no. 027 | Gravity Well
Meet Ben Duck. A one-time finance lawyer at an investment bank, today he is founder and owner of East London’s Gravity Well brewery.
Back in 2016, Ben Duck decided to take his life in a different direction, handing in his pass and ditching the suit to go travelling and spend a little more time on himself. “I’d been a sporadic home brewer up until that point but when I returned from my travels I started brewing super small batches 2 or 3 times a week to try and hone the skill”, he says. “I wanted to see if I could produce something that held up against the commercial beers I was drinking”. But what he was really trying to create was something that resembled the beers that inspired him to begin brewing in the first place. “Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo, Founders’ Centennial IPA and Wild Beer Co’s Madness IPA — these big, expressive IPAs really changed my understanding of what flavours were possible with beer!”
The home brewing morphed into a commercial operation in 2018, with Duck taking a 100 litre home brew kit and setting up on his own in a railway arch in Leyton, East London. That was then replaced by a brewing system 6 times the size in autumn 2019. The name is rooted in his love of sci-fi. “It was a term that I came across quite a bit in sci-fi novels. Both the idea and the imagery of a Gravity Well — space-time bending around massive objects — just feels satisfying”. This informs the can labels too. Almost all of the artwork is based on real photos taken by the Hubble and James Webb telescopes.
The original brewery has been usurped again by a big move for Gravity Well towards the end of 2022. “That’s been the most challenging thing we’ve done”, confesses Ben. “We’ve always had limited cash resources and having to try and scale production and, more importantly, sales by 300% pretty much overnight has proved difficult, and has also really stretched our cash flow.”
But in being mindful of this challenge, Gravity Well is able to use an obstacle as an advantage. The team is kept purposely small, and the 3 of them are able to remain nimble. “It means we don’t have to rush beers to an exact schedule; if a beer needs an extra few days cold conditioning then it gets it”. It also means they can keep a tight handle on how their beers are performing and take quick action to call time on anything they feel isn’t performing as originally intended — something it’s increasingly difficult to do at scale.
We hope you enjoy these selections from Ben. His dedication and passion for making great beer is palpable as he speaks. “My intention”, he says, “ is to maximise flavour whilst retaining drinkability. I want the beer to be impactful and memorable, but also to be worthy of having more than one”. We’re happy to oblige.