Just over three years old, Fierce & Noble is based in the great brewing city of Bristol, producing predominatly canned and kegged beers, with session pales a speciality. Thomas Rooke heads sales and talked beer, Bristol, and the challenges of covid over a coffee on Zoom.

Left to right, Fierce & Noble’s Thomas Rooke, head brewer Ollie, and junior brewer Billy

Beer Today: You arrived at Fierce & Noble from Firebrand Brewing, in Cornwall, where you were tasked with building the brand.

Thomas Rooke: They’re really doing very, very well at the moment. I’m really happy for the boys down there. Ben, Joe, and John — brilliant people. The goal was achieved and that was a team goal. Joe’s extremely talented as a brewer and had spent years in Cornwall making amazing beers and just wasn’t noticed.

BT: Tell me about the beers you’re selling at Fierce & Noble.

TR: Our range is varied. We make extremely good session pales. That’s something that we really focused on in lockdown — first lockdown. We made one beer, which was called Homie, which was a single-hop Galaxy pale ale, and that was the big starting point really for our journey (it sold out in three days across the UK). We make a really nice Pilsner, too. Session beery styles. Double IPAs can be left for other people.

If you were to ask Ollie, the head brewer, or Billy, the junior brewer, or Lewis, one of our friends, our favourite style is West Coast IPA. When everyone was doing these New England IPAs, we were like ‘let’s just do a really good West Coast as well’. So, just after then, we dropped a 5.9% West Coast IPA and it was amazing.

There was another brewery that we spoke with at Bristol Craft Beer Festival that had the same sort of ethos as us and that was Mondo Brewing. And they make an incredible West Coast IPA. We sold out super quick [at the festival]. It was really surprising. There were some extremely good breweries there. It was a good atmosphere. There’s lots of really good breweries, there’s lots of really good beers, and the organisers are fantastic. The site teams are fantastic. This year it was safe. The way they followed protocol — it was fantastic.

BT: You started at Fierce & Noble just two weeks before the first lockdown. Hardly time to get started.

TR: You promise all of this: we’re going to sell loads of beer and we’re going to do all these great things together; we’re going to do these events, we’re going to work with these people, it’s going to be amazing. And then, all of a sudden, it’s oh wow, I’m preparing for a closedown.

BT: Were events a big part of the plan?

TR: Yeah, we wanted to do as much as possible. We wanted to do as many events, as many collaborations, make as many beers, get our beers seen absolutely everywhere. Go back into cask. The guys at Fierce & Noble dabbled with cask. I’m a big cask beer fan. I said: ‘Right, we need to get back into cask’ … and it all just stopped.

Everything stopped and we thought: ‘What we going to do?’. And we just homed in on our recipes and really focused on what we do best, which was the pales and the session IPAs.

A lot of people took lockdown as negative, and I would never say it was not negative, but, for us, the lockdown was so good for us to gel as a team, to be able to make these beers that we really wanted to make, and understand who we were as a brewing company. We were busy, and we’re still very busy. Touch wood, we’re very lucky. A lot of breweries and a lot of pubs have struggled, but for us it was positive, if that makes sense.

BT: You re-designed the web shop.

TR: As people that like ordering beer, we always found that when you’re going onto web stores sometimes there’s too much info, too much stuff. You just want to buy the beer. Give me the beer! We’ve made ours so, so simple.

BT: Tell us about the beer scene in Bristol.

TR: I live in central Bristol, 15 minutes from the brewery. I walk past New Bristol Brewery every day. If you’re stood at Fierce and Noble you can pretty much throw a stone and hit Wiper and True. If you walk across the main road you’re at Arbor, and Dawkins. Exciting. And everyone helps everyone. And Lost and Grounded are here. Left Handed Giant. Good Chemistry. All great breweries, and all doing different things. And all, ultimately, trying to achieve the same goal. To help out the pubs, do  a bit for the community.

BT: And you still have good memories from your time in Cornwall?

TR: Cornwall, for the past three years, has been kicking out some extremely good breweries. Pipeline — where did they come from? We got sent a case of cans, and people said ‘You were working down in Cornwall — surely you know them?’. No, never heard of them. Drank the cans and, oh my God, who are these guys?

There’s still one brewery I love, and it’s Black Flag. Their beers are incredible. They’re characters, and they’re great. When you drink their beers — you drink Fang, or something like that — you think: ‘How is this so good?’. The guys down at Padstow — always consistently good. Padstow Pilsner. Incredible beer. The team are wicked. Such good people.

I recently asked In at the Barrel at Bude how business was, and he said: ‘Adapting’. And that is one of the most amazing things, be it Bristol, be it Cornwall, be it anywhere in the UK, is how adaptable independent business owners were during this pandemic. Absolutely amazing, be that a coffee shop, bakery, anything. People haven’t used butchers and bakeries like this in years. Everyone knows how to bake their own bread again! That’s incredible.

This December, there’s 20% off everything on Fierce and Noble’s web store, with national delivery available. Find out more here!

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