Switch House: The Art of Modern Brewing

The work of Peter Saville is far more than a collection of imagery. His portfolio permeates popular culture, transcending time and decorating the sleeves of some of history’s most iconic albums. The Mancunian designer was responsible for shaping the bold aesthetic of Tony Wilson’s Factory Records from the late 80s to the early 90s. His compositions have adorned albums by bands such as Joy Division, Roxy Music and New Order, and continue to mark some of music’s biggest releases to this day.

A collaboration between Bermondsey’s Fourpure Brewing, Tate and Peter Saville, Switch House Pale Ale celebrates the opening of Tate Modern’s imposing ziggurat bearing the same name. Adorned with the bold geometric design work of Saville, the beer is classic and refreshing pale ale, that will subtly change through the seasons as Fourpure take full advantage of the rich variety of different hops that become available. We spoke to Fourpure’s New Business Development Manager, Rob Davies, about crafting the beer from the ground up.

“In December 2015 I was enjoying a forced month holiday after a year spent building the Fourpure brand. After 3 weeks of a Staycation in the Smoke, boredom was setting in. I was eager to get to work on the next project.”

His prayers were answered when Alex Stevenson, Beverage Manager and Beer Somelier at Tate Modern approached Rob out of the blue to work on a project to create a bespoke Tate X Fourpure Light Sessionable Ale to celebrate the launch of Switch House in June 2016.

“The brief from Alex was a pale, sessionable, hoppy beer sub 5% in a can. Our goal was to brew a beer that was both packed with flavour and super sessionable. Tate have previously collaborated with Mad Hatter, Brewdog and Harbour among others, but the beer has always been bottled. A can would be a first.”

Luckily Rob and Alex were immediately on the same page when it came to the beer’s design, an aesthetic bolstered by the inspiration of Switch House’s Peter Saville designed launch poster. The image was a 3D multicoloured geometric visual of the Tate Modern including the new Switch House. Simple colourful design on a plain white can, small Tate logo in one corner, Fourpure in the opposite. Perfect! A full colour run of printed cans was pencilled in. Next, the beer that would go inside.

“Potentially English hops, Majestic & Jester, a Belgian yeast and some great British Speciality Malts. It’s a wrap. However, the Devil loves interacting with the best laid plans and he did, right royally. A few background notes to the uninitiated. RexamBall, the can producers, have a minimum of 75,000 for full can print runs, they also have a very strict 8 colour palette to work with and a very tight window of production from artwork to finished product, around 6 to 8 weeks. They are extremely unforgiving as production of Coca Cola Cans & Red Bull take priority, so once you are booked in you are committed”.


The clock was ticking. The first roadblock: a poor harvest and no availability of English hops. The second: a can with too many colours – eight too many to be exact. Luckily, Fourpure’s lead brewer hatched a plan to combine the classic British Pale Malt, Golden Promise, and aroma-packed Falconer’s Flight hops.

“Falconer’s Flight is an exclusive proprietary hop blend created to honour and support the legacy of Northwest brewing legend, Glen Hay Falconer. Proceeds from each Falconer’s Flight purchase is contributed to the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation. It produces some excellent floral, citrus and tropical fruit notes, perfect for a sessionable Pale Ale”.

The next challenge was the generation of a new image in keeping with Tate Switch House design – ideally another Peter Saville illustration. Time was running out. Tate Art Dept were pushing Peter Saville Studios for a simpler design and literally with seconds to spare Fourpure delivered the final artwork to RexamBall. The result? A beautifully designed can and a highly drinkable beer.

“Alex from Tate joined us for the brew day and we all enjoyed the experience a whole lot more knowing the can was nailed. We had about three weeks to go for the launch so it was tight but doable, and we did it! The beer will evolve over time with different malt and hop varietals being explored.

This sense of brewing exploration is perfectly exhibited by the latest batch of Switch House…

“This second generation brew has retained the same malt bill and yeasting but has incorporated Willamette Hops – Released in 1976, Willamette is a seedling of English Fuggle. For years, it was the most widely grown aroma variety in the US. It is named after Oregon’s Willamette River which runs through the heart of the state’s hop growing region”.

Cans of Switch House will be finding their way into Honesty Boxes and are available in the online Bottle Shop now. Experience the art of modern brewing.