The head brewer of a craft beer brewery is aiming to make high quality alcoholic drinks accessible to everyone in his Brixton bar.
A homebrewer of more than 15 years, Matthew Theobalds, 33, started the Herne Hill-based Canopy Beer Co brewery four years ago with his wife Estelle Theobalds, 35.
The Sympathetic Ear – his Tulse Hill Road bar and bottleshop – has been offering small batch beer, wine and spirits since October 2017, with a focus on local producers and an affordable range.
On the bar’s philosophy, Mr Theobalds said: “We feel really strongly that while craft beer can be pretentious, it shouldn’t be and there’s no reason for it to be.
“An alienating high price, a customer not understanding what is being served or being able to pronounce it, all those things can put people off.
“We don’t want to put anyone off, we want people to drink good beer.”
Following the success of their Norwood Road brewery taproom, the couple decided to expand into another venue and searched extensively until they found the premises of a former money transfer service.
After a lot of work and redecoration, the Sympathetic Ear boasts a quirky decor of second hand furniture, artwork done by Brixton illustrator Rebecca Davies and an unique sign and exterior.
“We’ve had a person walk in thinking we an ear piercing place.
“Another thought we were some sort of counselling service,” said Mr Theobalds.
The Sympathetic Ear’s ethos of a strong focus on all things local manifests in both serving primarily local beers to hosting art exhibitions by artists in the community.
Mr Theobalds said that what made their bar stand out among the competition was that they exclusively sold small batch and their varied selection of 10 taps and about 150 bottles and cans.
“What’s unique about this place is that it’s very much a pub, but it’s also very much a bottle shop and I think it straddles the line between the two quite nicely.
“We hope to cater to people who just want a pint after work and people who are searching out that latest beer release to take home and share with their friends.”
He added: “We wanted to make somewhere just homely and nice, like a living room away from home.”
Many of the beverages featured in the bar came from breweries and wineries the couple have long-standing relationships with, and they always made an effort to promote products made by their friends.
Along with the beer enthusiast crowd, Mr Theobalds said that they hoped to attract the more traditional Brixton clientele.
Mr Theobalds added that almost all of their customers were local residents that came regularly, which allowed the bar staff to get to know both the people and their preferences.
Future plans for the bar include hosting monthly film nights, meet the brewer events and beer and cheese pairings.
Mr Theobalds said that in an increasingly competitive market, with craft beer becoming more readily available, he was determined to stick to the bar’s philosophy of not stocking anything that’s available in a supermarket.
“What’s unique about this place is that literally everything is craft, but every other place nearby will have some craft available.
“What we’re trying to do here is is not have the craft option as the premium option, but just have it as the normal option.
“It is the option.”