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Hornchurch brewer tackles prostate cancer with beer

07:00 09 June 2014

Stephen. Picture: Mike Heath

Stephen. Picture: Mike Heath

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It may be the dream of many drinkers to produce their own beer – but what if their product could also help save lives?

From the left (Tom Rowe, Dale Michael, Matt Sadler, Simon Connor, Will Waldron, Stephen Cross, Dave Buonaguidi). Picture: Mike HeathFrom the left (Tom Rowe, Dale Michael, Matt Sadler, Simon Connor, Will Waldron, Stephen Cross, Dave Buonaguidi). Picture: Mike Heath

Hornchurch brewer Stephen Cross has done just that by launching Two Fingers Brewing Co. which makes great-tasting ale while tackling prostate cancer.

His flagship beer – Aurelio – has just won the innovative craft beer accolade at the International Beer Awards in Italy, just two years after he, and the six other co-founders, launched the business.

The Recorder spoke to Stephen, 30, of Appleton Way, to discover why he created a beer that sticks two fingers up to prostate cancer.

“A guy in our office had prostate cancer,” he explained. “It’s also one of the biggest growing cancers and for me, well I have four brothers so I wanted to do anything I can to help,”

Prostate cancer facts

n It is the most common cancer in men in the UK and more than 40,000 new cases are diagnosed each year

n One in eight men will develop the cancer at some point in their lives

n Most cases develop in men aged 50 or older

n Doctors can test blood for a prostate-specific antigen that is often overabundant in cases of the disease. The high presence of the antigen can have other causes

n Doctors can also physically examine the prostate in a digital rectal examination (using their fingers)

n Some cases of prostate cancer can be cured if treated in the early stages often with surgery, chemotherapy and hormone therapy

n Prostate cancer can be slow to develop so many men die with the disease but not because of it

The news shocked former Havering Sixth Form student Stephen and his colleagues at Farringdon advertising agency Karmarama and they decided they had to do something to help.

“My colleagues and I have always wanted to create a beer but never had the excuse to put so much time and effort into it,” said Stephen. “It was too selfish. But we thought ‘this is worth doing now’.

“It’s one of those ideas that needed to be done – a beer that rewards the men that drink it.”

The team, which comprises ideas designers and financial advisers, then got to work in setting up the company that donates all of its profits – at least 10p per bottle – to Prostate Cancer UK.

They started out brewing the beer with Hackney microbrewers London Fields.

“We had no history in brewing but we have been happy to be part of that process,” Stephen said.

“It was a strange one. We went there and tasted a few beers.

“Many of us didn’t know how to take that and we don’t have the fancy vocabulary but we could say if it was a bit bitter or we didn’t like the after taste.

“We kept tasting until we all thought ‘we can drink that’ and then kept tweaking it until it was perfect.”

However, Stephen and the team were not able to keep up with the company’s high-demand for the beer, so they moved their operation to Hepworth Brewery, in West Sussex, where they continued to refine their formula.

The “passion project” is worked on part-time by the team of friends outside of their jobs and they hope to not only raise money for their cause but promote its awareness of it too.

“We are talking to men in the language they understand – if it gets them talking about prostate cancer it’s an absolute benefit,” Stephen.

The brand’s name is a play on the old test to check if a man has the disease – a rectal examination.

“But it’s a bit of an old wives’ tale because you can actually do it through a blood test now,” Stephen said.

Dispelling another myth, Stephen revealed that running your own beer company doesn’t necessarily mean you can drink on the house and he, in fact, buys all his Aurelio from Tesco.

“It’s a dream running your own beer company,” he said.

Read more:

Romford Pictures: Havering’s proud brewing history explored in new exhibition

Nostalgia: Bid to stop drinking in Romford fell on deaf ears

Firefighters tackle beer lorry on fire on M25

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