Danielle Bekker explains more about her journey to set up her award-winning local business Binary Botanical & how Woking has inspired her
I love beer but I have never enjoyed having beer with food and would typically switch to wine to have with dinner, which is far more alcoholic. So the original idea was to come up with beer that would go well with food and we have done everything to turn beer on its head. We infuse it with hop leaves (which are normally a waste product) and brew with a wine yeast to give a product which is aromatic, tangy like prosecco aromatic but not at all bitter. We have a 4% ABV version which is the low alcohol alternative to wine and the 0.5% which is the perfect adult drink when you aren’t drinking.
My real passion is the 0.5% ABV – it took a lot longer to get this recipe right . A lot of non-alcoholic beers are quite bitter and it took a lot of experimentation to develop something which was aromatic and flavourful but without the bitterness.
My favourite tipple at the moment is actually the binary 0.5. I don’t drink very much and I love having an adult alternative to lime and soda.
In terms of inspiration there are quite a few – the range of delicious gins that are out there with the various botanical infusions shows the range of flavours that can be achieved with different botanicals. I think Seedlip have paved the way for elevating the non-alcoholic cocktail.
Because binary is so different biggest it is not aimed at the traditional beer consumer – when people taste the liquid the invariably love it but it does confuse the brain – Is it a low alcohol sparkling wine? Is it a beer?. Beer can be premium, drunk out of a wine glass with a meal by men and women. It can make delicious low calorie cocktails. Secondly – you have to get involved in so many different areas of the business – from sourcing ingredients to packing boxes and trying to understand how to post a story on Instagram (I didn’t have an Instagram account before starting binary!)
Our highlights have been our listing in Harvey Nichols and Ocado – who both said they were excited to genuine new news and innovation in beer. The second highlight would be being included in craft gin club as the cocktail mixer for their cocktail of the month – they took a big risk including us as their first ever beer and the feedback has been really positive. And then lastly any time someone says – I don’t like beer and ends up loving binary is probably the biggest highlight of all.
On a more personal level, in my previous role in corporate I had to travel a lot so was away from home a lot so felt as though I missed out a lot on every day family life like hearing about the day at school. So although I probably work harder now – I am home for dinner every day and see the kids off for school in the morning which is a real privilege.
My favourite part of Woking is probably Horsell Common (thanks to War of the Worlds – nearly as famous as the Pizza express is now) – the perfect place to re-charge and go for a walk. I think we are very lucky to live in a town which is so close to London but still has a great village feel about it.
It is so amazing to see how people want to support local businesses – the people we meet at Farmers Markets and festivals are all very passionate about supporting small, local businesses and events like Woking Food Festival go a long way to show casing local businesses in an affordable way. I am always humbled by how many volunteers give their time to the various events. Locally, our aim is to convince more restaurants that innovation doesn’t just have to be in London. With this in mind we are running a unique Cocktailcompetition for mixologists and bartenders to mark Dry January by creating a new low alcohol cocktail to demonstrate that no/low alcohol drinks can be exciting and delicious and its only open to for people in the South East.
Q. What would be your dream for Binary Botanical?
My dream would be that we can exemplify a business which integrates its purpose and product into a single story. By using a waste product (the hop leaf) as a core ingredient, not only are we are driving sustainability in the supply chain and revenue for local farmers we are also championing the trend for moderation – drinking less or not drinking at all doesn’t mean a compromise on flavour. We believe that the joyful wellbeing and sociability of beer can be enjoyed by many more people than it is today…. And we plan to convince people of this one sample cup at a time!