November 01, 2019

Piter's People – Nikita Filippov

Piter's People – Nikita Filippov
AF Brew is a pioneers in Russia's craft beer revolution.  Elena Bobrova

Born into a family of philologists, Nikita Filippov was always good with languages, but he didn’t like beer until he was 24. So, when he started work at Baltika brewery as a tour guide, he could never have suspected that it would lead him to co-found an independent craft brewery just over a decade later. You never know where life is going to take you...

Nikita, tell us your story.

Both of my parents are from Leningrad. My father was born in Pushkin [a former imperial summer residence] and my mother was born on the Petrograd Side. They met in the philological faculty at St. Petersburg State University, married, and then traveled to Egypt as foreign specialists. When they returned to Leningrad in late-1970s they decided to settle down somewhere in the suburbs. My father had warm memories about his childhood in Pushkin, so they got an apartment in Pavlovsk [another former imperial summer residence].

On the one hand, we were always proud of Pavlovsk, but on the other, we were angry when ignorant people referred it as being part of Leningrad region [it is technically part of the city] is only 35 minutes by commuter train from Pavlovsk to Vitebsky Railway Station. In the summer there was no need to send me and my brother off to a camp, because we lived right across from the park. It is huge (600 hectares) and much bigger than the city itself. In the fall we would go mushroom hunting there, and in the summer we would play there with the other local boys.  

Pavlovsk park
Pavlovsk Park surrounds Pavlovsk Palace, an eighteenth-century Russian Imperial residence built by Tsar Paul I near St. Petersburg. / Elena Bobrova

Everyone in our family had their own specialization, but all of us studied at the philological faculty. Even when I was a teenager I knew I would enroll there. But, to minimize the risk, I  applied to the Russian language and literature department [it was less competitive], hoping to transfer into a foreign language course. I easily passed all my exams, but didn’t last very long, as I was expelled in my third year for not attending lectures. 

But by this time I had more or less buckled down and got myself a job connected with English. I worked as a manager in a tourist company, and would deal with just three or four VIP clients. My task was to organize their foreign trips, book hotels, excursions, and even their tables in restaurants. There was no internet at the time, so it was quite complicated. My only tools were a telephone and a fax machine. I also taught English at this company for 2-3 years. 

At the age of 24, Fate led me to beer. Before that, I considered beer to be a drink for laborers, and it was never within my means. I always saw it as a waste of money. But there was an opening for a tour guide at the Baltika brewery, leading tours in Russian and English. And so that is how my beer career began. I was at “Baltika” for 11 years (from 2003 up to 2014). 

How did you start AF Brew?

Two of the three co-founders worked at Baltika (me and my colleague Dmitry Buldakov)... so we named our beer company (founded in 2012) Anti Factory, but later we had to cut it to AF. It has a strong connection with St. Petersburg, where Russia’s craft beer revolutions began (like all of Russia's other revolutions). 

AF Brew Taproom
AF Brew Taproom, inside the brewery. / Elena Bobrova

All our projects grew out of the brewery. First there was Redrum bar, created in 2015. It is an AF Brew showcase located in the city center, and has become very popular among foreigners. A year later we opened Camorra Pizza on Kovensky Lane. It is located in a typical St. Petersburg inner courtyard. It's a kind of speakeasy, as there is no sign, and there are no advertisements. It has just built up a reputation. And it is more about the food than the beer; there are just four AF Brew taps there. It is oriented at families and friends, who would like to gather together, eat pizza, drink lemonades, and sit in the quiet courtyard. There are now three Camorra’s in St. Petersburg. 

Which places in St. Petersburg would you would recommend tourists visit?

Until recently, I would always say the embankment of Karpovka River, across from the Botanical Garden. There was some reconstruction there recently and I’ve only been there once since then. I haven’t made my final judgment of the reconstruction yet, but some of the previous charm is gone: granite slabs were added, modern swings, benches, urban art. But I still like it a lot. Most of my favorite places are on the Petrograd Side, as this district runs through my family story.  

Redrum on Nekrasova street
Redrum offers Scandinavian cuisine and 24 taps (both local and imported). / Elena Bobrova

It’s hard to recommend any other place for beer. We have so many of our own, so there is no need to go somewhere else (laughs). So, if I need to go to a bar, then I have Redrum. In the end, we create places that we ourselves enjoy being in. 

So the opening of Camorra Chimerica on Petrogradka was your personal gestalt closure?

Yes, absolutely. That’s why we have even expanded the menu there, so it's not just pizza. I finally settled down on the Petrograd Side three years ago. I returned to where my mother and her family lived. And that's why I come here so often. Everything was created with reference to the lazy and somewhat sybaritic mentality of Petrograd Side residents. Even if they work outside the island, they are still very local. The only Petersburgers who are more locally-minded are the residents of Vasilievsky Island.  

  • Addresses:
  • Pavlovsk Park
  • AF Brew Taproom - Kurlyandskaya street, 48.
  • Redrum bar - Nekrasova street, 26.
  • Embankment of Karpovka river
  • Camorra Chimerica - Malyy prospect on Petrograd side, 66/32.

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