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Wapping: How the Krafty Braumeister went from Baghdad to Brussels Wharf

Uli Schiefelbein went from homebrew in Iraq to brewing in Suffolk and now sells beer in Wapping

Uli Schiefelbein of the Krafty Braumeister at Wapping Docklands Market

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The tale of the Krafty Braumeister starts not in east London, but some distance away.

In fact the brewery, which sells its beer at Wapping Docklands Market every Saturday from 10am-4pm at Brussels Wharf, has its origins in Iraq and the desire for better refreshment.

“I was working for the European Union over there as a rule of law expert, having worked for the German police,” said Uli Schiefelbein, founder and head brewer at the Krafty Braumeister.

“We were over there training Iraqi police and prison governors in the rule of law – mainly criminal law – and I worked there for seven years.

“Now, I love beer – I can remember my grandfather taking me to a pub for the first time when I was 15.

“But the beer we could get in Baghdad was absolute crap.

“It was often kept out on the runway in containers in 40ºC heat – beer from big lager brands brewing under licence in Turkey, so it was not nice to start with.

“At that time we were living in rented accommodation at the British Embassy, where we also rented offices.

“So, a few of us decided to try brewing our own.

“Everyone was very keen on getting better beer, so soon people flying in were bringing hops and malt in their suitcases. 

“Our first attempt was a total failure. The problem was the fermentation, because the weather was just so hot.

“We had no clue about brewing but we figured a few things out, got the hang of it and everybody liked the beer.

“From that experience, I thought that when I retired I would try to make a business out of it.

“The second thing that happened in Baghdad was I met my wife there and she is British.

“We had to decide whether to live in Germany or the UK, but she said she was tired of learning new languages, so I didn’t have a choice.

“That’s why we live in Suffolk, which I love because it’s a wonderful place – very quiet and rural – and that’s where this little brewery has been going now since April 2018.”

Beers to go: Uli sells both bottled and draught beers at the market

The couple moved to the UK in 2013, with Uli retiring in 2017 and immediately embarking on a series of professional brewing courses to take his hobby to the next level.

“Because I’m German, I thought I needed to do some German-style beers – that was my niche – and that’s what we did,” he said.

“All the beers we brew are natural – we don’t add any sugar or artificial flavours.

“I couldn’t really do American IPAs and the British brewers are much better than me at brewing their ales, so I stuck to what I knew.”

Perhaps appropriately for a former rule of law expert, Uli brews strictly in line with the Reinheitsgebot – a candidate for the oldest, still enforced food regulation in the world.

Also known as the German Purity Law, it was implemented by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1516 and states that only barley, hops and water can be used to produce beer. 

This was subsequently modified to include a fourth ingredient, yeast, after its role in the fermentation process was discovered and has governed brewing in all of Germany since 1906 after it was gradually adopted by other states in the country. 

So while Uli brews his beer in Leiston, close to the east coast, the link to the country of his birth is potent and his home town features in his beers too.

“I had to do a beer from my home town of Köln,” he said.

“Out Rut And Wiess is a Kölsch-style beer that’s like a hybrid between a pale ale and a lager. A lot of people order it from us because they know it from their time in Germany.

“In Köln, it’s drunk in small glasses and the waiters carry trays of beers.

“When yours is empty they replace it with a fresh one and will keep doing so until you put your beer mat on top of the glass.

Wapping Docklands Market is open on Saturdays from 10am-4pm and 5pm for the coronation of King Charles III

“It’s one of the six beers in our core range.

“We do two traditional Bavarian wheat beers, one has banana and clove flavours, which comes from the yeast, a very refreshing summer beer.

“Both are quite fizzy and effervescent.

“The darker version is quite complex and has a lot of flavours. It has won us several awards, including a silver medal from the London Beer Competition.

“Then we do two lagers, one called Munich Helles, which has a sweet maltiness to it, and also a more traditional north German pilsner.

“As well as the Kölsch-style beer, we do a kind of brown ale inspired by beer from the town of Düsseldorf, which has a taste somewhere between a bitter or a porter.”

Examples of these beers and special editions are available at the market in draft and bottled formats, with Uli making the weekly trip down to London.

“For our business model, Wapping is a good way to sell directly to customers,” he said.

“For a small brewery like mine, it’s difficult to do distribution. We have some shops and some pubs where we sell the beer.

“But this puts us right in front of people – they seem to really like it and it works very well for us.

“We’re happy to be here – it’s such a nice atmosphere, with the community and people coming every Saturday, meeting their friends, having a drink and some food – I really enjoy it.

“When this market was first opened by Will Cutteridge, I knew the location and thought I should be here.

“Street food and live music is ideal for us and we’ve now been trading here for nearly two years.

“Running a business like this has been more challenging than I thought. I knew I could brew beer that people like, but all the other things that come with running a company – selling your product, merchandising, taxes – whatever is involved, is all so much more than you think.

“Even though I’m retired, I probably work more now.

“But I enjoy it very much indeed. It’s fantastic when people come back and tell me how much they enjoy what I have made.

“That’s why I like being at this market – we’ve found people in the community really enjoy what we’re doing, so it’s a mutual thing.

“One of the reasons we came to London in the first place was because of the pandemic – all the markets in Suffolk were closed but they were open in the city. 

“So the only way for us to survive was to come to the capital – where we were allowed to sell glasses of beer – and we’re glad we did.

“As for the future, I should like to continue, grow a little bit and increase the profit if I can.

“However, it won’t be to a point where it’s too commercial or industrial and we can’t enjoy it any more. 

“We want to be a nice size and we’re pretty busy, so I’d like to continue doing this for a few more years. If I get to a point where I’m too tired of doing it, then perhaps I’ll sell it then, if I can.”

Beer from the Krafty Braumeister is also available to order online and at Canada Water Market, soon to be on Saturdays and Sundays in Deal Porters Square near the station.

Currywurst from The Austrian House at Wapping Docklands Market

TASTE TEST

Currywurst And Fries, £9.90 – The Austrian House

Asked for a pairing recommendation for his beer, Uli had no hesitation in picking out regular Wapping trader The Austrian House.

Like the Braumeister, this company makes its products in the UK, with ice-cooled blades to keep the pork in the bratwurst in top condition when it’s being sliced up.

Slathered with sauce and curry powder, its currywurst and skin-on fries are a  rich fruity delight, best enjoyed with a glug or two of chilled beer… 

Read more: How WaterAid uses dragon boats to raise money

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Wapping: How Bread And Macaroon is expanding through its market stalls

Wapping Docklands Market and Canada Water Market regulars started bakery in Bermondsey

Bread And Macaroon co-founder Fouad Saber in Wapping

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It’s the immediacy of contact Fouad Saber loves when it comes to markets.

The co-founder of Bread And Macaroon, which trades at Squid’s Wapping Docklands Market and Canada Water Market, relishes customers’ reactions to the breads, pastries and tarts the brand sells face-to-face.

“We started this business during lockdown,” said Fouad.

“My business partner, Bertrand Kerleo and I had both lost our jobs – everyone was stuck at home, but we saw an opportunity.

“We brought the two things we were doing together in June 2020 at a bakery in Bermondsey. If you go there, you will see it’s an open space.

“There’s a front-of-house area where you can have a coffee and so on, but you can see through to the bakery and what people are doing. 

“It’s all in front of people, which is interesting because they can see how everything is made.

“We always had a lot of interaction with our customers there and that’s what we like on the stalls too.

“We started doing markets in May 2021 and that’s one of the ways we’re growing our business. 

“You get to see what people think of your products and also it’s easier to expand like this because you can try different locations without being tied into a lease for maybe five years on a shop.”

Originally called Bread A Manger, the company has since been renamed after a David and Goliath tussle with Pret, which was apparently concerned the startup might impact its brand in the long term.

Quite where the confusion might lie is anyone’s guess as the two companies offer markedly different things – one a byword for pre-packaged convenience food and the other for wholesale and retail artisanal baked goods.

While Bertrand has an extensive background as a baker and pastry chef, Fouad brings more than 20 years of food-based business experience to the table making the pair a formidable team.

“I’ve been working in baking for about five or six years,” said Fouad. 

“Before that I was managing businesses for other people in the UK – coffee shops, for example – but I was always in hospitality.

“In France, my background was in supermarkets.

“After training as a barber originally, I started working for Carrefour just as a crew member. 

“Then in six years I became a store manager before making the move to Switzerland.

“I’m not an academic guy. I never learnt English at school and had no idea how to speak it.

“But to grow up, you need to speak it, so I decided to come to London in 2013.

“I enjoyed my time here and decided to stay. With Bread And Macaroon, we started slowly with different plans and strategies. 

“We began with retail although now about 70% of our business is in the wholesale market where we sell our products to other businesses.

“We are a fresh bakery – nearly everything is made from scratch every day because it tastes better that way, including the croissants, the cakes and the bread. 

“We are not too expensive, but we make sure we are selling quality products.

“Anything we don’t sell gets donated to charity to help those in need in Bermondsey.

“A lot of bakeries keep bread for two or three days because you can, but we’re French – we believe you lose flavour that way.

“Our tarts are our main business and the most popular flavour is the lemon curd.

“They really are very refined – you can’t really find this product elsewhere in London, and this is why they are successful.

“For the filling, the curd takes 48 hours to make. We cook the lemon juice in a bain-marie with eggs and cream and then pipe it onto the tart while it’s still warm.

“Then it goes straight into the freezer – from 30ºC to -18ºC so it retains its shape, topped with an edible flower as a finishing touch.”

Bread And Macaroon sells a wide range of sweet and savoury pastries at Wapping Docklands Market and Canada Water Market

With costs rising, Bread And Macaroon’s first priority is to weather the economic storm by tailoring the products it offers to the new conditions.

After that, it plans to expand its retail offering through more stalls.

“In the next five years, we expect to have a presence at five or six more markets,” said Fouad.

“Of course people can order our products online – and we love that. But you don’t get the same level of interaction or the atmosphere of coming to a market if you do that.

“I grew up with French markets, which typically sell fruit and vegetables, so that’s different again. Here you get street food and all sorts of other things.

“For me, the difference between a shop and a market is that people who come to our stalls are out in the fresh air – it’s a destination. 

“Going to a shop is more just for shopping and I think over the next 40 years, that attraction will never change.”

Bread And Macaroon can be found at Wapping Docklands Market on Saturdays at Brussels Wharf beside Shadwell Basin and Canada Water Market at Deal Porter Square on Sundays. Both run from 10am-4pm.

Its shop can be found at Market Place in Bermondsey and orders can be placed online for most items including cakes and special requests.

Follow Bread And Macaroon on Insta here.

THREE OF THE BEST

We’ve selected three treats from Bread And Macaroon that are must-tries if you’re visiting the markets:

Bread And Macaroon’s top selling Lemon Curd Tart

1. First on the list is the Lemon Curd Tart – the brand’s top seller – which costs £4.99. Piled high, this vertical wonder is both mouth and Instagram-ready thanks to its floral decoration and glossy, zesty topping

The brand’s Galette Des Rois

2. Next up is the festive Galette Des Rois. Served on special occasions at family gatherings, this regal bake has a coin inside. Everyone sits round, takes a slice and the person with the treasure gets to be king or queen for a day. The crown is, of course, included for £12

Rosemary foccacia is available for £3

3. Our final pick is this deeply savoury bread. Costing just £3, this sea salt and rosemary foccacia is ideal for taking home and dipping or slicing for use in sandwiches. It’s a decent size and would also go well with a hearty winter soup

Read more: How Clays’ new bar has Canary Wharf in its sights

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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