinks, all expertly blended by Louise and her brewery team in Suffolk. In addition to its original range of craft kombuchas – Ginger, Lemongrass and Strawberry & Black Pepper, L.A Brewery’s latest range of alcohol alternatives are designed to look like beer and champagne, but with all the goodness of the natural ingredients and fermentation process. Consisting of four delicious products; Citrus Hops (hopped kombucha 330ml beer alternative), Tropical Ginger (hopped kombucha 330ml ginger ale alternative), Sparkling English Rose (white sparkling 750ml) & Sparkling English Blush (blush sparkling 750ml).
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I grew up in Scotland in the Hebrides with my mother who was a painter and a keen forager. From a young age, she taught me about wild plants and weaving them into food and drink. Many years later (30), after finding myself in a 9-5 admin job in London, I suddenly realised I had come very far from everything I loved. So I quit my job and moved back to Scotland for a couple of years and rediscovered plants and started to learn about fermentation – specifically kombucha which I fell in love with after a trip to Vermont in the states.
On my return to London, I started selling my homebrews in the restaurant where I worked in Islington and soon was approached by other local restaurants and so began a kitchen operation where I would deliver small cases of kombucha to people and restaurants on my bicycle! After three years I realised I needed help to grow and met my current business partners and we launched L.A Brewery in 2017 after building a tiny microbrewery in Suffolk in an airplane hangar.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
When I was back in Scotland after having quit my job, I realised I was drinking more alcohol than I would have liked but struggled to find an alternative – especially in remote Scotland. Lots of things were happening at the time – people started talking about drinking less, studies started to emerge about the link between fermented foods like kombucha and gut health as well as a real focus on real food including veganism.
Whilst I probably mentally wasn’t prepared to start a business – it was definitely a dream.
How did you achieve awareness?
I think that is something we are still and constantly will be working on! We have a small marketing budget so we rely quite a bit on social media and try to use our newsletters and website as a way to tell our story and engage our customers. We like to run sampling programmes which gives us the chance to get real-time feedback from potential and existing customers. We also like to meet people at trade and consumer shows.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
In the very early days before I met my business partners, I received a loan with the help of Virgin startup which I paid off over 3 years. That helped me move into my first commercial production space in Hackney.
Since launching L.A Brewery, we have been really fortunate to receive funding through private investment and most recently in 2021 we did a crowdfund on Crowdcube. My business partners are respected food entrepreneurs and have supported me greatly in my drinks vision – their track record and my experience around the drinks has helped us gain funding. I think honestly I would have struggled to raise as much if I had worked alone.
What are the key successes?
We are very proud of a long working relationship with Leon, and listings in Planet Organic, Wholefoods and Selfridges. More recently during Covid we launched our online shop which has been a joy to develop direct relationships with our customers and in the last week we launched two new drinks in itsu which is a very proud moment.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Having a production facility which specialises in fermentation is a constant challenge. I’m lucky to have a very dedicated and professional team, but we are tested daily by trying to control the uncontrollable (live cultures)! The last few years have brought lots of new obstacles including continual price increases, limited availability of staff and hospitality closures. In this environment, we need to be constantly agile and pivot to work out what is working and what isn’t one day to the next.
What are your plans now/for the future?
I would really love to develop more non-alcoholic champagne style alternatives using mixed fermentation and also some bottle conditioned cask aged drinks which are missing in the low and no category.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
One thing I’ve learnt is to dust myself off and reset every time something fails. It happens so often that it is easy to get disheartened… but it’s the perseverance and the mental reset that has helped me. Also take as much advice as you can from people you trust. I have great mentors who support me but also give me very honest feedback which is invaluable.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Whilst it might seem tempting to watch what everyone else is doing – I find it distracting and so I try to just focus on my own ideas and executing them as well as I can. Watching others too closely and comparing your own offering/successes & failures feels like an unhelpful use of valuable time.
Accepting when something has failed and moving on is important. We make decisions and then change our mind the following week, because we have to. Not making decisions (wrong or right) keeps you stuck and not moving forward so failing fast – learning and moving on is important.
My most important tip would be to prioritise quality in whatever you do and never compromise on that. These seem to be the businesses that endure.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
I have to mention my two business partners first as they inspire and help me on a daily basis.
William Kendall (with successes including New Covent Garden Soup, Green & Blacks, Cawston Press) has helped me from the day we met by championing my drinks and creative vision whilst giving me brutal honesty. William has an organic farm in Suffolk, lives and breathes food and drink and practices sustainable regenerative agriculture and knows more about the subject than anyone I know. That’s very inspiring to me.
Mark Palmer (Pret-A-Manger, Green & Blacks, Union coffee, Cawston Press) is a brilliant marketeer and works through every product idea we have by looking at it from every possible angle. His analytical feedback and pragmatic approach helps me create products which will sell in the wider market (rather than the perhaps more niche bubble I inhabit mentally).
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
It’s not a direct quote but I do believe in challenging onesself and often the times when I personally feel most out of my depth is when great progress and work is being made.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
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