Meet The Maker: Eddie Lofthouse, Wavelength

The man behind the non-alc formerly known as High Point

Eddie Lofthouse is one busy dude. He's the co-founder of Harbour Brewing Co, he runs bars, restaurants and hotels by the sea, and he has a farm and an ice cream company... yeah, he might just be the king of Cornwall. But our fave of Eddie's projects? It's gotta be his fermented non-alcoholic aperitif High Point, which just got a bad-ass revamp and is now called Wavelength.

It's no secret that non-alcoholic drinks are big biz - and when we're craving one with bittersweet aperitif energy, Wavelength is our go-to. We visited Wavelength HQ in Bodmin, Cornwall, to get the DL on this epic zero-ABV bev and learn the story behind its hot new look from the man himself. 

Hi Eddie! We hear your non-alc has a whole new vibe. What inspired the rebrand, and why Wavelength? 

Have you ever tried renaming something? It's really difficult, switching off from what you had and turning on something else. We didn't want it to be too fancy. We wanted it to be real words. We talked to branding companies who were like, "What about if we just make up a word?" But I hate all of that. It has to be real.

There's a surf magazine called Wavelength, and we were chatting, and I was like, "Well, you know, [Wavelength] is really simple". Because for me "wavelength" means we're on the same wavelength, whether we're talking about alcohol, whether we're talking about the ethos of the company. It just really seemed to fit and we were like, well, why not Wavelength? There isn't a drinks company called that, and we checked in the US, where the launch is gonna be. So it sort of just fitted, and it has that surfy, SoCal vibe to it as well, which is so important to all the staff here.

There's a real vibe about Cornwall. People aren't here for the money, they're here for the lifestyle. And it's a really tough place to be an employer, because you also want to live that life, but you've equally got to run factories and businesses, and it's finding that balance. What we do try to do is have that balance. And so Wavelength just worked.

We hear you’ve lived many lives - how did you get into the drinks industry? 

I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up! My oldest kid is 15, and he's having to make choices. I still don't know what I want to do! I get really into stuff. So whether it's barbecue or pizza or something else - like I helped Marks & Spencer make their sourdough pizzas because I got really into pizza fermentation.

How did I get into beer and drinks in the first place? I was running a hotel. That's a whole other story... But we knocked it down, so I had nothing to do for three years. So I approached an old family friend who had plenty of money and said, "I really quite fancy a little brewery to sort of see us through the next three years. We'll then try and sell it through the bar when it reopens". And that's how we got into it. I wasn't a brewer. A friend of mine worked at Sharp's Brewery at the time, Rhys Powell, and we set the brewery up together.

It's gone from strength to strength. We've made soft drinks here, we've pushed boundaries of fermentation and how we came up with those liquids. We had time to play. And why did we make the beers we made? It was because we couldn't find them down here, the beers we wanted to drink.

I spent a lot of time in the States. Back in the '90s, we were drinking things like Pete's Wicked Red, well ahead of the craft beer curve. When people talk about beer in the UK being a big thing - in reality, going back 15 years or more, there wasn't really a beer scene, it was lager or 4% brown ale. That was it. But you go to the States, and they had IPAs, they had sour beers. They were they were taking inspiration from around the world. America is that sort of melting pot, and then they just adapt.

It opened our eyes to what beer could be. Over here, we weren't getting that. So we decided to do it ourselves. And in a similar way, with non-alc, we weren't getting the liquids that we wanted to drink. So we said, we have facilities to make stuff - let's just make drinks that we want to drink.

Yeah, that's an interesting parallel between beer and non-alcs, since non-alcs were essentially born in the UK with Seedlip, and the US has really taken it and run with it!

I think it's because the US has that sort of culture where there is no heritage. So you take from around the world where there are lots of other things going on, and you make it your own, and you develop it. And you mix a bit of this with a bit of that. There's no parameters in the same way that, say, German breweries have, brewing with only four ingredients because that's what they've always done.

The American markets really opened up winemaking and beer. There's no defined boundaries. And so I like to think in that way. Nothing we're doing here is totally new. But we are taking a bit of this and a bit of that from from winemaking, from spirit making and brewing, from kombucha brewing. We're taking a bit of all of those things, and then just sort of mixing them together to come up with something different. Trying to create something truly new in drinks is actually really difficult, because someone somewhere will have done something similar at some point. But we're just putting a new spin on old technology.

You've got a lot going on with the brewery, the hotel, your ice cream company, the farm, and Wavelength. What does an average day look like for you?

There's no average day. I've got a family with three kids. My day always starts with taking my daughter to school. She's only tiny, so I always take her to school, that's my thing. And then you come into work. Work can be anything from actually working in the brewery, cleaning the floors, opening - we've got bars, so it could be going out to the bar. I have a very diverse job.

We try and have that ethos of whatever we do, let's do it well, and let's have fun doing it. Because recruiting people in Cornwall is really difficult. And if it's not enjoyable, it's almost impossible. In lockdown, we built an indoor badminton court since we had loads of space, and quite a few of us played badminton. We had a skate ramp. We are a big family. And [the question is] how do you keep everyone happy? You have to find that balance in a family where it's give and take.

So what is my day at work? It can be anything. Back in the day, we didn't have an accounts team, we didn't have any warehousing. We're lucky now we've got a team. My job generally these days is supporting other people to bring our companies to life. Without being like an old man about it, we like to see other people come through and make their own mark and give people opportunities. Because if they're not happy, they just move on.

It's finding what works for each of our teams, and my job is to try and make everything work. I'm sort of an enabler rather than a manager. I don't have a proper job quite like one where you come into work and you sit and you're in board meeting and that sort of stuff. We're more likely to go out for a walk with the dog and talk through stuff with someone rather than sit around the table, because you've got all this land and space and it's quite different way of life. So embrace it for the special bits it can bring!

Your location in Cornwall plays a big role in the Wavelength brand - what does it bring to it?

It's the culture and the geographic makeup of Cornwall that allows people to have this weird lifestyle that is slightly backwards. Convenience doesn't exist. But we're all here because it allows you an amazing quality of life where there is balance. And it's not all about work. And it's not about money. It's not about having fancy cars. It's about spending time together, spending time on the beach, doing the things you enjoy, but it's going out for a walk, surfing. And the people that sort of gravitate towards that will have that sort of shared vision of what they're looking for out of life.

What are some great Cornish bars BarChick needs to know about?

There's a good bar on Polzeath Beach where you are tonight called Surfside, which is a rum bar. It's from Tristan Stephenson and the guys from Fluid Movement. It's cool. You've got some amazing little beer bars down in Falmouth, it's pretty funky down there, you've got much more independent bars. And then you've got the Atlantic, which is all about the views. It's all about the outside - so just getting a drink in your hand and enjoying what's around. There's not that many bars. It's more like country pubs or beach.

BarChick’s thirsty. What Wavelength drink are you making?

I would probably go for Non-Alc Negroni: Wavelength, Tanqueray non-alc and Blood Orange Monin Syrup. We had it at The George in London. The guys there made it, and the blood orange brings a real sweetness and thickness to counteract the bitterness. It's awesome.